Left field remains a question…
Frank Wren had a productive winter rebuilding the Atlanta Braves starting rotation, but a GM’s work is never done. Perhaps the last item on the checklist will be finding a productive outfield bat at a relative bargain price in a market that still has several intriguing names.
There was a major spoiler alert yesterday, just in case you were thinking that the Andruw Jones reunion was merely a formality. Jones and the Braves have vastly different opinions as to the agreeable terms. Despite the $5 million already coming to Jones as severance with the Dodgers, agent Scott Boras has shot down any notion that his client would accept a minor league deal simply to return to Atlanta.
Estimates have put the remaining money the Braves have to spend somewhere between $6 million and $9 million. Putting aside the reunion factor, there are some other options who would come more ready to produce than seeking a career renaissance. Chief among these candidates is former Yankee Bobby Abreu, easily the most attractive of the remaining free agent outfielders.
Abreu turns 35-years old in March, and has been holding out hope that a multi-year contract would materialize with a club looking for a corner outfielder. The most tangible rumor had the Cubs linked to Abreu, but that door closed when Chicago signed the younger Milton Bradley to a three-year $30 million deal earlier this month.
There is no doubt that the Braves have the pieces that could be dealt to bring in other Yankee outfielders, like Nick Swisher or Xavier Nady. A short-term deal with Abreu, who would be slotted to make the move from right to left in the outfield, could allow Atlanta to bridge the gap while top prospects Jason Heyward and Jordan Schafer continue to mature in 2009.
The Braves have a line-up that already features several left-handed
hitters, as well as switch-hitter Chipper Jones, who gets most of his
at-bats from the left side over the course of the season. Brian McCann,
Kelly Johnson and Casey Kotchman comprise the lefty swingers, leaving
Jeff Francoeur and Yunel Escobar as the only right-handed hitters among
the known regulars.
Abreu brings a career .300 average and has a streak of six consecutive seasons of 100+ RBI. While his ability to draw walks has declined over the past three years, from 124 in 2006 to 73 last season, Abreu helped his cause by batting .315 with six homers and 30 RBI in 184 at-bats against left-handers last season. That production could warrant Atlanta to forego limiting their search to strictly right-handed bats.
Adam Dunn and his prolific power numbers are certainly intriguing, but the likely price tag would take Atlanta off the list of possible suitors. The Washington Nationals seem to be the club most keyed in on Dunn, having lost a bid for Mark Teixeira in December. Dunn has slugged more than 40 homers for five consecutive seasons, but would represent a bigger defensive liability than the already limited Abreu for Atlanta.
Though Bradley garnered a multi-year deal with the Cubs and 36-year old Raul Ibanez inked a three-year $31.5 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal suggests Abreu’s price tag could be closer to the two-year and $16 million that Tampa Bay gave Pat Burrell.
Wren will have some choices, but in the end it could come down to just how much the Braves are willing to give in any potential trade for Swisher or Nady. There is always a distinct possibility that an unforeseen option will present itself as well, but signing the veteran Abreu could compliment the Atlanta line-up in exactly the manner they are searching for.
Till next time,