Eight Braves including All-Star catcher Brian McCann were among 147 major league players who filed for free agency Thursday, the first day they were permitted to do so.
The other Braves who filed all were pitchers: Tim Hudson, Eric O’Flaherty, Paul Maholm, Luis Ayala, Freddy Garcia, Scott Downs and Kameron Loe.
Braves general manager Frank Wren said he expects to discuss with Hudson the possibility of re-signing the 38-year-old right-hander, who is expected to be fully recovered from a broken ankle before spring training begins.
The Braves are also believed to have interest in bringing back reliever O’Flaherty if the price for the standout left-handed reliever doesn’t climb beyond their comfort level. O’Flaherty is expected to draw plenty of interest.
Free agents can sign with any team beginning at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. Teams have until Monday to make a one-year qualifying offer to their free agents in order to be assured of a compensatory draft pick if a player signs with another team.
This is the second year the new qualifying-offer system is being used, and the set amount of the offer is $14.1 million, up from $13.3 million a year ago. Players have until Nov. 11 to accept or decline qualifying offers. The Braves made a qualifying offer last year to center fielder Michael Bourn, who declined and eventually signed with Cleveland.
McCann is the only one of the Braves’ free agents expected to receive a qualifying offer, which he would presumably decline since he could command a long-term contract potentially worth more than $14.1 million annually. The Braves haven’t expressed their intentions with McCann, but they aren’t expected to get into a bidding war for the seven-time All-Star and six-time Silver Slugger award winner, who’ll be 30 in February.
The Georgia native and Duluth High School graduate has spent his entire career in the Braves’ organization, and McCann is one of the team’s most popular players both in the clubhouse and with fans. But the Braves have a mid-level payroll and could go with younger (and much cheaper) options at catcher.
The Braves have Evan Gattis, who hit .243 with 21 homers and 65 RBIs in 354 at-bats as a rookie while splitting time between catcher and left field, and veteran backup catcher Gerald Laird. They also have strong-armed catching prospect Christian Bethancourt, 21, who made strides as a hitter in his second season at Double-A.
American League teams including the Yankees and Rangers could be among the teams bidding for McCann, who seems better suited for the AL, where a team could keep his bat in the lineup as an occasional DH and potentially move him to that spot on a regular basis in the latter years of a long-term contract.
Only the Yankees (14), Dodgers (10) and Rays (nine) had more player file for free agency Thursday than the Braves (eight). The Rangers also had eight.
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