Look around the locker room of any club after their season is over, and you will see a common sight. Guys are cleaning out their lockers and saying goodbye to teammates, others are staring at the wall pondering what might have been and yet others are thinking to the future—looking off into the next season that awaits.

As fans we get to do the same, we say goodbye to those men who brought us here. We look back and wonder what might have been, and yet we also look forward to what the future has in store—guessing as to what nifty moves our GM will make.

The 2010 Atlanta Braves had many story lines. From the emergence of guys like Prado and Infante, to the debut Jason Heyward, and finally the farewell tour of the great Bobby Cox. And while fans can look back at the memories and laugh or cry, we must remember that next season has already begun and that we also must look at next season.

The Braves as they stand right now can be competitive, but I doubt anyone is thinking they would be competitive enough to compete with Philadelphia or any of the AL powerhouses. So what do the Braves have to do in order to be competitive? Let’s explore some possibilities.

(For the sake of this article I’m going to assume that the Braves payroll will not increase much if at all. For the sake of argument I’m going to assume a round number of $90 million payroll for this next year.)

Of the $90 million, 15 is tied up with Derek Lowe, 10 with Chipper, 9 with Hudson, 7 with Kenshin, 7 with Wags, 6 with McCann, 5 with McClouth, 4.5 with Farnsworth, 3 with Saito, Ankiel, Gonzalez, Diaz and Cabrera, 2 with Ross, and Glaus, and 1 with Moylan and Hinske.

The other figures are all below $1 million. So let’s do some math. That’s $85 million of the $90 I’ve allowed for this article. Of those we can subtract Wagner, Farnsworth, Ankiel, Saito and Glaus.

That takes the total down from $85 million to $65 million, which leaves $25 million for FA or trade, etc. Of that, $5 million will go to arbitration or raises to current FA that will be back (Hinske) which leaves the Braves a total of $20 million to work with (and that’s generous) to fill their needs.

Now let’s look at the needs the Braves will have.

The pitching seems to be solid all the way around. The Braves will have to fill Wagner and Saito’s spots in the bullpen, but those might be able to be filled with young guns. I expect that Kimbrell will be the closer and Venters and Moylan the main set-up guys.

Mike Dunn and O’Flaherty will be the lefties, and I expect KK to be the long man out of camp. That leaves one spot to be filled and that can be either a low-dollar FA or rookie, so there don’t seem to be to many financial worries or pressing needs in the bullpen.

The starting rotation looks good with Lowe, Hudson, Hanson and Jurrjens coming back. My guess is Mike Minor will get the fifth man in the rotation. So for all intents and purposes, let’s assume the pitching is OK for now.

That leaves the regular 8: Prado and Infante are still under arbitration. Gonzalez will probably be the SS next year for Atlanta. Chipper (assuming he’s healthy) will be at third. And I believe the Braves will put rookie Freddie Freeman at first.

The OF is the major concern. The Braves can look at going after FA guys such as Jason Weryth or Carl Crawford. The problem there is that this might turn into a bidding war with the Yankees and Red Sox, and the Braves would lose those battles.

Those two outfielder look like long shots, though if the Braves are willing to spend the money I would not mind seeing Jason Weryth in RF and moving Heyward to center. The more likely option will be for the Braves to bring in an outfielder via trade.

This opens up the potential for some major things to happen. One seemingly unpopular idea in Atlanta would be to trade Jair Jurrjens for a young OF. The name I have heard most rumored about so far is Colby Rasmus. The Braves could consider giving up Jurrjens, but I’m sure that this trade would not be a one-for-one trade. If Jurrjens is traded that would leave a void that needs to be filled in the rotation. 

Now this gets interesting. Let’s speculate for a moment and assume that Jurrjens is traded to the Cardinals for Rasmus. That would fill a void in the OF with a young player who has not yet reached his full potential and also boost the Braves lineup.

Now that comes to the question of filling Jurrjens spot. As I said before the Braves have around $15-$20 million to spend on FA/arbitration this year. (If the Braves could find a way of getting rid of Kawakami’s $7 million that would free up more room).

Trading Jurrjens for Rasmus would not be that much change in the finances, only a couple thousand. Which means the Braves could go after a top-notch starter such as…Cliff Lee?

If this scenario works out the Braves would have a lineup that looks like this:

1. Prado, 2B

2. Rasmus, CF

3. Chipper, 3B

4. McCann, C

5. Heyward, RF

6. Gonzalez, SS

7. Freeman, 1B

8. McClouth/Diaz?, LF

The rotation would be:

1. Hudson

2. Lee

3. Lowe

4. Hanson

5. Minor

Will this scenario work out? Probably not. Lee would probably go to some high-paying team such as New York or Boston. But based on the number-crunching, the Braves would have the money to make a play for Cliff Lee or Jason Weryth. The fun part of Free Agency is we all get to wait and see. 

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