Originally created 11/06/01

Smoltz, Lopez, six other Braves file for free agency

ATLANTA -- Closer John Smoltz and catcher Javy Lopez were among eight Atlanta Braves who filed for free agency Monday.

Also filing were pitchers Steve Karsay, Steve Reed and Rudy Seanez, all key members of the bullpen. They were joined by shortstop Rey Sanchez, first baseman Julio Franco and infielder Kurt Abbott.

Smoltz, who earned $8 million in the last season of a five-year contract, came back from elbow problems to earn 10 saves in 11 chances.

The 34-year-old right-hander has spent his entire major-league career with the Braves, all of it as a starter until he shifted the bullpen in July to lessen the strain on his elbow. He was the 1996 NL Cy Young winner.

Atlanta is expected to make a big pitch to keep Smoltz, hoping to keep him in the closer's role. That plan could be hampered by expected cutbacks in the payroll because of declining attendance.

Lopez, who turned 31 on Monday, made $7.75 million this season. He batted .267 - the lowest since he was a rookie in 1994 - and had the fewest homers (17) and RBIs (66) in a full season since 1995.

Karsay and Reed were acquired in a June trade that sent controversial closer John Rocker to Cleveland. With the Braves, Karsay was 3-4 with seven saves and a 3.43 ERA, while Reed went 2-2 with a 3.48 ERA and one save.

Karsay made $2.7 million, while Reed earned $1.6 million.

Seanez began his second stint with the Braves after being acquired just before the postseason deadline from San Diego. He had a 3.00 ERA in 12 innings for Atlanta.

Franco, who is at least 40 and possibly older, was signed by the Braves from the Mexican League and wound up starting at first base, a problem spot all season. He batted .300 with three homers and 11 RBIs, but the team is expected to look for a younger player at that position.

Sanchez was acquired from Kansas City just before the trade deadline, batting .227 with no homers and nine RBIs as a fill-in for Rafael Furcal.

With Furcal, the 2000 rookie of the year, set to return from a shoulder injury, there is no chance Sanchez will remain with the Braves.

Abbott, a backup infielder, played only six games in Atlanta. He never returned after undergoing a hernia operation.


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