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Furcal's decision latest to hurt Braves this winter

POSTED: December 25, 2008 5:00 a.m.

ATLANTA — Rejected by Rafael Furcal and unwilling to meet San Diego's asking price for Jake Peavy, the Atlanta Braves still believe they can improve their lineup and pitching staff before voluntary winter workouts begin next month.

"We still think there are players out there who can help us put the team together," Braves general manager Frank Wren said Wednesday night. "Obviously, we began the offseason thinking about acquiring a power bat in the outfield, but when we had a chance to get a dynamic leadoff hitter and a solid fielder like Furcal, we took a very hard look at it."

Furcal was the latest big-ticket player on Wren's horizon before the former Atlanta shortstop rejected the Braves' three-year, $30 million offer to stay with the Los Angeles Dodgers for three years and $33 million.

Last month, Wren pulled out of trade talks to acquire Peavy, the 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner, because the Padres wanted a package in return that included top pitching prospect Tommy Hanson.

Wren hoped to lure A.J. Burnett, who led the AL and finished second in the majors with 231 strikeouts, as a free agent, but the former Toronto starter instead agreed to a five-year, $82.5 million contract last week with the New York Yankees.

According to Wren, the Braves are still waiting to hear from free agent pitchers John Smoltz and Tom Glavine after arm operations prematurely ended their 2008 seasons.

Smoltz, the first major leaguer ever to post 200 career wins and 150 saves, last year became the 16th pitcher to record 3,000 strikeouts. He still wants to pitch and at 41 hopes to remain with Atlanta, his team since 1987, but Wren indicated that the Braves are uncertain of Smoltz's health after he underwent reconstructive shoulder surgery.

Glavine, a 300-game winner, said in late September following elbow surgery that he would return in 2009 only if the Braves offered him a contract.

Atlanta, though, is uncertain of Glavine's status, and doesn't know if Smoltz would return as a starter or a closer.

"We're still monitoring both situations," Wren said. "As we said from the beginning regarding both of their situations, there is no set timetable. We're just monitoring until we know further."

The Braves finished last season 72-90 and the NL East's fourth-place team. Missing the playoffs for the second straight year, Atlanta was 20 games behind eventual World Series champion Philadelphia.

Though the Braves are unlikely to initiate another round of trade talks for Peavy, Wren hopes to add another starter or two to complement a rotation nucleus of Jair Jurrjens, Jorge Campillo and newly acquired Javier Vazquez.

Kansas City's Zack Greinke could become available in a trade. Left-handers Randy Wolf and Oliver Perez are potential free-agent acquisitions, and so is right-hander Kenshin Kawakami of Japan.



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