Results tagged ‘ Jeff Francoeur ’

Braves put an Angel in the outfield…

Atlanta Braves general manager Frank Wren can cross through that
final line on the winter shopping list. The Braves inked outfielder
Garret Anderson to a one-year $2.5 million contract on Sunday,
effectively filling the last of the glaring voids they entered the
off-season needing to address.

garret_anderson.jpg

With the former Angel now in the Braves outfield, Wren bounced back from being slighted in pursuit of Ken Griffey Jr. Anderson,
36, clocks in nearly three full years younger than Griffey, and without
the burden of off-season knee surgery to boot.

Anderson does not bring 611 career home runs and the marketability
that Griffey will lend the Mariners in his reunion tour, but he does
bring a proven veteran bat that will add depth to the Atlanta batting
order.

While no one will confuse Anderson with the first ballot hall of
Famer the Braves were unable come to terms with last week, his career
average of .296 is eight points north of Griffey’s. Anderson’s 84 RBI
also bested Griffey’s total of 71 from a year ago.

Signing Anderson allows Atlanta to follow the same model they were
said to be planning had they signed Griffey, utilizing a platoon that
would allow Matt Diaz to get the majority of the at-bats against
lefties. However, the younger Anderson may see more time than Griffey
was slated to receive had he signed with the Braves.

Though the majority of both men’s power production came against
right handers last season, Anderson hit .290 in his 141 at-bats versus
lefties. Griffey hit just .202 in 163 AB’s against southpaws in 2008.
Anderson could steal some of the at-bats from Diaz, given the
likelyhood that he will be taking his swings in the middle of the
Braves order.

This move was symbolic of Atlanta’s off-season theme, with Wren
working to eventually turn a perceived negative into positives as it
comes to player personnel moves. Missing the mark on Jake Peavy and A.J. Burnett turned into the acquisitions of Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami and Javier Vazquez.

Atlanta’s new look rotation was the major undertaking this winter.
Bringing in a veteran like Anderson will help the Braves bridge the gap
until top prospects like Jordan Schafer, Jason Heyward and Gorkys Hernandez are ready to assume full-time duties in the Atlanta outfield.

While Schafer may be given the chance to assume the starting job in
center field this spring, the veteran Anderson will be charged with
helping the Braves outfield regain some of its clout. Last season, the
Braves outfielders combined to hit a major league low 29 homers.

The Braves are also hoping that a resurgent Jeff Francoeur
will rebound from his dreadful 2008. After driving in more than 100
runs and averaging 24 homers over his first two full seasons, Francoeur
hit only .239 with just 11 homers and 71 RBI in 155 games.

A new and improved batting stance, modeled after former teammate Mark Teixeira‘s
right-handed approach, along with less emphasis on weight training and
size have Francouer convinced that 2008 was just a bad dream. His
production from the right side of the dish will be vital to an
otherwise lefty-heavy Atlanta lineup.

Goodbye 2008, you will not be missed…

Smoltz_injury_conference.jpg
Based
on the kind of fun and excitement generated by press conferences like
the one above, there was no way that I could (in good conscience) call
yet another to wish this calender year a fond farewell. But, believe
me, I wanted to. This visual aptly sums up the theme of this season in
Atlanta Braves history – perhaps more swiftly and soundly than the glut
of words to follow. A simple theory (if you will note the pictures) would be to blame all of this on those dreaded new blue alternate road jerseys. Suffice it to say, good riddance 2008!

Glavine_April_injury.jpgThere was a palpable excitement when the Braves reported to Spring Training this season. The return of Tom Glavine gave Atlanta a rotation that boasted four former 20-game winners. Unfortunately, Glavine, John Smoltz, Tim Hudson and Mike Hampton were unable to complete one full turn through the rotation at any point during the season.

Glavine
and Smoltz could not provide the vintage Cy Young magic of their pasts,
both falling to injury in April and combining for just 18 starts
between them. When Hampton tore a pectoral muscle just prior to his
first start of the season, Atlanta found themselves operating without
three of their five regular starters. Hudson was not far behind. Those
losses would prove to be crippling to Atlanta’s play-off hopes.

The
rotation could have been viewed as a complete blackhole by the end of
July, were it not for the sparkling work of rookie right-hander Jair Jurrjens.
Acquired in a trade from the Detroit Tigers, Jurrjens finished his
first full season in the majors 13-10 with 3.68 ERA in 31 starts. Not
bad for a guy who was battling for the fifth spot in the rotation in
Grapefruit League play.

Hampton would eventually make it back,
returning in late July – just as Hudson’s season was being cut short by
Tommy John surgery. Settling in after a few rocky outings, Hampton
contributed solid work and quality innings over the season’s final
months. It was the first work for the left-hander since August of 2005.

None of the replacement hurlers were able to match the production of those they were replacing. Jo-Jo Reyes and Charle Morton both showed flashes of brilliance and increased lapses in command. Chuck James
suffered a shoulder injury and was shelled in seven starts before a
demotion to Richmond. Atlanta did see some quality work from Jorge Campillo, who gave the club 25 much needed starts and proved to be the only capable fill-in.

The Braves bullpen performed admirably in the face of overuse and injuries. Projected closer Rafael Soriano was a non-factor for much of the season with a mysterious elbow ailment. A success story in 2007, Peter Moylan was out by mid-April with Tommy John surgery of his own. Mike Gonzalez returned midway through the season to assume the closer’s role and re-established himself as a late inning force. Will Ohman, Jeff Bennett and Blaine Boyer provided the majority of the middle relief work, all making more than 70 appearances.

When it came to the offensive side, it would have been a good pre-season indicator to know that Chipper Jones
was going to win the NL batting title. As Chipper goes, so goes the
Braves line-up. However, poor indicators would have been to reveal that
Jeff Francoeur would regress to the point of being banished to the minor leagues and Mark Teixeira would be traded away prior to the July deadline.

Francoeur_struggles.jpgFrancoeur’s
struggles were just a microcosm of the Braves season. His average
dropped 54 points to .239, home runs fell from 19 down to 11 and RBI
plummeted from 105 to 71 as compared to 2007’s numbers. The quick
decline have put contract extension talks on hold and put Francoeur’s
young star status in question.

Lost at the plate, Francoeur was
sent to Double A Mississippi in hopes it would jump start his bat.
Problems arose from the demotion, as Francoeur voiced his disapproval
to several media outlets in the days that followed. It made little
matter, because the trip down only lasted for three games. Francoeur
was back to his regularly scheduled struggles.

With Teixeira
traded to the Angels and Francoeur trying to find himself, the Braves
lineup hinged on the health of Jones and the production of catcher Brian McCann, who earned his third consecutive All-Star appearance.

McCann
batted .301 with 42 doubles and a club-leading 23 homers and 87 RBI.
His strong work may have been one of the only factors that kept the
Braves line-up from coming apart at the seams. I would rattle off a few
more statistical accomplishments of other members of the supporting
cast, but Jones and McCann fill the star character roles nicely for this end-of-year
exercise.

Pressing through a variety of injuries for the fifth season in a row,
Jones average climbed for the fifth campaign as well. Jones grabbed the
batting crown he had just missed in 2007, hitting .364 and belted his
400th homer to boot. That wasn’t the only time the number 400 and Jones
would be mentioned in the same sentence last season. Flirting with a
.400 average through most of June was hardly what most teams expect
from their 36-year old third baseman, but it seems Jones is simply
getting better with age.

Though the season was a 72-90
disaster, a record which was a reversal of what many predicted the
Braves to finish with at worst, there was hope that resonated through
the off-season. General manager Frank Wren came into the winter
with more than $40 million to work with in re-tuning the
rotation and adding a power-hitting left fielder.

Trade talks for Jake Peavy fizzled, as did subsequent attempts to sign free-agent starter A.J. Burnett. Despite this, Wren was able to strike a deal with the White Sox to bring middle of the rotation stalwart, Javier Vazquez, into the fray. His track record of durability was something Atlanta was without in 2008.

Many
have deemed the off-season a complete disappointment, with no bigger
exclamation point than that of the negotiations that turned into a big
game of Deal or No Deal with Rafael Furcal. What ever
happened, intent to sign or not, the Braves came up short in yet
another off-season pursuit. The pains of those dealings may carry on
for years to come, as the Braves have vowed to never do business with
the Wasserman Media Group again.

Now
that 2008 has mercifully come to a close, there is reason to hope that
the next two months will see Wren make improvements to the club for
2009. It may not be a year of contention and World Series hopes, but
with top prospects remaining in the system rather than heading to San
Diego, the Braves could return to their play-off ways by resuming the
tradition of cranking out young talent and promptly supplementing them
with the right veterans.

Here’s to 2009!

Till then,

G-Mc

Winter Meetings: Day 2

Here are the most interesting tidbits of Braves news today. There was no major move, but plenty of speculation that Atlanta would be among the major movers at the meetings. With Day 3 still ahead and the race for free-agent pitcher A.J. Burnett heating up, the Braves have plenty of work still ahead of them in Sin City.

Zack Greinke for Jeff Francoeur? Not so fast…

Francoeur_take_a_seat.jpgIf you thought there might be renewed life to the previous rumor that a Greinke-Francoeur trade may have been discussed between Frank Wren and Kansas City Royals GM Dayton Moore, you can essentially disregard that line of thinking. ESPN’s Steve Phillips plays the role of rumor killer. A reprised story surfaced this morning, courtesy of the Boston Globe’s Tony Massarotti, but never showed up on the radar of any Braves scribe. The post also said that this deal was contingent on what the Braves are able to accomplish in regards to signing Burnett. So please note that this rumor was apparently just that and/or the product of idle hands – which as we know are the devil’s workshop.

Francoeur, 24, saw his career came off the tracks somewhat last season. Batting average (.239), homers (11) and RBI’s (71) were all down significantly from his previous two seasons. Even a trip back to the minors did little to bring things back around.

Greinke, 24, went 13-10 with a 3.47 ERA in 202.1 innings of work last season, striking out 183 hitters in his 32 starts. It makes sense from the standpoint of young players, but the Royals have put a significant amount of time and devotion into Greinke’s career, which was plagued by inconsistency and breifly saw him sidelined with an anxiety disorder. His potential is unquestioned though, and it appears Greinke is staking his claim as one of the best young hurlers in the game. He looks so good in fact, that Dayton Moore personally debunked the rumor later in the afternoon.

Outfielder from the Cardinals

Ken Rosenthal certainly stays busy over at Fox Sports, chipping in a new spin on an old topic. The Braves and Cardinals had previously been rumored to be working a deal, with the post popular version involving Kelly Johnson (or perhaps Yunel Escobar) heading to St. Louis for Ryan Ludwick. While that one never came to pass, the Cardinals made moves to solidify their infield for next season, trading for Khalil Greene and retaining the services of second baseman Adam Kennedy.

The lastest buzz according to Rosenthal involved a potential swap of Rick Ankiel for Mike Gonzalez and, secondarily, Joe Mather for Blaine Boyer. The Cardinals are seeking bullpen help and opted not to bring closer Jason Isringhausen back (at least not yet), so Gonzalez makes sense for them. However, these deals don’t seem to merit a great amount of discussion (again, at least not yet).

Top rumors and done deals for Tuesday

  • Francisco Rodriguez signs 3-year worth at least $37 MM deal to close games for the New York Mets.
  • Kerry Wood is close to a 2-year to join the Cleveland Indians bullpen. The deal likely contains an option for a third year.
  • Baltimore Orioles trade catcher Ramon Hernandez and cash for super utility man Ryan Freel and two prospects.
  • Third baseman Casey Blake resigned with the L.A. Dodgers for 3-years and $17.1 MM.
  • The Philadelphia Phillies extended the contract of manager Charlie Manuel through 2011.
  • Infielder Mike Lamb re-signed with the Milwaukee Brewers, agreeing to a 1-year deal.

Till next time,

G-Mc