Results tagged ‘ Ken Griffey Jr. ’

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.

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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.

Braves put Griffey in their sights…

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The Atlanta Braves could be preparing a late charge at free agent outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., according to a report by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick on Sunday.

Braves GM Frank Wren is still seeking to fill the void in
Atlanta the outfield with a veteran bat that could bolster the line-up.
Sources told Crasnick that the Braves have stepped things up and began
discussing money with Griffey’s agent, Brian Goldberg.

Much of the speculation over the weekend was that Griffey was
seeking a reunion with the Seattle Mariners, for whom he played the
first 11 years of his career.

Griffey, 39, is coming off a 2008 season in which he was hampered by
a left knee injury. Doctors had to drain the knee on three occasions;
he underwent arthroscopic surgery in October in order to be ready for
spring training.

In the final season of a nine-year $116.5 million deal signed prior
to 2000, Griffey’s production declined from a 2007 campaign which saw
him hit .277 with 30 homers and 93 RBI. Cincinnati dealt Griffey to the
White Sox in a July trade deadline deal.

In 102 games with the Reds prior to the trade, Griffey hit .245 with
15 homers and 53 RBI. For the White Sox, Griffey hit .260 in 41
contests, but with just three homers and 18 RBI. Chicago declined the
$16.5 million option, making Griffey a free-agent.

Atlanta has Matt Diaz returning from a knee surgery that took
much of the 2008 season away from him. Diaz has served Atlanta
primarily as a platoon left fielder since being acquired in a trade
from the Kansas City Royals in 2006.

The presence of Diaz, who combined to hit .333 in 655 at-bats during
2006 and 2007, would allow manager Bobby Cox to give Griffey regular
rest.

Diaz hit just .244 in 43 games last season. He suffered a torn PCL
ligament in his left knee while attempting to make a diving catch
against the Milwaukee Brewers on May 27. He returned to the lineup in
Atlanta’s final game of the season and went 0-for-3.

Winter Meetings Shopping list…

Starting pitching, plain and simple

ajburnett.jpgThe ideal trade for Jake Peavy has become a harder than originally expected task. Padres GM Kevin Towers practically wrote the book on how not to trade what should be one of the most valuable commodities by keeping virtually every step of these negotiations front and center in the press. The talks may rekindle, but the Braves and GM Frank Wren will have the option of pursuing A.J. Burnett and other free agent hurlers. Wren will certainly look to provide at least two hurlers who can provide some innings, perhaps the White Sox Javier Vasquez could fit that bill.

Burnett, who turns 32 before the season, is clearly the Braves first choice as an ace. As Braves.com’s Mark Bowman pointed out last week, Burnett’s agent said a fifth year was not necessarily the make or break point. An 18-game winner a year ago, he also fills the role of ace starter which Atlanta is seeking this winter. Expect the Braves to make a big offer to acquire his services.

Atlanta is also faced with decisions on a trio of starters from last season. Tom Glavine and John Smoltz each have to determine their plans on pitching after testing their surgically repaired arms. I have my doubts that Glavine will decide to play on, while Smoltz has proven that you just can’t count him out. If it comes down to being a starter or reliever though, I don’t expect to see Smoltz putting on the uniform to serve as a set-up man next season. Then there is Mike Hampton, who showed he something left to offer after two and a half seasons of injuries. Jerry Crasnick over at ESPN noted that Hampton and his agent are seeking a one-year deal to re-establish his value in the market moving forward. Would the years spent on the sidelines lead him back to Atlanta to do so?

Power hitting left fielder

Griffey_blog.jpgDepending on how everything shakes out with some of the other pursuits this winter, the Braves seem to be looking for a righty hitting middle of the line-up bat to stick in left this season. There are a range of options that starts with free agent Pat Burrell (whom the Braves will almost certainly pass on for his defensive liability and history of foot problems) and including the rumored to be available Jermaine Dye of the White Sox.

If you open the running to include left-handed hitters then you start to get some interesting names. Raul Ibanez, who is not interested in becoming the full-time DH for Seattle, and Ken Griffey Jr. top my list of candidates. Ibanez is a consistent performer (averaging 113 RBI over the past three seasons) who hasn’t exactly been in a hitter’s paradise in Safeco Field.

Age and injury combine to temper the expectations from Griffey, who combined to hit .249 with 18 homers and 73 RBI in 143 games with the Reds and White Sox last season. Still, a short term pact with incentives could be a strong option if other free agent options or trade alternatives become too costly in one form or another.

Bullpen reinforcements

The pen was a sore spot yet again for Atlanta last year. It seems like that theme has run through each of the last three seasons. The Braves do have a set closer at least, with Mike Gonzalez anchoring the ninth innings. Things are somewhat dicey after that though. Rafael Soriano is due a huge pay raise ($6.1 million) as part of the two-year deal he signed before last season and will have to prove he can stay healthy coming off just 14 appearances in 2008. Peter Moylan will be coming back from Tommy John surgery, and much is expected of that duo to solidify the late innings in front of Gonzalez.

Atlanta is interested in bringing back lefty Will Ohman, who struggled late but was one of the most important arms last season. Another lefty will be important, as I’m not sure how waiver claim Eric O’Flaherty fits into those plans, but I’m sure that Wren will seek as many options as possible. Ohman and Blaine Boyer finished near the top of the pack in overall appearances, so the Braves will look to add some reliable depth where possible. If there’s ever a place where some trades will happen, I expect it to be in the relief department. 

Kick the tires on some available shortstops

p1_furcal_ap.jpgFor a team that has a young and multi-talented shortstop already, there have been more than a few rumors out there that the Braves will go back to one of their former shortstops this winter. What started with the potential trade of Yunel Escobar (and several others) for Jake Peavy has turned into the potential homecoming of Rafael Furcal, or perhaps Edgar Renteria. Of course, the Braves may not make it to the table for either one – so consider this simply a cursory examination of the available.

A healthy Furcal would be a boost to the top of the line-up, providing a lead-off hitter that has not been present since his departure three seasons ago. The money and years would have to be right, and with the bad back that cost Furcal much of last season, it is hard to say the Braves will be a major player in this sweepstakes. The American League hasn’t seemed to be the place for Renteria on two occasions now. It was just 2007 when he hit .332 for the Braves, so who’s to say the down season with Detroit spelled the beginning of the end?

With a week’s worth of prep time between now and the Winter Meetings in Vegas, many things could change. Wren could wrap up some of his shopping before he heads to Nevada. The Braves figure to have an interesting off-season either way.

Till next time,

G-Mc