The Braves will have some choices to make this winter

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Atlanta is still right in the thick of the wild card race, but even so, the lure of the hot stove is undeniable given their relative embarrassment of starting pitching riches. As MLB.com’s Mark Bowman notes, other teams are thinking about it too:

The Rockies and D-backs both sent scouts to watch Tim Hudson make his
return last night.  Like Hudson, these clubs are wondering whether the
Braves will bring the veteran right-hander back to Atlanta next year.  

Even
as recently as the All-Star break, it appeared the Braves weren’t going
to be willing to bring both Hudson and Javier Vazquez back next year.  

But while there’s still a chance that one of them will be gone
before the start of the 2010 season, there’s also a growing sense that 
both could return to provide Atlanta with a rotation that would be
deeper than any of the great ones it possessed during the 1990s.

Assuming they exercise their option on Hudson, Atlanta will have six good starters lined up for next year: Derek Lowe, Hudson, Vazquez, Kenshin
Kawakami, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson.  Vazquez is perhaps Atlanta’s best pitcher this year, but (a) he could bring the most in a trade; and (b) he has had trouble putting together solid back-to-back seasons.  In other words, his value may be peaking, and he might be the best bet for helping the Braves grab a much-needed corner bat.

As a Braves fan I’d like to see them keep all six. You have to expect a starting pitcher to go down at some point in the season, and it would be awful nice to have a backup, especially in a year when the Braves will have a good shot at the division.  Jason Heyward could probably play in Atlanta next year, and in light of the Adam Dunn contract this past winter, there’s no reason to think that the Braves couldn’t find a good first baseman or corner outfielder on the relative cheap without parting with starting pitching.

The most depressing possibility — but a distinct one given the Braves’ conservative corporate ownership — would be if they simply declined Hudson’s option and decided to go with the five other guys in order to save money while failing to either ensure or leverage their rotation depth.

Obviously, how Tim Hudson does in his final few starts this year may go a long way in determining what’s going to happen, but here’s hoping for a little imagination on the part of the Atlanta brain trust.

Bobby Valentine on short list to be U.S. Ambassador to Japan

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  Former MLB player Bobby Valentine attends Annual Charity Day hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald, BGC and GFI at BGC Partners, INC on September 12, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald)
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There is literally nothing you could tell me that the incoming administration is considering which would shock me anymore. As such, I saw this story when I woke up this morning, blinked once, took a sip of coffee, closed the browser window and just went on with my morning, as desensitized as a wisdom tooth about to be yanked.

Rob Bradford of WEEI reports that Former Red Sox, Mets and Rangers manager Bobby Valentine is on a short-list of candidates for the job of United States Ambassador to Japan:

The 66-year-old, who currently serves as Sacred Heart University’s athletics director, has engaged in preliminary discussions with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team regarding the position.

When contacted Thursday night, Valentine refused comment.

Huh. Given his history, I’d have assumed Valentine would be a better choice for the CIA, but what do I know?

Valentine managed the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s Pacific League for six seasons, leading the team to a championship in 2005. He also knows the current prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, as both went to USC. Assuming championship teams meet the country’s leader in Japan like they do in the United States, Valentine has at least twice the amount of experience with top political leaders than does, say, Ned Yost, so that’s something.

The former manager, more importantly, is friends with Donald Trump’s brother, with the two of them going way back. Which, given how this transition is going, seems like a far more important set of qualifications than anything else on this list.

Report: Dexter Fowler will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs reacts after lining out during the third inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Update (8:51 PM EST): The deal is in place, according to Heyman.

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Update (8:27 PM EST): Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals made an “over-the-top offer” to Fowler to ensure he’d sign.

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Frank Cusumano of KSDK Sports reports that free agent outfielder will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday. Presumably, that means that Fowler and the Cardinals have gotten pretty far along in negotiations.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports recently reported that Fowler was looking for $18 million per year. The Blue Jays reportedly made an offer to Fowler in the four-year, $16 million range several days ago. The Cardinals’ offer to Fowler, if there is indeed one, is likely somewhere between the two figures.

Fowler, 30, is coming off of a fantastic year in which he helped the Cubs win their first World Series since 1908. During the regular season, he hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 home runs, 48 RBI, 84 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 551 plate appearances.

Fowler rejected the Cubs’ $17.2 million qualifying offer last month. While the QO compensation negatively affected Fowler’s experience in free agency last offseason — he didn’t sign until late February with the Cubs — his strong season is expected to make QO compensation much less of an issue.