Braves' Hudson signs three-year extension

It's official – the Braves finalized a three-year contract extension with pitcher Tim Hudson, a deal that includes a fourth-year club option for 2013.  The contract is believed to be worth close to $9 million per season.

Hudson, 34, went 2-1 with a 3.61 ERA in seven late-season starts for the Braves in 2009 after a year-long recovery from ligament-transplant elbow surgery. Terms of the deal were finalized last week, but Hudson had  charity-event commitments out of town that caused a delay in getting the MRI to complete his physical.

"I'm excited," Hudson, a former 20-game winner who has a 148-78 record and 3.49 ERA in 11 seasons with the Braves and Oakland Athletics. "My family is excited. Our home is here in the Southeast, in Alabama and Atlanta. So being close to home is a blessing.

"We're just really excited that I'm going to be here three more years, and hopefully a fourth year. I hope I can help bring a championship back here to Atlanta. We've got a great young club and a great young pitching staff. I'm looking forward to doing everything I can to help us win."

Hudson is 56-39 with a 3.77 ERA since being traded to Atlanta before the 2005 season.

"We felt like the strength of our ballclub was our starting rotation last year," Braves general manager Frank Wren said.  "We wanted to continue to have that strength…. We feel like now it gives us ability to go out and continue to mold our club.

"Quite frankly we don't know what that's going to look like opening day, but it's starting to take form. Signing Tim allows us to take the next step."

With Hudson back, the Braves have a surplus of starting pitchers and will likely step up efforts to trade one from the veteran trio of Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez or Kenshin Kawakami.

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

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

Lowe would presumably be the most challenging to move, since he has three years and $45 million left on his contract and is coming off one of his worst seasons, which included a 4.67 ERA and only 111 strikeouts in 194-2/3 innings.

Vazquez, who had one of the best seasons by any major league pitcher, is owed $11.5 million in 2010 before becoming eligible for free agency. The Braves would prefer to keep him, but he might be the only one of the three older pitchers they could trade and get top young talent back in return.

The Braves want to add a right-handed power hitter, and Vazquez is attractive enough to possibly bring a power bat in return.

Regardless of trades, the Braves figure to have one of baseball's top rotations featuring Hudson, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson.

Hudson's .655 winning percentage ranks 12th in major league history among pitchers with at least 200 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's been provided with a lead of three runs or more. His ratio of .72 home runs allowed per nine innings pitched ranks third among active pitchers, behind Mariano Rivera (.50) and Brandon Webb (.63).