No deals yet, but Braves hopeful as meetings wind down

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — It was the afternoon of the next-to-last day of baseball's four-day Winter Meetings, and Braves general manager Frank Wren was asked if anything had surprised him about this year's event.

“There’s still a little sticker shock, at what guys are getting,” he said Wednesday.

And within the hour, word spread of the latest free-agent stunner: Bartolo Colon, a 41-year-old starting pitcher, signed a two-year, $20 million contract with the Mets. The Braves, looking to add a veteran to their young rotation, had interest in Colon early, but weren’t prepared to offer anywhere near what he ended up getting.

That’s been a theme of these meetings and this offseason: Many teams are increasing their payrolls, and free agents, particularly some pitchers, are benefitting in the form of contracts beyond what almost anyone expected a couple of months ago.

The Braves have three areas they’d like to address – a starting pitcher, a bench player, and bullpen help – and were believed to have between $10 million and $15 million to spend, after raises for their many arbitration-eligible players.

They remained hopeful of re-signing top left-handed reliever Eric O’Flaherty, a free agent coming off Tommy John elbow surgery. He could be ready to pitch sometime in May.

“I think there’s still some things that could work out for us (at the meetings),” Wren said. “We’re working hard to get a couple of pieces for our club.”

He emphasized, however, there was no rush and the Braves would be patient and make what they believed to be the right deal, even if they had to wait until January or February for some prices to possibly come down.