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Hudson, Braves make three-year deal official

Nov 12, 2009, 1:22 PM EDT

In a deal that was agreed upon weeks ago and delayed by the need for a pre-signing physical exam, the Braves and Tim Hudson have officially completed a three-year contract extension that includes a fourth-year team option for 2013.
Atlanta held a $12 million option or $1 million buyout on Hudson for 2010, but the new contract supersedes that. Hudson will reportedly receive around $9 million per season after posting a 3.61 ERA in seven starts down the stretch to apparently convince the Braves that he’s fully recovered from Tommy John surgery.
Obviously handing a three-year contract to a 34-year-old who’s just 42 innings removed from elbow surgery carries plenty of risk, but Hudson looked very much like his old self in September and has had an ERA above 3.75 just twice in 11 seasons. For his career he’s 148-78 with a 3.49 ERA in 2,060 innings, including 56-39 with a 3.77 ERA since coming to the Braves from the A’s in a December of 2004 trade.
Atlanta’s outstanding rotation depth hardly made retaining Hudson a must, so the Braves must be very confident about his elbow. General manager Frank Wren explained that re-signing Hudson “allows us to take the next step,” which almost surely means trading at least one of Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, and Kenshin Kawakami for offensive help. Here’s more from Wren:

This does give us the depth and strength in one area of our club that allows us to do some other things now. We’re going to be looking at that over the next three to four weeks as we lead into the winter meetings. I think we’re a work in progress in that regard, still in feeling-out process with other clubs. This is the first step to it, and now we have some additional direction.

Lowe is 36 years old and just posted the second-worst ERA of his career, so shedding the remaining three years and $45 million on his contract will prove difficult unless the Braves are willing to eat a bunch of salary. Vazquez is coming off a fantastic season and will make $11.5 million in 2010 before becoming a free agent, so he’d be far easier to deal for significant value. Either way, with veteran starting pitching to shop the Braves will be major players at the winter meetings in a few weeks.

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