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.

Angels ink Javy Guerra to minor league deal

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Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.

Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.

The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.

Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.

Braves sign reliever Carlos Torres

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As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.

Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.

If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.

Blue Jays will have a closer competition this spring

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Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.

But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.

Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.

There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.

Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.

Orioles plotting late-offseason push? Gallardo, Fowler, Alvarez, Bruce in consideration

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Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.

We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.

Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.

The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.

Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.