Hot Stove time…

Well it’s too soon to start previewing next season. Let’s face it, the World Series is anything but a distant memory and most free agents are still gathering their papers and creating an off-season strategy with their agents. But it is, most certainly, time to fire up the Hot Stove and see what develops as it’s developing.

Many of the astute baseball minds that started putting two and two together between Atlanta and free-agent center fielder Mike Cameron suffered a set-back in their theory. Cameron earned himself a 25-game suspension for violating baseball’s substance abuse policy regarding illegal stimulants for the second time. That should pretty much put to rest any thoughts of Cameron in Atlanta, despite the fact that the Padres still regard him highly.

Griffey_1One interesting Braves piece of speculation involves a high profile target. Call it whatever you like, but there is some clamoring to bring future Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. into the fray this winter. Griffey has made no secret of his feelings about playing in Atlanta, a place he is familiar with from his father’s playing days. Could it be a fit? Time will tell, but the price will have to be right. Terrence Moore recently opined in the AJC that Griffey should be brought on board. If the time ever was right to make the move, it would appear that now would be it. Fellow AJC scribe David O’Brien shares a different view than Moore. Both have valid cases in my book.

I can beat you over the head with the numbers Griffey has put up in his career and scare you with the list of injuries he has suffered since 2001, but then you already know these things. I mean, wouldn’t it be nice to see a milestone 600th homer moment at Turner Field this year? If the Reds are in fact on the hook for half of Griffey’s $12 million in the event he is traded, then I’d say it would at least be worth having a little talk with Reds GM Wayne Krivsky.

Now if you want some speculation from my camp, then I would say that not only are Griffey’s days in center field behind him, but Atlanta might be better served shifting him to left field should they rope him. An interesting name to note in the trade market for a center fielder might be Boston’s Coco Crisp. Having been replaced in the lineup and in the hearts and minds of Red Sox Nation by rookie speedster Jacoby Ellsbury, Crisp could be a nice addition at the right price.

There is no doubt that memories of Andruw Jones will not be easily erased, but Crisp has the kind of glove that could ease the transition from a defensive standpoint. Atlanta was linked to trade talks, as I’ve mentioned, prior to Boston snagging Crisp from Cleveland after the 2005 season. His current  contract calls for sums of $4.75 million in 2008 and $5.75 million in 2009 (with an $8 million option for 2010). Not exactly bank-breaking numbers, which could make him an excellent stop-gap between Jones and several talented farmhands.

Crisp, 28, hit .300 with 16 homers and 69 RBI in his final season with the Indians. Over the past two seasons spent in Boston, the numbers have not been quite as impressive. Crisp has stolen 50 bases in 60 attempts in those two years, hitting .266 with 14 homers and 96 RBI in 239 games. The OBP is a little low (.317 in ’06 and .330 last season) but his speed would seem to dictate Crisp would project at lead-off or two-place hitter. A fresh start in a new place might be just what he needs to get back on track with his Tribe days.

Some rattling following the Renteria trade went as far as to say Atlanta might be a player in the sweepstakes to land Alex Rodriguez. I would surmise that it was based solely on the fact that the Braves finished second in the bidding when A-Rod got his first mega-deal. I highly doubt that Atlanta is trying to take the money gained by the departures of Andruw Jones and Edgar Renteria to bring in Rodriguez (presumably as a shortstop again). It just doesn’t make any sense financially or realistically in the Braves plans, which makes this entire line of discussion laughable. If the Braves are going to be scraping together money or taking public collections for a Scott Boras client, it is going to be Mark Teixeira.

Division rival Florida might be up to something. They’ve announced to the rest of baseball that Miguel Cabrera is available for trade this winter. Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald has interesting take on recent Marlins rumblings .. but it would be a long shot.

This whole A-Rod saga is going to be one of two things – either the gift that keeps on giving, or the rash that just won’t go away, depending on where you sit. This off-season could show us a contract that no one ever thought possible. I found at least one New York writer who believes A-Rod wants in by opting out. Can you believe that?

Till Next Time,


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