Where Do We Go From Here? 2006.1: Andruw and Marcus

The Braves find themselves with no major free agent questions for this offseason. Baez can not be offered arbitration and wants to close, so he will be gone. John Thomson and Chris Reitsma probably will not be offered arbitration either after their disastrous seasons; the other potential free agents are fringe players.

For whatever reason, the current incarnation of the Braves feature several players who will (barring extensions) be free agents after next season. Nothing is going to happen with John Smoltz until next season gets underway (unless he signs an extension), but two other key contributors are also in their last years under contract.

Andruw Jones is in the last year of what was considered a below-market extension signed after the 2001 season. He cut agent Scott Boras out of those negotiations, but that isn’t going to happen this time. However, I don’t think that will matter. Boras does what his clients want; if he didn’t, he would lose his license and probably get sued.

Andruw really wants to stay in Atlanta, where he has put down deep roots; on this, everyone agrees. At the same time, next season he’ll turn 30 and this is probably going to be his last big payday, so he has to look out for his long-term interests. I think he would probably take slightly less or defer some money, but he wants to get paid.

As a 10-and-5 man, Andruw can reject any trade, but has said he’d be open to one. Now, he might block a trade to certain teams, but I don’t think that will be a problem, because those teams won’t be able to afford him. The team that keeps coming up (and where a rumored trade just before his 10-and-5 rights began fell through) is the Red Sox, but the Braves won’t trade him for scrap.

I have no inside knowledge, but here are my guesses as to the chances of the various potential outcomes:

20 percent: Extension signed this offseason
10 percent: Trade this offseason (probably to the Red Sox or Yankees)
30 percent: Traded during the season
30 percent: Plays through the season, then leaves as a free agent
10 percent: Re-signs as a free agent or accepts arbitration

10 percent may be too high; it’s been years since the Braves re-signed one of their own free agents. But maybe the 20 is a little low; Andruw really wants to stay in Atlanta and may decide that the difference between $70 million and $80 million isn’t worth it (especially considering taxes and cost of living).

Marcus Giles doesn’t seem to have roots quite as deep, though he too has a family and has been in Atlanta off and on since 2001. He’s also more replaceable than Andruw; the Braves don’t have a centerfield candidate who’s really worth anything while some combination of Orr, Prado, and Aybar could be at least league-average. (And Kelly Johnson, if he could hold up defensively, could probably be one of the better 2B in the league.) Moreover, Marcus had a terrible year, while Andruw was pretty much what he always is. (As I’ve said before, Andruw is extremely consistent from year to year, it’s only during the season that he’s streaky.) Giles saw his batting average and on-base percentage drop by about twenty points each while his slugging percentage dropped by more than sixty.

JC thinks that the slugging drop is largely due to Marcus being lucky the last couple of years and falling back to his true range. I am not so sure. Second basemen are notorious for their tendency to stall out after promising starts to their careers (the Brent Gates Effect). The reasons seem to be that:

1. It’s probably the second-most grueling position on the field after catcher;
2. They’re the smallest players on most teams and lose out in collisions;
3. Most second basemen are players who failed at other positions and usually have a fine line before they can’t play any more.

Marcus seems to be having the sort of wear-and-tear injuries common to second basemen. His previous injuries have been catastrophic; this year he missed a few games at a time due to relatively minor issues.

He is also going into his last arbitration year, one in which he will probably make more than $5 million. And there are usually teams looking for second basemen. Finally, nobody expects him to be back with the team in 2007 or the team to make much of an issue of re-signing him. The Braves can show his .287/.345/.412 line after the break and say that he’s what he always was, and is just more comfortable in the 2-spot, and see if someone will give up a pitching prospect or a reliever for him.

My guesses:

40 percent: Traded this offseason
30 percent: Plays out the season, leaves as free agent
25 percent: Traded during the season
5 percent: Re-signs/accepts arbitration after 2007

60 thoughts on “Where Do We Go From Here? 2006.1: Andruw and Marcus”

  1. “but he wants to get paid” I think is the phrase that best describes Andruw at this point. Some team will be foolish and offer him way more than the Braves are going to be willing to offer. His wife is an Atlanta local so it depends how tight his leash is if he’ll be willing to take a MAJOR paycut, because she’ll probably want to stay in Atlanta. IMO, He’s the next Furcal.

  2. I’m not going to talk about that because I have no idea. I assume current payroll levels will be maintained because attendance wound up basically steady.

  3. If Marcus leaves, who is going to throw the shaving cream pies into rookies’ faces? I can remember Marcus doing LaRoche and Francoeur. Did Marcus himself get pied in his rookie year, by Chipper or someone?

    Marcus was such a fan favorite when he first came up. I’d say the majority of that interest has now shifted to Francoeur and, hopefully, McCann. I wonder who the next “fan favorite” will be after the rosiness of the Francoeur era has worn off.

  4. BPro on Marcus

    The gist of it is that they think he just had a bad year this year and that whoever gets him will probably find out that he’s been consequently undervalued. Just an alternate perspective. I personally don’t see why one off-year should outweigh 3 very good ones, but that’s just me. He is getting older (to the extent that 28 is old).

    As far as “roots” go, I see no reason why Marcus would want to stay here when his entire family (and his wife’s as well) is in California. It seems like he has a lot more roots on the West Coast than in Atlanta. I think if we don’t trade him, he’ll bolt across the country when he becomes a free agent.

    Andruw I’m not sure about. I think we procrastinate dealing with that in favor of the pitching situation and dump him before the deadline next year. Of course, this may hinge on the ownership situation, as do most scenarios involving Scott Boras and wads of cash.

  5. Can Aybar play second? He has hit really well as a Brave even with the injury. I could see him at second and leadoff and I feel that is the Braves visiosn and reason for the trade. If we can move Marcus for anything, a fourth or fifth starter then do it.
    re-sign Andruw at this point, but give him some days off next year.
    I wish we could lose Hudson, I would take a minor leaguer for him, just one.
    He is shot.

  6. I hope this isn’t true, but I think Giles is one of the guys who got off performance inhansment stuff sometime over the past two seasons. I think between KJ, Aybar, Pena, and Parado one or tow of them could stand out. Giles might fetch us a set up man or a really good 7th inning guy.

  7. @8

    Wow, Smitty, that is one bungle of the word “enhancement”. :P Incidently, when I was at Berry College in 2003, one of the coaches that I talked with a lot when he was my teacher thought the same thing. He was convinced that someone so small couldn’t be hitting home runs as mighty as Giles was.

  8. Seems to me we can’t talk about anything until we have the ownership issue settled.

    That being said…

    Trade Hudson and Giles. Sign Andruw long-term. Have Aybar be the 2b, but take over at 3b when Chipper pulls an oblique — Orr and Prado can probably handle 2b. I have a weird feeling that either Cormier or Oscar the Vulture will be in the 2007 opening day rotation…which will be Smoltz, James, Hampton, whoever we get for Hudson/Giles, and Cormier/Vulture.

    I’m kinda digging the prospect of KJ at 2b, though…

  9. Hate to say it, but I’ve always thought Giles was on the juice. Makes the evaluation a little different, but I agree that he’ll probably be dealt.

    FWIW, here are my post-season predictions:

    Yanks sweep Detroit
    Twins beat Oakland in 5
    Padres take Cards in 4
    Dodgers over Mets in 5 (why not?)

    Yanks over Minnesota in 6
    Dodgers over Pads in 7

    Yanks over LA in 5

  10. Giles leaving would have no great effect, IMO. He was a drag on an otherwise robust offense, and he’s just average defensively. I doubt KJ is a viable option, though I could be wrong. As slow as our infield defense already is, it would be positively creaky if we had someone out there learning on the job. By next spring, he’ll be four years removed from playing the infield at all.

    Aybar has played the position off and on since 2004 — he should get first crack at it.

  11. If I had to bet on one or the other, I’d say Giles would be more a fan of coffee-n-greenies than roids. He was always the most hopped-up guy in the dugout a couple of years ago — I seem to remember the announcers saying that Cox couldn’t stand to give him a day off, because then he’d have to put up with him all game….

  12. What has Kelly Johnson doen that proved he can play 2B?

    AJ needs to be resigned, CJ needs to stay healthy.

    Adam should be signed long term.

    We have enough with Wickman, Cormier, Ray and others to have a “decent” bullpen next year. around 4 ERA and under 10(hopefully under 7-8) BLOWN SAVES.

    Smoltz
    Hampton
    James
    Ramirez
    *Thompson

    SS Renteria
    2B Aybar
    3B CJ
    CF AJ
    C Mccann
    1B LaRoche
    LF Johnson/Langerhans
    RF *Francouer

    package Hudson and Giles for ONE GOOD Starting PITCHER….

    *Trade Thompson, Yates, prospect for a good relief pitcher, NOT JIM BROWER, NOT DAN KOLB, somebody good…

    *Francouer needs to be designated for assignment…..if he does not improve one iota from this and last year in terms of plate discipline.

    Better SP and Relief would be nice, with a bit better offense due to CJ just staying healthy.

    We will be guaranteed the WC next year if we do these things, maybe better if our SP nad BP are just better than average and not horrifically bad as they were this year.

  13. Remember, Pedro is out (eight months, they say, but rotator cuff surgery is very bad juju) and without him the Mets’ rotation looks very bad. The East is wide open, and if the Braves get even decent pitching they should win it.

  14. Exactly, BUT knowing Pedro he will come back early and his stuff be slower and he’ll still strike every Brave out.

    Hampton coming back excites me for some reason.

    He was doing great in 2004 before the injury occured.

    If he can just throw up around a 4.00 ERA and the bullpen do the same with the Braves offense 90 wins is guaranteed, if they do a bit better they could sniff 100, escpecially considering the NL doesn’t seem to get be getting any better(The Cards are dying a slow death they might be swept-Astros will lose their pitching, the Giants are dead etc.)

    The Phillies appear to be gettign better though, but their pitching is still a huge question. Flash Gordon is getting older also….

  15. “As far as “roots” go, I see no reason why Marcus would want to stay here when his entire family (and his wife’s as well) is in California. It seems like he has a lot more roots on the West Coast than in Atlanta. I think if we don’t trade him, he’ll bolt across the country when he becomes a free agent.”

    Trade him and Hudson to San Diego for Peavy, and see if the Padres screw up again…hahaha

  16. Rissa @5

    “Fan Favorite”=Wickman. No one else.

    WICKMANIA IS STILL ALIVE!!! Although now dormant and hibernating in a cave with a winter’s worth of vacuum sealed salmon.

  17. I doubt that the Mets will stand still when it comes to their rotation. They may overpay for Zito & it’s been written that they’re wishing they’d made the Milledge-for-Zito deal a few months ago (moreso for this playoff run). Whatever. Tough, I say.

    The Mets will be formidable, but I’m optimistic about our chances, too.

  18. Speaking of Zito, I’m going to see a Santana-Zito matchup for Tuesday’s game. Could it get any better? :D

  19. I’ve been on vacation most of the week & haven’t been able to keep up, so folks may be talking about it – but does anyone think Smoltz can have a shot at the Cy Young award? In the NL there are no clear standouts, and a credible case can be made about the leads that the pen blew for Smoltz. And I was looking at ERAs, and Smoltz was comparable to other guys in runs allowed – he only had 3 unearned runs all year, though, and that hurts the ERA (particularly in comparison to others). Just a thought…

  20. Nice write up, Mac. It is bad enough having an empty feeling for the first time since 1991 (1994 was different), but watching most of these teams back into the playoffs almost hurts more.

    Despite the fact that the Braves looked absolutely terrible at many times this past season, I have a feeling that they would do well.

    Trading for Wickman means that we can now “Wait till Next Year” with some real hope.

    For my two cents worth, the Braves will re-sign Andruw and trade Marcus—as they should. I just hope that we can get a quality starter.

    KJ at 2B will probably never work–but it would rock if it did.

  21. Cleary there is no Johan Santana in the NL.

    It would be great to see Smoltz win the Cy Young, but I would not be surprised to see Brandon Webb or Aaron Harang get it. With even a decent bullpen Smoltz would have a lock on it.

  22. How ’bout Roy Oswalt? He won 15 games, but his ERA is 2.98.

    Webb won 16, but his ERA is 3.10, I think.

    Then again, maybe they’ll give it to Hoffman.

  23. OK, this was probably unhealthy, but I went back and looked at our won-loss record by month. If we had just went around .500 in June, which instead of 6-21 we would have gone 13-14, that would have been a 7 game increase, which would have put us at 86-76. That would have put us right in the thick of the Wild Card race with something to play for up until this past week. Who knows what would have changed at the trade deadline and the way this team played in July, August, and September. Oh well… back to the drawing board.

  24. Smoltz has as much right as anyone to the CYA, but I think it’ll go to Webb with Oswalt in second- Webb had a slightly lower ERA with slightly more innings. If the bullpen let Smoltz win even two or three more games, he wins.

    No reliever is going to win unless he gives Thigpen’s record a hard run and/or has an ERA below 2. Hoffman was good but not that good.

  25. word on the ESPN.com Rumor Central is that the D-Rays might be shopping Carl Crawford for a front line starter… Is it possible to bludgeon their GM over the head with a bat and then see if we can pull a quick one and trade Huddy for him?

    like I said last year… Carl Crawford would be a godsend in left field in Atlanta… and at the top of the lineup

  26. The analysts actually called it with Pedro in New York. I remember everyone claiming his rotator was half torn when he signed to contract in New York and that they would get a season or two from him before he imploded. Shoulder stuff is bad.

    I’ll agree with some people here in saying that KJ at second would be an interesting litmus test, because right now he seems to be out of the OF picture. I think he has at least shown he deserves a shot at trying out for the position since he has played nearly every other position on the field. And I am pretty sure i heard some rumblings somewheres a while back that they have practiced him at 2nd some last year. We’ll see what happens there.

    This could end up being one of those offseasons where a lot of things change across the league. And hey, we will get our highest draft pick in 16 years. Maybe we can get one of those elite arms that tends to fall in the top 15 picks.

  27. A lot of people are saying that Trevor Hoffman could win the NL Cy Young, since there is no clear starter who deserves it really much more than anyone else.

    Carpenter, C. Zambrano, Webb, Smoltz and Oswalt. Could a case really be made that one of them deserves the award much more than anyone else?

    I don’t think the season sucked, like written in the previous thread. Yes, it really sucks the Braves are not in the playoffs, but I really had fun watching it, even a little bit in June too.

  28. “but I really had fun watching it, even a little bit in June too.”

    Fun watching it, or “fun” getting drunk by playing all of those “Atlanta Brave’s Drinking Games”?

  29. “Smoltz has as much right as anyone to the CYA, but I think it’ll go to Webb with Oswalt in second- Webb had a slightly lower ERA with slightly more innings. If the bullpen let Smoltz win even two or three more games, he wins.

    No reliever is going to win unless he gives Thigpen’s record a hard run and/or has an ERA below 2. Hoffman was good but not that good. ”

    How many saves did Eric Gagne have?

  30. “”The bottom line is they’ve got a Hall of Fame pitcher on the mound and the best lineup in the National League, and we got beat, 3-1.”

    -Lance Berkman

  31. I may be delusional, but I’m not ready to give up on Hudson yet. Despite all the eveidence!
    I just keep thinking, “How could the Braves be so horribly wrong on Hudson when they’ve been so terrifically right in so many others?”
    It’s clear, though, that to truly compete for a pennant-always the stated goal by JS-then the starters for this team have to be significantly better.

  32. “Francouer needs to be designated for assignment…..if he does not improve one iota from this and last year in terms of plate discipline.”

    What about the two-out RBIs?

  33. In order for Jeff to be sent to the minors, he has to be optioned, not DFA’d. DFAing someone puts them on waivers — anyone else could claim him.

    Mac, Andruw said in his AJC interview last week that he will use his 10-5 rights to nix any trade made in-season, but would be receptive to a trade made in the offseason (with the rationale that he’d be willing to help the Braves in that regard). I think that’s a reasonable position for him to take, and I imagine he’ll follow through, so I’d decrease the odds of an in-season trade to 0%.

  34. I posted this in the last comment thread, and just wanted to repost so Mac and Jenny could see it:

    “Yeah, thanks, Mac. You’ve really made it easier to follow the Braves over here and a lot more fun. You should get a raise.

    Happy birthday, Jenny. I hope you have a great time at the Metrodome.”

    Cheers.

  35. “Andy Marte is solid, but very overrated.” – Jim Fregosi

    Thought I’d post this to get some people fired up about this offseason.

    I also think that the Hudson for Crawford idea is intriguing. However, as much as he has sucked, I just get this feeling that as soon as we trade him he will become cy young. That being said I’d like to see us sign andruw and trade Giles and Hudson for pitching.

  36. Giles is easy. Trade him. He’s average defensively and merely above average offensively (for a 2nd baseman). You don’t lose much if anything from using some combination of Aybar, Prado, and Orr there and Orr and Aybar are much better suited to being leadoff hitters than Marcus.

    Andruw is a very tough call. I can see good reasons for doing almost every option with him. I guess the questions will be what would you do with the money you save by trading or failing to re-sign him and can you find a trade partner who will give you top notch minor league talent. If they can unload Hudson’s albatross of a contract, then there is no reason not to try to re-sign Andruw. But if they are stuck with Huddy, it may make more sense to trade Andruw and sign a cheaper bat.

  37. How high are the Padres on Scott Linebreck (sp?)? Could we trade Giles/others for him? That would really solidify the ‘pen, giving us the 8th inning guy to get us to Wickman, as well as insurance in case The Portly One gets injured.

  38. “Andy Marte is solid, but very overrated.” – Jim Fregosi

    No duh. Everyone knows that. Marte will never live up to that “#1 overall prospect” rating.

  39. Is there anyone here that believes that we shouldnt have made the Marte for Rent trade? Then moved Chip to 1st and trade LaRoche. That was the big talk around here last offseason and I wonder if anyone still believes we would be better w/ out LaRoche and Rent…

  40. Eddie Perez to replace Bobby Dews.

    Bobby will still probably try to give Eddie a spring training invite.

  41. I still would not do the Reteria for Marte deal. He was basically sold to the Red Sox for $6 million and the right to pay Renteria slightly above or about what he is worth. I’ve got nothing against Edgar, but the numbers Marte put up in the minors are amazing. I still think he will be a better player than Francoeur. I’d rather the team had tried the year with Betemit at SS.

  42. Dan, there are lots of people who don’t know that.

    I think we should do all we can to sign Andruw, but be very careful. The one thing I don’t want to see is us not being able to lock up some of our young guys in a few years because we owe Andruw 15 mil. I don’t know if that will be a problem or not, but I’m sure JS wouldn’t jeopardize MCCann for an aging Andruw.

  43. Smoltz for NL Cy Young update:

    Smoltz (16-9) lowered his ERA to 3.49 by throwing 18 scoreless innings in his final three starts, all wins. The 39-year-old, whose option for 2007 was recently exercised, led the team in wins, ERA and innings (232).

    Smoltz lamented all week that three starts in late August and early September cost him a legitimate shot at the NL Cy Young award.

    In reality, a few blown leads early in the year by the Atlanta bullpen likely damaged his candidacy even more.

    Never all that shy, Smoltz stumped for himself after Sunday’s win, despite his odds. Arizona’s Brandon Webb or St. Louis’ Chris Carpenter will likely win.

    “I think my hat should be in the ring, I really do,” said Smoltz, the 1996 Cy Young winner. “Whatever happens, happens. I’m a longshot. But, you know what, nobody ran away with anything. I feel like my year was a year of great adjustments.”

    16-9, 3.49 ERA, 211 strikeouts, 55 walks, 1.19 WHIP, 232.0 IP

    Smoltz’s performance yesterday tied him for the NL lead in wins and the six strikeouts yesterday gave him the NL lead with 211, one above Carlos Zambrano’s 210.

  44. I missed out on yesterday’s thread, so I’d like to say, belatedly, thank’s Mac for great work on this blog. I look forward to your consistanly great posts to get me through this off season.

  45. I think both of those statements regarding Smoltz’s Cy are probably right. if he’d pitched better in those three starts he flubbed, his ERA would be almost a half point lower (near the league lead) and he’d have two or so more wins, which would put him in the league lead I think. But on the other hand, if he picks up a couple of Ws that the bullpen blew earlier in the year, he’s back to 18 wins and a more likely candidate to win (although, IMHO at least, not necessarily more deserving – wins are kind of a silly stat – whether or not the bullpen blew a game has zero to do with how good a pitcher John Smoltz is).

    Great year when all’s said and done. Good for John. I’d love to sign him to an extension this offseason if possible – maybe offer him 3/30? not sure how much longer he wants to pitch, but there’s still plenty of gas left in his tank, that’s for sure.

  46. Correction:

    Smoltz’s performance yesterday tied him for the NL lead in wins and the sixfive strikeouts yesterday gave him third place in the NL in strikeouts with 211, below only Aaron Harang and Jake Peavy.

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