Braves' solution in center might be trade for Kotsay

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ATLANTA --- Oakland Athletics veteran Mark Kotsay might be the focus of the Atlanta Braves' ongoing effort to improve their options in center field before spring training.

Mark Kotsay, a veteran with the A's, said he has been told he's the focus of trade talks.  Special
Special
Mark Kotsay, a veteran with the A's, said he has been told he's the focus of trade talks.

Kotsay says he has been told he is the focus of current trade talks.

Kotsay, 32, would be viewed as a temporary bridge between the departed Andruw Jones and the team's perceived future in center field, Jordan Schafer, who might be at least a year from the major leagues.

Kotsay is a career .282 hitter, but he hit only .214 with one homer in 56 games in a 2007 season in which he was limited by back surgery in spring training.

"We are still looking to improve our club leading into spring training," Braves general manager Frank Wren told The Associated Press Saturday in an e-mail response to a question about the team's possible interest in Kotsay.

Kotsay told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Athletics general manager Billy Beane said he has had trade talks with the Braves.

The paper reported the Braves would send Oakland a midlevel prospect, and the A's would pay a significant portion of Kotsay's $8 million salary this season.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported the Athletics might ask for Braves reliever Joey Devine, a former first-round draft pick who has bounced between Atlanta and the minors the past three years. Devine struggled with control early in his career but posted a 1.08 ERA in 10 games with Atlanta last season and had 20 saves in the minors.

Wren might be reluctant to trade Devine, a possible future major league closer, for Kotsay until seeing evidence of Kotsay's health in spring training.

The Athletics signed free agent outfielder Emil Brown to a one-year contract on Friday.

Kotsay, who played in the National League with Florida and San Diego before four seasons with Oakland, said the trade possibility "does excite me."

"I love Bobby Cox, and I like Atlanta and the Braves, as far as the team and organization, the history they have," Kotsay told the paper. "They've always been competitive. It's a great opportunity if this (trade) happens."

Kotsay will be a free agent after the 2008 season.

After deciding against attempting to re-sign Jones, the team's 10-time Gold Glove winner and starter since 1996, the Braves acquired speedster Josh Anderson from Houston in a trade for Oscar Villarreal in November.

Anderson, 25, could be the current favorite to win the starting job. He hit .358 in 67 at-bats for Houston last season after stealing 41 bases at Triple-A Round Rock.

Schafer hasn't played above Class A but still could compete for playing time or a starting job as early as this season.

Another minor-league prospect, Gregor Blanco, could compete with Anderson, Schafer and others in spring training.

Kotsay had surgery last spring in which a portion of a herniated disk was removed from his lower back. He missed the first two months of the season and returned to the disabled list with back spasms in August.


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