Where Do We Go From Here? 2007: 1. Andruw & Centerfield

Okay, Scott Boras has said that Andruw will not take a one-year contract, or accept arbitration, or give a hometown discount. This seems to pretty much rule out Andruw coming back next year, except this is Scott Boras talking! He lies. A lot. And he’s very good at it.

Andruw had a terrrrrrrible year. Just awful. This is not news. However, the nature of the arbitration system is such that everybody who goes to arbitration gets a raise. This is one of the reasons why arbitration was never well-suited to baseball, and why the owners who let Marvin Miller con them into accepting it were the biggest boneheads to walk the earth since the dinosaurs. Since Andruw will probably not (unless the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, or Cubs go insane) get a Vernon Wells contract, he is probably looking at a lot less than $15 million a year on the free agent market. Since Andruw made $14 million this year, he’d probably be looking at at least $15 million in arbitration. Heck, the Braves might offer $15 million as their bid. Arbitration is his ticket to the biggest payday in 2008, with a chance to show he’s not washed up and can command Wells money in 2009 on.

Anyway, John Schuerholz is still feeling a little burned from the Maddux arbitration situation, so it’s in the vested interest of Scott Boras — a known liar — to say that he won’t accept arbitration if offered, if only to keep Andruw’s options open. Suffice it to say, I think there’s a reasonable chance Andruw accepts arbitration if offered.

70 percent: Leaves in free agency
25 percent: Accepts arbitration, plays under one-year contract
5 percent: Signs multi-year deal with Braves

If Andruw does leave, who will succeed him? The question becomes in part if you’re looking for a long-term solution in center, or for a caretaker until Jordan Schafer is ready. Since Schafer hasn’t played above A-Ball, that shouldn’t be until mid-2009 at the earliest, you don’t know if Schafer will still be a centerfielder when he makes it to Atlanta, and you don’t even know if he’s going to make it to Atlanta. I think you have to look upon this as a situation where you have to at least plan for a permanent solution.

The Braves seemed for a while to think that Willie Harris was a possibility, but his return to being Willie Harris seemingly would put the kibosh on that. The other outfielder you hear a lot about is Jeff Francoeur. Francoeur was supposed to be a centerfielder coming up through the ranks, but to be honest he hasn’t looked like a centerfield candidate in the majors so far. He does have a strong arm, but isn’t that fast and takes weird routes to the ball at times.

People who don’t regularly watch the Braves have suggested that Kelly Johnson might be the 2008 centerfielder. The reason for this is probably that defensive metrics showed him as an exceptional left fielder in 2005. Observation suggests that he’s not a natural outfielder, and it’s hard to see him as a plus centerfielder. At any rate, the Braves probably will be looking to put him in the lineup somehow, with Yunel Escobar playing second full-time, but left field seems more likely.

The Richmond centerfielder is Gregor Blanco, who had an OBP over .400 earlier this year but finished at .369. Since he has no power to speak of, he needs a high OBP to compensate, and .369 won’t do it, even if he could maintain that on the major league level, which I doubt. He’s fourth outfielder material at best. Mississippi centerfielder Josh Burrus is probably no longer a prospect after hitting .213/.313/.331. Burrus actually split time at various outfield positions, with Carl Loedenthal doing most of the centerfield work; the latter is no prospect and probably never was one, and hit basically like Blanco. There are no attractive solutions in the minor leagues.

I think that the Braves will try to sign someone to a one-and-option deal, though who it will be I don’t know.

138 thoughts on “Where Do We Go From Here? 2007: 1. Andruw & Centerfield”

  1. Let the Crawford rumors begin. Heh.

    Mac, I agree – Boras lies and I think Andruw may very well accept arbitration (or even take another hometown discount, though the latter is unlikely.) In the end, he probably leaves because some team out there is probably willing to give him more money than he is worth and for longer. There is probably at least one of those teams out there (rather than the four or five Boras will suggest are out there.)

    I hate to see Andruw leave, even with his down year, but I cannot see paying him the kind of money he wants. I could stand $75 for five years because he is still only 30 years old and by the time he’s 35, that will likely be a steal, but Boras is going to go for more than that. However, I do not think this season is the norm for him and he will bounce back to more typical stats. Needing more starting pitching, however, will likely cause us to use the Andruw money elsewhere and try and sign a center fielder on the cheap – Franky is not the answer there.

  2. Since Andruw will probably not (unless the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, or Cubs go insane)

    I’m still thinking that the Rangers get Andruw Jones. Maybe the Nationals.

    At any rate, the Braves probably will be looking to put him in the lineup somehow, with Yunel Escobar playing second full-time, but left field seems more likely.

    What about Escobar at shortstop and Kelly Johnson at second base? Seems the Braves are pretty set on trading Renteria for a starter and simultaneously getting rid of his salary.

    I think that the Braves will try to sign someone to a one-and-option deal, though who it will be I don’t know.

    Ken Rosenthal has suggested Mike Cameron to the Braves about ten different times now.

  3. I think a one-year+ option deal for a free agent is the best plan. I do not want to offer Andruw arbitration or a significant contract. I agree with Mac that could end up taking the arbitration. I just don’t have a lot of confidence in him. He’s always been prone to slumps, and I would be concerned that a repeat of 2007 is as likely as a return to 2005-2006.

  4. Mac–Now that the season is over I want to Thank You for another year of making Braves Journal a great blog. The work you put in continues to make this a site a joy to visit.

    I want to echo what was said on the previous thread–I am also very grateful for the regulars here who continue to educate me about the Braves and baseball.

    Again, going back to the earlier discussion, I am also grateful that I live overseas because I cannot see TBS as the end of Braves’ coverage would have filled me with despair and rage.

    2007 was a huge disappointment for Braves fans–but I think that we will still miss the season, the team, the players and our shared frustrations.

    Finally, one of the great things about Braves Journal is the fact that we can follow our team not only at great distances, but when the world has turned to the NFL, NBA and other sports….

  5. Ken Rosenthal has suggested Mike Cameron to the Braves about ten different times now.

    And I’ve still yet to see how we will be able to afford Mike Cameron.

    In the end, he probably leaves because some team out there is probably willing to give him more money than he is worth and for longer. There is probably at least one of those teams out there (rather than the four or five Boras will suggest are out there.)

    This is my gut feeling, too. He likely won’t get Vernon Wells money (especially after the year Wells had immediately following the signing of that contract), but I think there is a team or two out there which will offer him significantly more than the Braves will be willing or able to.

  6. From previous thread:

    Stu,

    I’m not offended by the tomahawk chop particularly but a lot of people are. That’s just a fact. I live in DC and am a Redskins fan. That’s without doubt more offensive than the tomahawk chop but I still root for them. But I admit I do take things too seriously at times.

    All,

    Totally agree with Stephen’s comments. After reading the inanity on Mets’ Blog, I appreciate the quality of the discussion.

    Re Andruw,

    I also agree that you can’t take Boras’ comments at face value. Clearly, Andruw’s struggles will cost him some money, especially with Tori Hunter on the market at the same time. He might well accept arbitration.

  7. I see no chance Shuerholz will offer arbitration at a higher salary than Andruw got this year. I doubt he’ll offer arbitration at all. He’ll let Andruw become a free agent then make him a poor offer (1 yr @ current salary or slightly higher) he’ll certainly reject.

    I’d expect the market for Andruw will be much better than Mac thinks. High payroll teams will be willing to gamble he just had a bad year and will hit more like he did in ’05-06 next year. He’ll get himself a solid long term deal in the upper teens.

    I don’t think Shuerholz will bust the bank on any other free agent outfielder either since he wants to have a shot at re-signing Teixeira at some point. Most likely he will trade for a short term solution, somebody like Coco Crisp, or try to fill the outfield with youngsters like Brandon Jones and Brent Lillibridge. It’s even possible as scary as it may sound to us fans that they will give Thorman a try in the outfield.

  8. I’m fine if Andruw walks. He probably will. He’ll go get paid in Texas or Washington and play for a bad franchise and wish he was playing for Bobby.

    I bet he could return to pretty good form. He was hurting for much of the year while hurting the lineup. But even if he returns to pretty good form — I don’t think the Braves would be happy paying the back end of a long term deal. Besides, this year was really really bad and he’d have to be super good to make amends with me as a fan (because he wasn’t really one of my favorites to begin with).

    Mike Cameron would be fine if you’re looking for an aging guy with great defense, a terrible batting eye, and who gets hurt relatively often. But it’s hard to say who are available options at this point.

  9. I say we take $15.5 million and comes back for one year.

    Then we move Renteria at the winter meetings and pick up a pitcher, or we go after someone like Glavine or Colon.

    I like a team better with Renteria, Andruw, a Escobar/KJ platoon, and Glavine or Colon as our #3 guy.

    If Renteria didn’t get hurt this year, we might have had a better chance, but let’s face it, we need another starter.

  10. Andruw won’t end up in Washington. Stan Kasten isn’t going to blow up the budget for an aging outfielder coming off a bad year.

    I think Andruw will have a very difficult time getting the kind of contract Boras is talking about, especially after Vernon Wells’ struggles. Personally, I think it’s time to move on but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Andruw back next year.

  11. “I say we take $15.5 million and comes back for one year.”

    If the Braves can’t afford Mike Cameron, no way they can afford 15+ million for another season of Andruw Jones and have enough money left over to afford a new third starter like maybe Tom Glavine. Even if they trade Renteria.

    One year and counting till the end of Mike Hampton’s contract.

  12. The Braves and John Schuerholz have an uncanny ability to cut bait on players that they see as on the decline. Whether or not they offer arbitration will be telling. Common sense says that Andruw played his way out of Vernon Wells money this season but since when has common sense had anything to do with baseball free agency money?
    BTW Wells this season: .245 .304 .402

    BTW another CF that can probably(of course its the Devil Rays) be had for cheap right about now would be…….. Rocco Baldelli. LOL I have been militant in my hate for the guy but WTF for a couple of seasons? Why not? Of course you had better have a reserve CF around because the guy is made of crystal.

    Shafer’s low A and high A season this year make him a top prospect. But then again so did Andy Marte’s. Hope the kid pans out because from looking at his small body of work he has the total game.

  13. If Andruw is the answer, it is a bizarre question.

    Think though, IF Andruw accepts arb, then that means he and Boras think that is the best they can do for now. Either (1) that means nobody is likely to ever pay him at he current level again or (2) He can get back to form and get a lot bigger deal next year. With him being 30, I think they will see the latter.

    On offering arb, I guess it basically comes back to how much more you pay Andruw than a lesser caretaker (which, if you get a one year on Cameron, it won’t be cheap) compared to the draft picks you get back.

    By the way, has Andruw’s almost two years of suckitude put him in the lower rung of free agents (I think now it is type A, Type B and Type C). There is some way to calculate that. IF he is not Type A, then probably it does not make sense to even offer arb.

  14. One year and counting till the end of Mike Hampton’s contract.

    Yes. I know I’m ready.

    I like a team better with Renteria, Andruw, a Escobar/KJ platoon, and Glavine or Colon as our #3 guy.

    Me, too. Do you expect that we’ll have a $120MM+ payroll next season?

  15. Johnny,

    I’m terrified of getting behind another Baldelli movement, but the thought had crossed my mind. (I know some of you are shocked.) Seems like he could be had for super-cheap now, though I guess they are still the D-Rays.

  16. Andruw is gone and that’s okay. I really think they might go with Francoeur in center and move Kelly to the outfield. Escobar needs to play every day and so dies Kelly imo. I will hate to see Renteria leave because he’s been the Braves MVP pretty much all season.

  17. And yes, like others said before: Thank you very much Mac and every other regular at the Journal for another very interesting year. This site has become my prime source of Braves information from overseas. And thank God for MLB.tv.
    Go Braves!

  18. I’ll be sorely disappointed if we don’t offer Arbitration to AJ. Even if a crappy team pays him, the draft picks are certainly worth it.

    And the “risk” is that we get to put off worrying about CF for another year, which will certainly put us in a better position to know where Schafer is. Personally, I don’t think AJ wants to stick around if he’s not given a long-term deal and won’t even if Boras thinks it’s the best thing. Ultimately, Boras does what his clients tell him to do, and I think Jones (not Boras, Jones) has made it clear that he wants a multi-year deal.

    So while it might be better for AJ to accept arbitration and hope for a better deal next year, I don’t think he will.

  19. Definitely agree that this is by far and away one of the best written blog, and the people who contribute to it in the comments are excellent.

    On the centerfield issue. Does anyone think Brandon Jones could play CF? He was a terrific athlete in HS, and was recruited as a CB in football. The other option I still believe would be for the Braves to have Lillibridge switch positions, ala KJ. He definitely has the speed for CF, and has played there some in the past; not sure about the instincts though. I think there is definitely a certainity that the Braves will sign a veteran and give playing time to a younger player too.

    I have seen Jordan Schafer play a few times, and while I am not sure if the bat will be MLB caliber he definitely has the range and instincts to play CF.

    I for one am already excited about next year, and am looking forward to seeing what the Braves do in the offseason.

  20. I’d like the draft picks if AJ leaves, so I hope we offer arb. But, as Mac said, JS may be wary after the Maddux episode.

    I wonder what our pitcher’s stats would’ve been if AJ had not been our CF this year. The Braves may need to go after 2 SPs if AJ made that big a difference.

    Another voice added to the Mac Appreciation Movement. I’ve really enjoyed (mostly) lurking around here, and hope to be able to continue my shadowy ways for quite a while.

    Cheers,

    Seat Painter
    (From Gerald Perry’s year end quote after the 1988 season – “It would’ve been a good summer to paint the seats.”)

  21. Some of y’all may find this to be heresy but I for one will be ok with the end of the Andruw Jones era in Atlanta. Andruw is at best a very good player, not a superstar or a HOFer, but just a very good player. At his worst he is a drag on the team. 15 million dollars for his age 31 through 35 seasons is nuts. Flat out nuts. I’d tender him a 3 year 39. If he takes it ok, hope for the good Andruw. If not, sayanorra.

    Stu, you weren’t one of those trade Salty and a lot of prospects for Baldelli guys were you? Say it aint so man.

  22. Playoff prediction time…

    Peavy will dominate the Rockies for 7 innings, but the Rocks will explode vs the San Diego bullpen and win 5-3.

    The Phillies will outlast the Rockies in a 5 game slugest.

    The Cubs will lose to Webb but rally to beat the D-backs in 4.

    The Yankees will get swept by the Indians. A-rod will hit 4 homers and drive in 6 in the first two games — which the Yankees will lose anyway because their middle relief sucks — but go 0-4 with 2 strikeouts in the final game and be booed out of town.

    The Red Sox will beat the Angels in 4.

    The Cubs will outpitch the Phillies to win the NLCS in 6.

    The Indians will beat the Sox in 7 in the ALCS.

    The curse will end. Cubs over Indians in a classic 7 games World Series.

    [Disclaimer: predictions made here are sure to be wildly wrong.]

  23. I remember that so well last offseason, Johnny. It seemed just about everyone but me and a very few others thought trading Saltalamacchia, Escobar and Daives for Baldelli was a great idea.

    I feel so vindicated.

    Let’s close the book on getting Rocco Baldelli….please?

  24. I don’t even know why that got as much play as it did. Oh well. Count me in the “let Andruw walk” camp. The payroll situation is such where the Braves may just have to make do.

  25. Brandon Jones doesn’t have the range for CF, his range was pretty average for LF in Richmond.

    Lillibridge certainly has the tools to play CF, he beat Brandon to a foul ball in LF during the playoffs from SS, but who knows how he’d be with reaction/routes. Be a shame to see him move off SS, as he can really pick it too, but I’d love to see him get a shot in the AFL so they at least get an idea of whether he could play CF before they make any moves.

  26. I agree on the Baldelli rumors he cannot even stay healthy. The last thing the Braves need.

    #26 appreciate the news on Brandon Jones. I knew that he was definitely a work in progress as far as the outfield goes. I too would like to see Lillibridge at least get a shot at playing some outfield. At worse he becomes a Chonce Figgins type player who can play multiple positions.

  27. I was in the two-of-three camp, IIRC. I would’ve traded Salty and either Escobar or Davies. Good thing JS didn’t ask for my input on that one!

  28. @24
    Dan, all that stuff was funny to me. I have to admit that I just couldn’t help myself when I was nay saying all those folks who wanted Baldelli. The Braves actually offered Escobar and Saltalamacchia for him. Thank God the Devil Rays are retarded.

    As for closing the book on acquiring old Rocco. Well stranger things have happened. I mean the guy sucks but the question is does he suck more than Willie Harris?

  29. From DOB’s blog:

    By David O’Brien

    September 30, 2007 3:44 PM | Link to this

    You guys want to hear a classy comment from an always-classy player? Edgar Renteria, when I asked him about the possibility of being traded:

    “I like it here,” he said. “But I have no control over that. My control is in the field. If I come back, I’ll feel comfortable here. If not, it was my privelege to play here.”

  30. A couple things:

    Forgot to mention that I walked into the Houston ballpark during batting practice. Who’s the first player I see on the field? Mike Hampton. “That’s kinda symbolic of the season,” I thought.

    Ron,
    I know you were kinda joshing with your playoff predictions, but I’ll let you in on something: The Yankee middle relief no longer sucks. Why? Because they have this guy named Joba Chamberlain.

    He will solve a lot of problems for them & I’m afraid the post-season will be his national coming-out party. Everybody will get sick of him. Promise. But he’s been unreal so far.

    Re: Andruw
    The Scott Boras Big-Lie-Positioning Factor can’t be underestimated. There are times when I thought he should just join the Flat Earth Society. But then it occurred to me that, like a shrewd politician, he knows he’s lying, but it doesn’t matter because he’s just carving out positioning space.

    That said, I have no idea what will happen with Andruw. A one-year deal wouldn’t make me cry; but if he left, I’d understand for all parties involved.

    Re: The Forum
    Yes, thanks to Mac & everyone involved for providing such rich online therapy.

  31. remember last year at this time when everyone wanted to trade Salty, Yunel, and a pitcher for Baldelli. Apparently they turned the trade down, thank you

  32. The Braves need another quality starter, perhaps two. I was impressed by Bennett. At least he threw strikes. However, he can’t solidify the Braves’ rotation. We need to get a legitimate big league pitcher somehow, some way.

    (Big surprise ahead) I will miss Andruw Jones. I wish he could finish his career with the Braves.

    However, if Andruw were to be offered arbitration and accepted, I don’t know if even an increased salary base could accommodate Andruw, Teixiera, and the quality starting pitching we require. As much as I love Andruw, he would be third on that wish list for me.

    How many days until spring training starts?

  33. ouch?????

    With three shutout innings in relief Sunday, Kip Wells got the victory but fell seven outs shy of triggering a $500,000 bonus. The one-year, $4 million contract the righthander signed with the Cardinals last November featured several incentives, including a half-million-dollar bonus for throwing 165 innings. Wells threw three innings Sunday, striking out four Pirates. Wells was lifted for Braden Looper to start the fifth inning. Looper was lifted after allowing the tying run to reach base. Wells finished with 162 2⁄3 innings, a rising ERA for the fourth consecutive full season (stopping at 5.70) and a 7-17 record. General manager Walt Jocketty fiercely rejected any inference that the Cardinals were counting innings. “You saw what you saw,” said Wells, a pending free agent, after the game. He declined to say anything else –

  34. Kip Wells got the victory but fell seven outs shy of triggering a $500,000 bonus

    Big deal. For Kip Wells seven outs could take weeks.

  35. Okay, everybody’s aware that:

    A) The Braves need better starting pitching

    B) The free agent market for starting pitching is crap

    In light of these opposing forces, we will need to take a risk and win it. I submit that we offer a free agent contract to…

    Bartolo Colon… if it doesn’t have to be too much/too long (2-3 years?)… if he doesn’t pitch well enough in the postseason to price himself out

    Is this a terrible idea? The Angels don’t seem certain to retain him. They have plenty of rotation candidates for next year and may pursue A-Rod.

    Colon looks to me to be throwing well after recovering from his latest injury, but not necessarily pitching well just yet as he’s regaining feel for his pitches.

    He does have talent. Does he have enough left? What would we have to pay to find out?

  36. Thanks, and you’re welcome, for all the nice words.

    I blanked on Lillibridge. But if the Braves were thinking of him as an outfielder, why didn’t they try him there?

  37. “If Andruw is the answer, it is a bizarre question.”

    Brilliant.

    I think a stipulation in any contract offered to Andruw Jones should be “get in shape.” Watching Andruw run the bases this year was like watching Britney Spears at the VMA’s. They want you to think, “Hey, look! It’s the same ol’ Britney/Andruw we used to know and tolerate. Nothing’s changed!” Andruw’s gotta work for it next year.

  38. @39 and others,

    I am convinced that, despite his all out hustle on defense, Andruw’s failure to hustle on offense cripples this team emotionally (and priactically). He gets doubled up way too often for a guy who was the fastest the Braves scouts had ever seen when he was 15 (and who covers center, the most speed oriented position).

    This was contract year. Team Boras is supposed to give work out regimens and keep its clients on them. He needs to shed 15 to 20 and get where he can AND WILL run.

    JS. don’t let him play you for chicken on the arb question IF he is still a Type A. If he takes arb, he MUST produce more than this year. Boras will beat him with a stick if he plays like this in an arb year.

  39. Speaking of doubling up… Andruw hardly led the team in double plays… our favorite hitter did with 21. McCann had 19, but he is freaking slow, so… yeah.

  40. I agree about Lillibridge Mac. If THE BRAVES thought he could play CF why not try him there? I think that the Lilli to CF stuff started on some blog somewhere. It seems that every shortstop ever that hits a little is a candidate for CF. See Derek Jeter.

  41. If Renteria isn’t moved and we fill our CF need from within (say with Frenchy moving to CF, and Kelly to a corner spot), then how much $$$ will be left for the SP we need?

    Even if it’s not the greatest defensive OF, I’d love to see the runs we score with Renteria, Johnson, Diaz, Escobar, etc all playing.

  42. I am firmly behind the acquisition of Coco Crisp to cover CF for the next 2-3 years.

    Great defensive CF–will win the AL Gold Glove this year.

    Hit .297 and .300 his last two season’s in Cleveland before going to Boston (with .790 and .810 OPS respectively). Had hit 42 doubles, 4 triples and 16 HRs last year in Cleveland.

    Was hit on the wrist early in his Boston tenure and the injury wrecked his 2006 season and lingered into 2007. Should be healthy now.

    Still young, 27, and relatively cheap, $3.8 mil.

    Boston is full in OF with Drew, Ellsbury, Manny, with Ortiz at DH.

    Offensive asset at defensive position goes to Boston and struggles, comes to Braves cheap and mashes. I know I’ve seen this script somewhere before..

  43. Something positive and fun:

    In just two short months, Mark Teixeira finished fifth on the team in home runs and slugged .615 in 240 PAs.

  44. I’ve made the point before, but it seems like Andruw doesn’t listen to anyone but Andruw. His swing was terrible, his range has significantly declined, and I always cringe when I watch him run, on the field or around the bases. What does he do to fix it? Tell the press that he is the way he is and he shouldn’t change? That’s a guy who deserves a big contract?

    Pass.

  45. #8: “Mike Cameron would be fine if you’re looking for an aging guy with great defense, a terrible batting eye …”

    Not sure where you got the terrible batting eye bit. His career BA is .251 and career OBP is .341 (this year .242 and .328, respectively) so he has a decent walk rate. In fact, it’s better than AJ’s (BA=.263, OBP=.342). Cameron does pile up the strikeouts, but not that much faster than AJ. I’d rather pay Cameron $7m (what he’s getting this year) than AJ $15m.

  46. Hard to hit in a double play when you strike out twice a night.

    Strikeouts aren’t bad. The all-knowing sabermetrics people say so!

  47. re: Lillibridge

    The Braves weren’t thinking of Chipper Jones or Ryan Klesko as outfielders as they rose through the minors, but they both would’ve made the major league roster as outfielders in ’94 if not for Chipper blowing out his knee in spring training. Sometimes you have a player who is ready for the majors offensively but you don’t have an opening at his natural defensive position. (I’ll add the caveat that I don’t know if Brent is ready to hit major league pitching yet but let’s assume he is for the sake of argument.) There’s no doubt Lillibridge has the speed to play CF and bat leadoff if he can get on base vs major league pitching close to what he did in the minors this year. He could fill in at CF for a year or more until Kelly Johnson becomes too expensive and is traded opening a spot in the infield. I’m not saying it will happen but it could be a much better option than bringing in some outfield equivalent of Woodward to play the position until Schaefer or some other true CF is ready.

  48. By all accounts Lillibridge is a fine shortstop and that is where he will probably stay. While he improved during the course of 2007, it remains the case that his strikeout rate remains quite high and I would not count on enough power from Lillibridge to make it worth the strikeouts….

  49. Andruw should have hit 8th this year. Despite power he left too many people on base. Use money to fix team weakness of pitching

  50. I’m enoying my swim in the Met Misery Pool & the funniest thing I’ve heard today is: “Fire Willie & hire Frank Robinson.”

    Still trying to digest that one, but it did make me chuckle.

  51. Peachtree TV will also bring local viewers 45 Atlanta Braves baseball games called by fan favorites Skip Caray, Chip Caray and Joe Simpson.

    So not any real difference for people in Georgia aside from less games a year on this station.

  52. Actually the hampton trade hasn’t worked out that badly. If we managed to recoup the last 2 yrs salary from insurance, we still haven’t paid him a $ for 2.5 of above league average work.

    I don’t want Kelly moving to the OF. Let him be. Don’t mess with your good young players. Much rather see Frenchy in CF with Blanco coming in as defensive replacement.

  53. Who are these fans that love Chip?

    And I’d be super-interested in Coco Crisp. No idea whether a trade for him is realistic.

  54. I wouldn’t exactly say Crisp is an offensive asset with an OPS about a pipsqueak above .800, but at the very least he may be an above average defender and not an offensive disaster (unlike Andruw this year).

    As I’ve said before, I’d like Cameron if he can be had for under $10 mill. If he can’t, then he ain’t worth it. Still, if it were easy to find center fielders who can hit and catch, then Kenny Lofton wouldn’t keep finding starting jobs.

  55. Have the Phillies already locked up Aaron Rowand after this year? I’m surprised no one has mentioned him for CF yet — he’d be an upgrade offensively (going by this year’s stats) from Andruw, almost equal defensively, and would definitely bring some fire into the clubhouse. Plus, it’d be a great way to weaken one of our division rivals…..

  56. Here’s another potential CF — Cuban defector Alexei Ramirez, who will be filing for free agency using the same agent as Jose Contreras. Sounds like a Cuban Lillibridge, except he’s 26 years old (plays 2B, SS, and CF).

    I found a couple of short mentions of him, although the second link has a youtube clip of him hitting a home run in the Cuban league this year:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3026151

    http://www.baseballamerica.com/blog/prospects/?p=597

  57. Hawkeye,

    Rowand will get paid the BIG BUCKS, so the Braves will quickly be unable to afford him barring some kind of miracle.

  58. I’m totally fine with having basically a defense-only CF next year, especially if he’s cheap. Again, we won’t be missing Andruw’s 2007 offense, and this lineup can mash without him.

    AAR,

    Under $10MM? Seems to me we can’t afford anything over $3-5MM, at least if we also acquire a starter worth acquiring.

    *TRADE PROPOSAL BELOW* (Note: This will never happen and I will take a good amount of flak for even suggusting it, but I still enjoy coming up with trades)

    KJ & Jo-Jo (they should cut a record) for Dan Haren.

  59. JC, fair enough — Crisp sucks even worse than I thought. However, I’d argue that because he wasn’t BATTING FOURTH MOST OF THE YEAR, he did less damage to his own team offensively.

    However, if you’ll remember, I was actually trying to refute someone else’s claim that Crisp would be an offensive weapon! So you just made my case better than I did.

  60. Okay, here they are, my playoff predictions:

    Cubs over D-Backs
    Rockies over Phillies
    Both going 5 games

    Cubs over Rockies in 7

    Sox over Angels in 4
    Yanks over Indians in 3

    Yanks over Sox in 6

    Cubs over Yankies in 5

  61. Smitty,

    I disagree. They were both very good minor league pitchers, but Jo-Jo was doing it at a younger age. I think Jo-Jo should, at the very least, be as good as Chuck. And Chuck is a guy that would be in pretty much every starting rotation in baseball.

  62. I’m sure Bennett will get his chance this Spring. I like what I’ve seen so far, but I’m sure we’ll attempt to get some kind of more established ML pitcher.

    Dan,
    Of all the NYC tabloid columnists, the only ones I regularly read are Bob Raissman & Phil Mushnick, the 2 media critics. Raissman’s funny & I’m not sure if Mushnick has any sense of humor, but both have excellent bullshit detectors.

  63. Bob Wickman is retiring. Since he doesn’t get to be on the postseason roster with Arizona, his career is over.

  64. Dan,

    If he’s retiring for that reason, then he’s a bit of a doofus. He knew that if he signed with some other team on that date, there would be no playoffs.

  65. Stu:

    James has two pitches and won’t learn how to use his legs to get leverage. He can’t make it through 6 innings because he doesn’t have an out pitch and his pitch cout gets up near 100 in the 4th inning.

    I think he might be in half the teams rotations and most of those as a #4 or 5 guy.

    Jo-Jo might turn out to be a decent #4 for somebody, but I just don’t think he has the stuff to be a big time pitcher in the show.

  66. Smitty,

    You’re dead wrong about James. I was guilty of the same thing you are earlier this year. I think you overestimate the average performance of SPs around the league.

    As for Jo-Jo, his minor league numbers suggest that he absolutely has the stuff to succeed at the ML level.

  67. It would be nice to add a good starting pitcher next year, but I wouldn’t be terribly upset with Hampton-James-Reyes as 3-5 (although you’d want to space out the lefties, so the order would be different). The problems come when someone gets hurt and there’s no one to replace him. Carlyle isn’t really a good option.

    I’d put James at about average for an NL 3rd starter. If Hampton returns to form, James would be an excellent NL 4th starter.

  68. We went into this year with Hampton as #3 and James as #4. Don’t want to ake that mistake again.

    I loved how Chip Carey said on the air yesterday that his dad was the reason he was sitting there. He got that right. If he wasn’t a Carey, no way he keeps his job.

  69. I think we are screwed if we are depending on James and Jo-Jo to eat innings and win 17-20 games for us in the years to come.

    I really think these guys might be good 4-5 guys, but not much more. James may be better suited for the bullpen.

    I think a fair agument would be James was a big reason this team didn’t do better in May and June. He forced Bobby to go to the pen in the 5th and 6th inning way too many times. I just don’t think he is a big time pitcher.

    I hope I am wrong, but I think everyone here and in the organization thought he would have a much better season than he did.

    Hell, he won 11 games last year on a worse team. This year he won 11, but lost six more games. I think everyone had him down for 13-15 wins. He also gave up a HoRamion (I like that word) 36 dingers.

    I like him and really want him to do well, but I don’t think he is a good enough to be a #3 guy right now in the bigs on a team that wants to win it all.

  70. That’s pretty pathetic that Chuck James constitutes an average number 3 major league pitcher. I know I’m spoiled because of the Braves pitching for so long but, holy cow, this guy barely made it 5 innings much of the time.

  71. holy cow, this guy barely made it 5 innings much of the time.

    Question of giving your team a chance to win. Which is what you want from your 4-5 spots, and slightly more reliable performance from the 33. The Braves are built for this. Strong offence, strong bullpen. If we had enough guys going 6 innings of 3-4 runs, we would have won this division

  72. Yeah, I don’t think we should be counting on anything from Hampton. I’d go into the season planning on having anything from him as a bonus. We need another 3- or 4-type, preferably a 3.

    FWIW, I agree that I don’t want to see Carlyle starting any games for us next year, but I really think Cormier could be a serviceable 5. If Reyes progresses, Smoltz/Hudson/James/Reyes/Hampton-or-Cormier might well be fine. I’d be much more comfortable with more of a sure thing/proven commodity in there, of course.

  73. Chuck James may be the average #3, but good teams can’t be merely average in too many positions.

    If we plug in an above-average/good #3, James immediately becomes an above-average #4, hopefully on a very good team.

  74. I know James’ ERA is fine for a #3, but you have to get more than 5 innings out of that spot. In 30 starts, James pitched 7 innings or more a grand total of four times. I’m sorry but that’s just not gonna get it done.

  75. I would be content with Chuck as the 3 if there was any kind of reliability behind him. There isn’t. We need an innings eater as our 3.

  76. Here is what Jim Calis had to say about the Braves CF situation:

    “Schafer will be the Braves’ center fielder of the future, but he’s not ready to step in if Andruw Jones departs as a free agent. Brandon Jones (no relation) is an interesting athlete, but he spent 2007 in left field, so I don’t think he’s the answer. It’s the same situation with Lillibridge, who played some outfield in college but has seen time only at shortstop this year. If Andruw leaves, Atlanta probably will try to get by with Willie Harris at first and then could turn to Jeff Francoeur until Schafer is ready in 2009.”

  77. The point is right about Chuck James being an average #3 starter in the MLB. The problem is he is not an average #3 starter for a playoff caliber team. If the Braves want to be a playoff team they have to have a better #3 starter.

  78. Wouldn’t a more valid issue be What TYPE of SP do the Braves need to get?

    With Smoltz, we have a power pitcher to anchor a potential post-season rotation. Hudson is not a finesse pitcher by any means, so we’re good there at the top. If we’re looking ro make a splash in next year’s playoffs, then Bartolo Colon might be the way to go.

    Any other power-type pitchers available?

  79. I know that no one is counting on James to win 17 now, but when Smoltz and Hudson are gone, James and Jo Jo aint moving into the 1-2 spots. If they are we are dead meat.

    James and Jo Jo are two soft tossing lefties. Having one in your rotation is fine, but not two, and for Pete’s sake not 3 (which I think Hampton will have become)

    I say we move James or Jo Jo for upgrades in the rotation, pen, or bench. Package one of them with Renteria and see what we can get.

  80. Stu,

    KJ and Jo-Jo for Haren? From the Braves’ perspective I would definitely make that trade. From Oakland’s, I’m not so sure. Do you think both teams would make that trade or is that just a trade you hope the Braves could make?

  81. Smitty,

    That’s a completely different issue. When Smoltz and Hudson are gone, yes, we’ll need better pitchers than James to fill in at the top of the rotation. I’m more worried about the 2008 Braves’ rotation.

  82. Hate King,

    I was thinking both teams, but I tend to overestimate how highly the opposition will value what we’re sending to them.

    Still, those two seem like guys in whom Billy Beane would have interest. KJ’s numbers speak for themselves. Young, cheap, on-base machine with pop. Jo-Jo had really strong K-rates in the minors.

    Maybe throwing in someone like Villarreal would entice them? Or Manny Acosta?

  83. I am not sold on the fact that Jo-Jo is this soft tossing lefty that everyone wants to paint him as. He is going to need some time to develop as a pitcher, but he has some stuff to work with. The bigger problem is an orginazational problem. We use to bring these kids up and let them start out in the bullpen for a year or two before trying to move them into the rotation. It is just a sign of the times when we are talking about these guys being starters as opposed to relievers, and even more importantly how much we will have to rely on them.

  84. Bill Shanks said that he thinks Tom Glavine will be back with the Braves next year. He also said that last off season. Take it for what it is worth. I hope he is right though.

  85. Glavine kind of imploded the last few weeks of the season. Surely, he’ll have tired arm syndrome next year. Do we want that?

  86. Oooh, I like Acosta. I want him in the ‘pen next year. But middle relievers shouldn’t be stopping trades for legitimate starters. This is a hypothetical proposal so I won’t get too angry.

  87. I would definitely take Glavine back right now, assuming the money works. I think people have a tendency to only remember what just happened as opposed to the season. As for the tired arm syndrome, Glavine has never been on the DL. The man is an absolute freak of nature. I would also be interested in Maddux too.

  88. FWIW,

    Chuck James: 5.38 IP/GS, 103 ERA+
    Tom Glavine: 5.89 IP/GS, 96 ERA+
    Greg Maddux: 5.82 IP/GS, 101 ERA+

    Chuck was the best pitcher of the 3 in 2007 and is the only one who isn’t in decline.

  89. I’m not saying I wouldn’t welcome one of those two to add to our rotation—I’m just saying don’t knock Chuck and then drool over these guys.

  90. Ed Coleman, the very straight-shooting Mets reporter for WFAN, thinks that some “big names” could be gone from the team after the season, including Carlos Beltran.

    “His contract is going to be an issue for some teams,” he said, “but if the Mets get a chance to get a frontline pitcher for him, they might have to do it.

    “Do I think the Mets will go after Johan Santana in the off-season? Absolutely. The Twins won’t get much in a trade-deadline scenario, so I expect the Mets to go after him hard in the Winter. If it takes them giving up a package of young pitchers like Humber & Pelfrey, plus Milledge & somebody else, I think they’ll have to do it.”

  91. Chuck was the best pitcher of the 3 in 2007

    No he wasn’t.

    I’d rather have Maddux and 36.2 more IP or Glavine and 39 more IP. That’s the equivalent of 7 or 8 starts for James. He wasn’t close to being better than Maddux or Glavine.

  92. Anybody else hear the possibility of Accosta to the rotation? (Mentioned several times during the pre & postgame show yesterday.) He’s got three pitches, and he was absolutely killer in the pen.

    Not a solution for 2008 unfortunately, unless somebody goes down with an injury or sucktitude and he gets a shot.

    Man, why do we have five #5 SPs?

  93. I think it is the 5.38 IP that continually stands out in everyone’s mind. Good point on the comparison though.

  94. 6 or 7 starts (not 7 or 8), but it’s a fair point, Jeremy.

    That said, saying it “wasn’t close” is hyperbole.

    As for Maddux, he was in the most pitcher-friendly park (and division) in baseball, and I don’t think ERA+ accounts for that.

    Besides, like I said, only one of the 3 is likely to get better.

  95. BX, Bobby has stated that as an org. the Braves see Acosta as a possible starter in the future, but all plans right now have him as a crucial part of the pen next year. Then again he said they would stretch out Acosta this winter to see what he could do as a starter

  96. Kenny,

    Yeah, and I understand the point. It’s a little more than a third of an inning less than the average NL #3 went in 2007, actually, which is a problem (and not as favorable by comparison as I expected).

    Still, Smoltz and Hudson were well above average for a 1 and a 2 this past season. I’d love it if we could improve on Chuck as our 3 and bump him to 4, but honestly, if we can just get a pitcher a tad worse than Chuck, I think the rotation would be fine.

  97. For the sake of argument, I present the following Coco Crisp defense.

    Baseball Prospectus calculated that over the last 3 years the offensive performance of CFs tracks as:

    Bad .691
    Average .777
    Good .837
    Elite .851

    If Crisp returned to his pre-Boston output of around .800 OPS, he would be a better than average CF offensively. This alone can be defined as an asset.

    However, when combined with his outstanding defense (Gold Glove caliber), low cost ($3.8 mil) and youth (27), Crisp becomes a great contribution to a Championship.

    Even if his offense remains below average, in sum Crisp is an asset to his team’s quest to win baseball games.

    Now consider the following (as I mentioned earlier, but humor me):

    SS-Edgar Renteria:
    2004 = .728 OPS (STL)
    2005 = .720 OPS (BOS)
    2006 = .797 OPS (ATL)
    2007 = .860 OPS (ATL)

    CF-Coco Crisp:
    2004 = .790 OPS (CLE)
    2005 = .810 OPS (CLE)
    2006 = .702 OPS (BOS)
    2007 = .712 OPS (BOS)

    This isn’t meant to be a strong persuasion, but we can observe that 1) a player can have two subpar years and come back to be a good or even elite player at his position; and 2) a player can struggle offensively while playing for the Boston Red Sox, but thrive elsewhere.

    I apply the above observations to Coco Crisp because there is an intervening factor: his 2006 wrist injury. Prior to it, he was a player on the upswing, which is why an organization like Boston traded for him in the first place (for Andy Marte, no less).

    To put Renteria’s numbers in context, Shortstop offensive performance tracked as:

    Bad .666
    Average .749
    Good .829
    Elite .859

    (in other words, SS and CF offensive performance has been very much alike over the last 3 years)

  98. Well, hyperbole is my middle name, Stu.

    James was obviously the best cost-based pitcher of the three. I have serious doubts about him going forward, though. The reason he’s a five inning pitcher is because the third time through the lineup hitters have figured out his deception (which is what he gets by with) and he gets hammered. He needs to develop another pitch; I have my doubts that he’s capable of doing such. I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to include him in any deal that upgraded the team.

  99. I like Glavine ok–I’m not a hater for his leaving or union activities–but I can’t see a rotation with him, Reyes, and James. Three junk balling lefties won’t work. Keep young and cheap in Reyes and James; spend the cash on someone other than Glavine. Though it might be ok to have Reyes start in AAA both to get more seasoning and to have an ok contingency plan.

    This rightly excludes Hampton b/c it is a fool’s game to count on him for anything other than the dl.

  100. I wouldn’t be opposed to Crisp if the price was right. I’m not quite sure what we have that Boston would want.

  101. Completely off-topic, but…

    Vandy Basketball is on the rise, baby! Our second Top 100 commitment for 2008 in the last week!

  102. Well now, there’s the rub, ain’t it, Jeremy.

    Dammit.

    By the way, I like Tommy Hanson to be the Braves next great SP from the farm. Thanks to those who brought his name up earlier this year.

    6’6″, 210-lb, RHP with low 90s fastball, solid command of 4 pitches, and a good intimidating downward plane. Had a 2.59 ERA for Rome with .194 batting average against–info gleaned from Baseball America prospect update on South Atlantic League Top 20 Prospects list

  103. One more add:

    With SS and CF looking to be about the same offensively, that reinforces the idea that the Florida Marlins move Hanley Ramirez to CF if he can make the switch. He seems to be killing them defensively, but what a bat.

    And then, how about we trade them Lillibridge for a young SP/near-ready SP prospect?

  104. One of the warning signs of a bad organization is blaming failures on their best players. Congratulations to the New York Mets on officially becoming a bad organization!

  105. As for Maddux, he was in the most pitcher-friendly park (and division) in baseball, and I don’t think ERA+ accounts for that.

    It accounts for the park. It doesn’t need to account for the division since Arizona and Colorado balance the scales.

  106. Well, then.

    My point’s obviously not as strong as it was, but I think it still stands—those decrying Chuck shouldn’t be drooling over Maddux and Glavine. They’re not much better than he is, if at all.

  107. Stu,

    I really like Vanderbilt’s baseball team next year. I have said it before, but you have to think Pedro Alvarez will be the 1st pick next year. How amazing would that be for Vanderbilt to have 2 number 1 picks in a row.

    I agree with you though on Chuck. He is a decent pitcher. The problem for Braves fans is that we got completely spoiled by having the rotation we had for the better part of a decade. I know that I am just as guilty as the next person when it comes to unnecessarily critizing some of the pitching staff.

  108. I’m not sold on Hanson, he reminds me in some ways of, coincidentally, Chuck James in the minors

    The salient point being his GB/FB ratio is terrible (less than 1/1, approaching 1/2 at the beach) and upon his promotion to Myrtle Beach those flyballs started turning into HRs (10 in 60 IP in what is usually considered a pitchers park).

    I did get to see him once this year, and while many guys had trouble connecting on his 93-94 fastball, it seemed pretty straight and they were solid knocks when they did connect. Curveball was good but didn’t have great command, and his changeup was non-existant. That being said, it was one game, the MB numbers could be fluky/the result of the first full season of ball.

  109. Rbraves Follower,

    Thanks for the scouting report on Hanson. We’ll have to follow that GB/FB and HR rate next year.

  110. Nathan,

    Yeah, Robert said that already and I acknowledged it. I had thought the “+” was just relative to the league average ERA, but it’s an even more useful stat than I thought.

  111. Forgive my ignorance…

    Is Brandon Jones capable of MLB centerfield?

    Bat him eighth so he doesn’t have any pressure on him and the lineup looks like this:

    SS Yunel
    2B KJ
    3B Chipper
    1B Tex
    C McCann
    RF Frenchy
    LF Diaz
    CF B Jones

    Trade Renteria for pitching.

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