The Braves have, roughly speaking, about $20 million left to spend, even with the AOL-mandated budget cuts. There are two lineup spots left open, right field and third base. Now, it would be nice to get two $10 million players, or a $15 million player like Guerrero and a $5 million player, but there are other obligations.
1. Rafael Furcal is arbitration-eligible, and the Braves almost certainly will accept his filing. The team will have to decide whether to give him a long-term deal. I believe Mark DeRosa is also up for arbitration; if he is, the Braves need to reach a settlement with him or find another utility man. (It may be that this figure includes raises for Furcal and others.)
2. They also need to shore up the bullpen, which has at least two and as many as five slots still open.
3. They need to find a backup catcher, and probably a backup infielder, unless Jesse Garcia is to your taste.
So it might be more like $15 million to work with to fill the two spots. Most of the outfield names have been dealt with here already. The most commonly cited are Jacque Jones, Jose Guillen, and Richard Hidalgo. Guillen is an unencumbered free agent, the other two are property of teams that might want to move them. There’s also the possibility of JD Drew of the Cardinals, if as rumored they non-tender him.
What about third base? There simply aren’t any quality third basemen on the market, and the Braves might not want to commit to someone long-term anyway. So either they sign someone like Ventura or Zeile to a short-term deal… Or they move Chipper back to third until Marte is ready and get two outfielders, one of whom is up for free agency next year.
I didn’t think this was likely coming in to this offseason. Chipper seems reluctant to move back anyway, and turning him into almost a utility guy (this year he’s at third, next outfield, then first base…) would be unusual for a team’s highest paid player.
But what do we keep hearing? Outfielders, nothing but outfielders, plus a few feelers about first basemen from people who don’t think LaRoche is the answer. There are so many outfielders talked about that I wonder if the Braves aren’t interested in two of them.
Just something to think about.