Braves' Hudson gets three-year, $28 million extension

Now that the Braves' starting rotation and Tim Hudson's surgically repaired arm both appear stronger than they've been in several years, Hudson hoped to stick around to see how far they could take things.

The former 20-game winner got his wish Thursday after completing a three-year, $28 million extension that includes a fourth-year option for 2013.

"I'm excited, and my family is excited," said Hudson, 34, who last season was 2-1 with a 3.61 ERA in seven starts after a year-long recovery from ligament-transplant elbow surgery. "Our home is here in the Southeast, in Alabama and Atlanta. We're just really excited that I'm going to be here three more years and hopefully a fourth.

"I hope I can help bring a championship back here to Atlanta. We've got a great young club."

The extension includes salaries of $9 million in each of the next three seasons, with a $9 million team option and $1 million buyout. It overrides a $12 million mutual option for 2010 from his previous contract.

Hudson had said he strongly preferred an extension to the one-year option and would take a "hometown discount" to get a new deal done. He might have commanded at least $10 million annually on the open market as a free agent.

"Once we saw how he was able to respond in September and how he was getting close to [being] the old Tim Hudson, we felt very good about going forward," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "As we went into our offseason planning, this was our first order of business ...

"We felt like the strength of our ballclub was our starting rotation last year. We wanted to continue to have that strength."

Now they can move to other matters, including the pursuit of a power hitter.

The Braves have a surplus of starting pitchers and could increase efforts to trade one from among veterans Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez and Kenshin Kawakami.

"Signing Tim allows us to take the next step," Wren said. "This does give us the depth and strength in one area of our club that allows us to do some other things now. We're going to be looking at that over the next three to four weeks as we lead into the winter meetings [Dec. 7-10].

"I think we're a work in progress, still in the feeling-out process with other clubs. This is the first step to it, and now we have some additional direction."

Among the pitchers who are trade candidates, Lowe could be the most difficult to move, coming off a disappointing season with three years and $45 million left on his contract.

Vazquez, one of baseball's best starters in 2009, is owed $11.5 million next season before being eligible for free agency. The Braves would prefer to keep him and might try to sign him to an extension if they can move Lowe's contract.

Regardless, the Braves again figure to have a strong rotation, including Hudson, Jair Jurrjens (14-10, 2.60 ERA) and Tommy Hanson (11-4, 2.89 ERA as a rookie).

"J.J. and Tommy are two of the best young pitchers I've seen in a long time," Hudson said. "I had a chance to pitch on a really good staff in Oakland, and I'm willing to say this is by far the best staff I've been on in the big leagues."

Hudson is 56-39 with a 3.77 ERA since being traded to the Braves on Dec. 16, 2004. He signed a four-year, $47 million extension 2-1/2 months after the trade.

Hudson said the 2009 Braves played with more energy and better team chemistry than in previous seasons. He's optimistic about sending off Bobby Cox on a high note in what Cox has said will be his final season as manager.

"He's a Hall of Fame manager, and he deserves a great season, if not a championship season, from us," Hudson said. "I hope we do it for the city of Atlanta and the Atlanta Braves, but also for Bobby Cox. He's been so great for Atlanta all these years and so great to play for."

Hudson and the Braves agreed to terms on the new contract more than a week ago, but completing the deal was delayed until he got an MRI exam on his elbow to complete his physical. Hudson had previous out-of-town commitments, including a trip to Kansas for a charity event organized by Braves free agent Adam LaRoche.

Hudson thinks he can be better than ever after strengthening his shoulder during his recovery from elbow surgery. His .655 winning percentage ranks 12th all-time among pitchers with 200 or more decisions, and fourth among active pitchers behind Pedro Martinez (.687), Roy Oswalt (.662) and Roy Halladay (.661).

Hudson has a 121-5 record in games in which he received four or more support runs and 106-2 when he has been provided a lead of at least three runs. His ratio of .72 home runs allowed per nine innings pitched ranks third among active pitchers, behind Mariano Rivera (.50) and Brandon Webb (.63).