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,
This Hollywood masterpiece doesn’t involve Kurt Russell reprising the role of Snake Plisskin, though some may theorize that Andruw Jones
don the eyepatch in an attempt to reverse his recent fortunes. Before
the new year could make it through its opening day, speculation has the
Los Angeles Dodgers trying to buy out and/or unload Jones and his
It was just a week ago that we were watching everyone squash a rumored trade to the New York Mets for Luis Castillo.
Now reports are stating that Jones and the Dodgers have reached an
agreement that would defer the remaining 22.1 million owed over the
next several years. The club has agreed to trade or release Jones as
Top priority in Dodgersland has been given to bringing back Manny Ramirez.
And why not? Ramirez seems to be hitting better with age. Getting the
slugger who reversed the team’s fortunes following his trade deadline
acquisition will no doubt take a large sum of the green stuff – and I’m
not talking new year’s collards.
Dumping Jones money, or at least breaking it into several years worth
of small payments rather than a lump sum should allow Los Angeles to
get to the business of getting to the table with Ramirez.I don’t have
to tell the average baseball fan that if the bitter long-term rival San
Francisco Giants are earnest in their decision to pursue Ramirez, then
it behooves Colletti to step things up and seal the deal.
the bouncing ball would point to the fairly obvious fact that L.A.
could save some money by unloading Jones to another team, but that
won’t be easy after he followed a .222-26-94 season with his horrendous
.158-3-14 campaign that was highlighed by injury for the first time in
a 13-year career. More alarming and dissuading for a potential buyer
would be the 76 strikeouts in 209 at-bats. Jones also missed out on
winning his 11th Gold Glove Award as well.
It would probably
be silly to go from those stat-lines to suggest that the Braves would
be an excellent place for Andruw to find employment if indeed he is
released from his duties out West. What could playing in Atlanta do for
Andruw now that it wasn’t doing for him in 2007 – his original
The Dodgers have solved what became a rather expensive dilemma with
Andruw. No other team is going to be interested in taking on any
portion of his salary unless or until he proves he can be productive
again. You can probably safely assume that any interested club will
allow the Dodger to release and assume the majority of the deal and
then sign him for the Major League minimum.
Homecoming stories haven’t been a source of happy endings in Atlanta as of late – Tom Glavine last season for example. But more to the point of once great center fielders in decline, take Willie Mays
in the Mets years for example. Anyone who saw Mays falling down in the
outfield and struggling to run the bases in his final years probably
sees the similarities between the two. What Jones may is the
opportunity to get his career back on track… something that Mays was
not allowed to do because of age and mileage. It is doubtful this road
to redemption would lead back to Atlanta – but I wouldn’t say
At 32-years old this April, Jones should still be
in the prime years of his career. The opposite has shown the past two
seasons. Strikeouts have soared while his power numbers have hit the
skids. Another thing that soared to new heights was Jones’ weight last spring when he reported to his first Dodger camp. The fans definitely noticed. See for yourself.
It got worse from there for Andruw, who was soon dubbed “tubbo” by the L.A. Times’ T.J. Simers.
He was the clever reporter who got Andruw to step on the scales to
register at 248 pounds. Yikes. Either way, Andruw’s usual relaxed
assuredness translated into a cavalier attitude in his new
surroundings. It was his complete lack of production made him anything
but a fan favorite. By the end of April, the smile that Braves fans
know as a Jones trademark could bring the blood of any Dodger fan to a
steady boil. Off-speed pitches became kryptonite and knee surgery
slowed the season to a crawl. Fast forward to September and the boys in
blue were making their playoff run without Jones, who essentially sent
himself home after a third DL stint.
Now Jones is down in
Aguilas, trying to get his entire career back on track this winter.
Various reports have stated that he is “looking forward” to his next
time out on the free agent market, while still others state that he has
slimmed down. Whatever the case may be, hitting .188 in half a dozen
games isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire.
matters more tragic, I’ll suggest you spend some time on Youtube and do
a quick search for “Andruw Jones.” If you don’t find a Dodger fan-made
hate video within your first page of results, then you just aren’t
paying attention. Here’s one. And here’s another. Same game, but you get the idea.
If it was a knee injury that sapped his numbers last season, then Jones
will have to get things back on track and show the baseball world that
the reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated.
Till next time,