WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Braves general manager Frank Wren said Monday he expects to make at least one trade before Sunday’s season-opening game at Washington.
The Braves have four relief pitchers who are out of options. Wren said there is "quite a lot of interest in our players."
"There’s been a lot of calls the last few days," Wren said. "I think we’ll end up making a deal or two. I’m not sure of the magnitude yet."
Perhaps the most heated competition is in the bullpen. Closer Rafael Soriano, Manny Acosta, Will Ohman and Pete Moylan are believed to be assured of spots. Jeff Bennett, who can work in long relief or as a spot starter, also seems likely to make the team.
That could leave only two spots in the bullpen. Among the relievers trying to make the team are four who are out of options: Blaine Boyer, Tyler Yates, Chris Resop and Royce Ring. Wren hopes to make a trade before facing the possibility of having a player claimed on waivers.
"We’ve taken that position for the last couple weeks," Wren said.
"As we started focusing on who the final 25 might be, we look at the market for the other guys. ... It’s going to be a pretty tough decision, but we’re getting closer to being able to finalize that."
Wren said his priority is to keep the best fits for the Braves instead of making a deal based on which player might have the most trade value.
"At the end of the day we’re going to keep the best guy for the Braves and trade the others," Wren said.
Boyer (2.25 ERA), Resop (1.80) and left-hander Ring (3.12) have had strong springs. Yates has a 12.00 ERA; he had a 5.18 ERA in 75 games last season.
Left-hander Mike Gonzalez, recovering from elbow surgery, will open the season on the disabled list and could join the bullpen in May or June.
Jeff Ridgway, also a left-hander, gave up six runs, four earned, in one inning in Monday’s 8-0 loss to Cleveland, hurting his chances to make the team. Ridgway was acquired in a Jan. 17 trade that sent infielder Willy Aybar to Tampa Bay.
Wren may attempt to acquire a bench player to give manager Bobby Cox another pinch-hitter. Among the most likely players to make the team in backup roles are infielder Martin Prado, at least one backup outfielder — possibly Josh Anderson or Gregor Blanco — and a backup catcher.
Prado started at second base on Monday as Kelly Johnson was given a day off to rest his sore knees. Cox noted Monday Prado also can play the corner outfield spots.
The Braves could choose to go without a pure first baseman behind starter Mark Teixeira on the bench, possibly making Scott Thorman, who is also out of options, another candidate to be traded.
Catcher Javy Lopez retired Saturday instead of accepting a minor league assignment, leaving Brayan Pena, Clint Sammons and Corky Miller competing for possibly only one spot behind starter Brian McCann.