Soriano accepts arbitration with Braves

The Braves now have nothing to show for the trade of Jeff Francoeur to the Mets last July.

While Francoeur regained his batting stroke with New York, Ryan Church struggled in Atlanta and the Braves designated the outfielder for assignment on Tuesday.

Atlanta had to make a move to clear a spot on its 40-man roster after reliever Rafael Soriano accepted arbitration late Monday in a surprise move that left the Braves in a bind.

The Braves signed free agents Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito to replace Mike Gonzalez and Soriano, both of which were expected to get multi-year deals with other teams as free agents.

With the anticipated interest apparently not there, however, the 29-year-old Soriano decided to stay with the Braves and likely get $6 to 7 million in arbitration after posting 27 saves and a 2.97 ERA in 77 games.

Gonzalez, in more demand, did decline arbitration late Monday, meaning that the Braves will get draft compensation when he signs elsewhere.

Right now, though, Atlanta has an overcrowded bullpen and less wiggle room in the budget as general manager Frank Wren tries to upgrade the offense. Soriano can be traded, but only with his permission.

Wren and manager Bobby Cox reiterated at the baseball winter meetings in Indianapolis that Wagner would be the team's closer next season, with Saito and Peter Moylan also in line for opportunities.

Church played in just 44 games with the Braves last season after being acquired for Francoeur and batted an unproductive .260 as he continued to battle injuries. It had been anticipated that the team might not tender Church a contract for next season.

If the 31-year-old left-handed hitter clears waivers, the Braves will have 10 days to trade or release him.

Francoeur, meanwhile, regained his comfort level away from Atlanta and hit .311 after joining the Mets. The right fielder finished with a .280 overall average, 32 doubles, four triples, 15 homers and 76 RBIs.

The former Parkview two-sport star had surgery on his left thumb after the season, but is expected to be fully healed by the start of spring training.

Francoeur is arbitration eligible with the Mets. He turns 26 on Jan. 8.