Tag: braves

Andruw Jones Available

As expected, the Los Angeles Dodgers released Andruw Jones, arranging to pay his salary over the course of several years.

All along, it was expected that Jones would return to the Braves, as he always felt very comfortable in Atlanta and enjoyed playing for Bobby Cox. In fact, over the past few days Jones has been seen practicing with Chipper Jones and wearing a Braves cap at basketball games.

However, the Braves are not exactly welcoming him back with open arms — and may not offer him a contract at all.

The issue is simple — the Braves have a full 40-man roster stocked with an abundance of young talent. If they sign Jones to a MLB contract, they’d have to drop someone off — and that someone would likely be a strong prospect, who would be picked up by another team. Further, the Braves do not currently have a need for Jones, as they have an abundance of outfielders led by Jeff Francoeur and youngsters Josh Anderson and Brandon Jones. To make room, the Braves would likely have to either waive or trade someone like Gregor Blanco, Martin Prado, or Omar Infante. None of those players are stars, but all three showed offensive promise in 2008, are fairly young, versatile, and can do a lot of things a team needs from role players. Bobby Cox’s formula for success has always included the flexibility of such players — guys who may not be sluggers, but can execute all the “little things” and help the team in many other ways. Andruw Jones would have to have a great spring training to push one of those guys off the roster.

Because of the Braves’ lukewarm interest, Andruw Jones has to look for other options, and according to MLB.com:

Jones has told friends that he believes the Reds and Mets could make a push to acquire him. Both of these teams reportedly talked to the Dodgers about acquiring him via trade earlier this offseason.

Personally, I hope that’s true. Say what you want about Jones being finished, being a lazy fat pig, being finished, etc. etc. etc. Bottom line is this: the Mets are in DIRE need of a power hitting, righthanded-hitting corner outfielder. The current free agent market offers exactly one person to fit that description — Manny Ramirez — and all indications are that the Mets refuse to go that route. After Manny, the market drops considerably for a RH-hitting outfielder: Kevin Millar, Jacque Jones, Jay Payton, Emil Brown, and Jonny Gomes. That’s it, folks! Now you tell me — would you prefer to bring in one of those underwhelming possibilities, or take a $400,000 gamble on Andruw Jones?

Earlier this winter, I make the argument that the Mets should try to swap Castillo for Jones — such a deal would have had the Mets paying $15M for Jones (but also shedding $18M of Castillo’s contract). It would have been nice for the Mets to be $3M ahead and have Jones, but the same arguments apply for bringing him in on the MLB minimum salary — it’s a low-risk gamble that has the chance of paying off big.

Here’s my feeling: either Andruw Jones is going to hit again, or he’s not, and everything is based on him being healthy and regaining his confidence. If he has a promising, injury-free spring training, there’s a very good chance he’ll come back and hit 20-25 HR, with game-changing ability. He’s that kind of player, and there aren’t many around. If he looks awful in spring training, no biggie — you release him outright, and eat $400K. Jones is exactly the right fit for the penny-pinching Mets: he’ll come dirt cheap, he’ll be a one-year rental to keep LF warm for F-Mart, he has a RH bat, and he has extensive postseason success.

Last year, the Mets waited three months for their $16M investment in Carlos Delgado to pay off. Eventually, their patience was rewarded — handsomely. Without Delgado, the Mets might have finished in third place in 2008. Similarly, the Mets once gambled millions on Mo Vaughn, though that didn’t turn out quite so well. But it’s worth it for a team to take such risks when the upside is so great — Delgado, Vaughn, and Jones all had the skillset to be a monster for stretches at a time, to put a team on its back and carry them. The difference with Jones is, at 31, younger than either of them were (Vaughn was 34, Delgado 36), and won’t cost anywhere near the millions gambled on a comeback.

Unless the Mets reconsider their feelings about Manny Ramirez, or have some blockbuster trade in the works, picking up Andruw Jones is a no-brainer.


Braves Make High Offer to Lowe

According to various sources, the Atlanta Braves have offered Derek Lowe a 4-year, $60M contract.

Seems just a tad bit higher than the 3/35 that “wasn’t offered” by the Mets.

Further speculation is that Oliver Perez was offered three years and $30M by the Mets (or, maybe they didn’t — one never knows), and that there are no other teams in bidding.

If that’s true, then the Mets look like geniuses. Though I like Lowe’s consistency, if the Mets can lock up Ollie for half the price, then it makes a lot more sense to “settle” for the inconsistent lefty. It boggles the mind, though, that there isn’t anyone else out there at least kicking the tires on Perez. It’s not like 27-year-old lefties with his stuff and the ability to handle NY, grow on trees.

From Ollie’s perspective, it’s a lot less than he was looking for, but he’ll have an opportunity to cash out with a CC-like contract three years from now — if he puts together the kind of seasons we all think he can. Three years from now, there’s a good chance the economy will be better, and he’ll be only 30.

Of course, if the Mets are able to get Perez so “cheaply”, I would assume that means they have enough money to go after a bat. A big bat. Manny’s bat.


Braves Targeting Lowe

Per several sources, agent Scott Boras is meeting with the Atlanta Braves to talk about Derek Lowe.

Lowe had reportedly been offered a 3-year, $35M contract by the New York Mets. Boras is seeking at least four years at around $16M per season for his client.

In desperate need to add starting pitching, the Atlanta ended trade talks with the Padres for Jake Peavy a month ago, and most recently were spurned by longtime Brave John Smoltz, who just agreed to a one-year contract with the Boston Red Sox.

Seeing the talent pool thin, and Lowe’s price tag dropping to below-market standards, Braves GM Frank Wren reached out to Boras. In addition, manager Bobby Cox met with Lowe in Atlanta, and Chipper Jones placed a phone call to the free agent pitcher in hopes of turning him on to “America’s Team”.

Despite this three-way blitz from Atlanta, Ken Rosenthal claims,

“From what I understand, the Braves are not interested in going beyond the three-year, $36 million offer from the Mets… I still don’t see the Braves going where Scott Boras will want them to go.”

Well then Ken, they’re putting on an Oscar-winning performance in the art of the bluff.

Meanwhile, the Mets are standing firm with an offer that pales in comparison to what Carlos Silva received last year from the Seattle Mariners.

While they have Boras’ ear, one must wonder if the Braves will also inquire about Oliver Perez, another free agent handled by the superagent? After all, the 27-year-old lefty has a 6-4 record and 3.46 ERA, including one shutout, in his career against Atlanta.

Actually, the best scenario for Boras is for the Braves to sign Lowe, which would in turn jack up the price on Perez for the Mets. But while the Mets continue to play chicken, the market for both pitchers continues to swell — some reports have the Phillies and Brewers looking at Lowe, and the Angels could be in the bidding for either pitcher.

What if the Mets lose out on BOTH Lowe AND Perez? The next-best starter on the market is probably Jon Garland, who would be a nice innings-eater at the back end of the rotation, but doesn’t project to be much else — even with a change to the NL. After Garland, the quality drops off considerably, with Tim Redding and Randy Wolf — both of whom have been linked to the Mets this winter — leading the pack.

This should be a significant concern for Omar Minaya, who as of now has two healthy starting pitchers heading into spring training (which by the way is only 36 days away). Should Lowe, Perez, Garland, and Redding sign elsewhere — which is a distinct possibility — Minaya’s best chance of putting together a championship rotation will begin with a novena. Hope he has knee pads.

Take a look for yourself at the starters available after Perez and Lowe:

Healthy, but Mediocre to Adequate:

Jon Garland
Tim Redding
Randy Wolf
Braden Looper

Healthy, but Awful to Mediocre:

Chuck James
Livan Hernandez
Odalis Perez
Sidney Ponson
Josh Fogg
Elmer Dessens

Good Potential, Questionable Health:

Ben Sheets
Jason Jennings
Mark Prior
Andy Pettitte
Mark Mulder
Curt Schilling

Questionable Potential, Questionable Health:

Bartolo Colon
Pedro Martinez
Freddy Garcia
Orlando Hernandez
Tom Glavine
Tony Armas

Now, let’s consider a few things. First, Tom Glavine is not coming back, and neither is Braden Looper. In addition, the Mets won’t roll the dice on dicey arms such as Mulder, Jennings, and Prior. They might take a chance on Freddy Garcia, and might be forced to gamble on Sheets. Pedro and El Duque would love to come back, but then it would feel like Groundhog Day. If Schilling were a possibility — which he likely isn’t — he wouldn’t be available until at least July. I’m not even going to qualify Dessens, Fogg, and Ponson. Odalis Perez and Livan Hernandez have been linked to the Mets in the past, and they could get ST invites — the question is, would we care? Pettitte would be a nice coup to annoy the crosstown Yankees, but he’s already turned down a $10M offer the Mets aren’t likely to top. Chuck James had a 9.10 ERA last year; he’s a guy who would be nice to have at AAA — not someone holding up the middle of your rotation. That leaves the underwhelming trio of Garland, Redding, and Wolf as the last men standing — they’re not necessarily coveted, but rather the default values left over when the quality has exited the market.

Should the Mets be stuck with a combination of Redding, Garland, and/or Wolf supporting the back end of their rotation, they will have no choice but to bring in Manny Ramirez. If you can’t keep the other team from scoring, then you have to outscore ’em, right?

It will be interesting to see how this drama develops over the next two weeks …


Francoeur for Greinke?

Tony Massarotti of the Boston Globe is reporting that the Braves are discussing a deal with the Royals that would send outfielder Jeff Francoeur to Kansas City for righthander Zack Greinke.

From the article:

According to one National League executive, the Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves have had serious discussions about a trade that would send outfielder Jeff Francouer to the Royals for pitcher Zack Greinke. The same source said he believed the teams were close to executing the deal, but that Atlanta was holding up any and all trade discussions until the Braves had a resolution of their pursuit of right-hander A.J. Burnett. Current Royals GM Dayton Moore (who interviewed for the Red Sox’ job during Theo Epstein’s walkabout in 2005-06) is a former member of the Braves organization who is eager to bring Francouer to Kansas City.

Hmm … while I would love for the pesky Francoeur to leave Atlanta, I simply don’t see it happening. Despite his mid-season slump and temporary demotion to the minors, the organization seems to love Francoeur and the home-grown, “local boy done good” story attached to him. But then, the Braves have been operating differently since John Schuerholz retired.

If A.J. Burnett spurns Atlanta’s contract offer, the Braves will be in a fairly desperate situation, so a trade of Francoeur to fill a rotation spot is not completely unrealistic. Further, Greinke reminds me a lot of a young, righthanded Tom Glavine — a poised, confident pitcher with sick command of a 90-MPH fastball and offspeed stuff.

On the other hand, how many more young pitchers can the Royals afford to trade?

******* UPDATE ************

Joe Hamrahi says (through Twitter) that the Francoeur – Greinke rumors are “false false false”.

Hamrahi is tweeting live from Vegas. You can read more on Baseball Digest Daily.

****** UPDATE 2 ************

Mark Healey, also tweeting live from Vegas, says this rumor is “half-true”, and that the Royals are targeting Yunel Escobar, not Francoeur. This makes a lot more sense from Atlanta’s POV, as they seem ardent to dealing the Cuban shortstop. Does that mean the Braves sign someone like Orlando Cabrera? Or bring back Rafael Furcal? This one is worth watching.


Burnett Has Many Suitors

It appears that three teams are in the midst of a bidding war for A.J. Burnett.

The Braves, Red Sox, and Yankees have all reportedly made offers to the fragile but gifted righthander, who is seeking a five-year deal in the neighborhood of $75M+.

One must wonder if the Yankees and Red Sox really want Burnett, or is this deja vu all over again — in other words, a repeat of the chase for Carl Pavano several years ago. Back then, it appeared that the Red Sox were bidding for Pavano to keep him away from the Yankees, and vice-versa. If the two deep-pocketed clubs are serious about Burnett, that’s bad news for the Braves, who will have a hard time out-bidding the big boys.

If the Bosox sign Burnett, they likely will not pursue Derek Lowe — who has expressed a preference to return to Beantown. Such a signing would also free Boston to trade one of their young starters for someone like Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

On the other hand, if Burnett signs with the Yankees, then there’s a better chance of Lowe returning to Boston, but still no guarantee.

In either case, the Braves would need to get creative about filling their rotation needs. My guess is they’d get back into talks with the Padres about Jake Peavy — if he isn’t already a Cub.

One thing is for sure — the Hot Stove is close to breaking, with one move likely to ignite another ten.


Javier Vazquez to Braves

Pending a physical, the Braves have acquired Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan from the White Sox in exchange for Brent Lillibridge, Tyler Flowers, Jon Gilmore, and Santos Rodriguez.

As isuzudude already commented, this deal likely takes Atlanta out of the running for Jake Peavy — though, the pieces the Padres want are still property of the Braves. If the Braves are willing to give up more from their abundance of near-ready prospects, plus Yunel Escobar, then a Peavy deal is still possible. But with Lillibridge gone, the only way I see the Braves dealing Escobar is if they either get Khalil Greene back or if they sign someone like Edgar Renteria or Orlando Cabrera.

Regardless, the Braves are in the market for at least another starting pitcher, and they have supposedly made an offer to A.J. Burnett. Both the Vazquez deal and the offer to Burnett give them leverage in the Peavy talks. Will be interesting to watch.

Is this a good deal for the Braves? It does look that way, particularly since Lillibridge’s stock plummeted after a disappointing 2008 season in AAA, and the other three prospects are relative no-names. However, the White Sox were desperate to dump Vazquez, and what they received in return was a talented, speedy middle infielder who will play in MLB next year and a young power-hitting catcher with enormous upside. After a monster performance in the Arizona Fall League, Flowers might see some action for the ChiSox before the end of ’09, and — if he continues his current course — could be a future All-Star caliber catcher.

Vazquez will do well in Atlanta, partially because he’s getting away from a manager who didn’t want him and partially because he’s going to a city that is ideal for his personality — low-key, low expectations, not much media coverage. He won’t be an ace but he’ll be a solid #2 or #3.

Don’t discount the acquisition of Boone Logan, a young LOOGY who has been getting pounded by AL hitters for the last three years. Logan is only 24 years old, has a live fastball, and is very tough on lefties. He has age on his side, and he’s improving. The control problem that plagued his first two years is becoming less of an issue, as his K:BB ratio improved dramatically from 2007 to 2008 (in ’08 he struck out 42 and walked 14 in 42 IP; in ’07 he went 35 K / 20 BB / 52 IP). I’m not saying Logan is the next Mike Gonzalez, but he should earn a spot in the Braves bullpen and be a significant contributor.

Interesting point: the Braves and White Sox are two teams that rarely make bad trades. Further, neither of them are done dealing this winter.


Braves in Lead for Peavy, Asking for Olsen, Ludwick

According to Scott Miller at CBSSports.com, the Atlanta Braves are the frontrunners for Padres ace pitcher Jake Peavy.

Word on the street is that the Braves are willing to part with top centerfield prospect Gorkys Hernandez — a Carlos Gomez-type guy whom Atlanta picked up in last year’s Edgar Renteria deal with the Tigers. Imagine if the Braves were able to turn Andy Marte (the man they traded to Boston for Renteria) into Jair Jurrjens and Jake Peavy? Miller claims the Braves are offering shortstop Yunel Escobar as well — something I find hard to believe. Peavy supposedly has a “strong interest” in joining the Braves. Yippee. I’m not liking the idea of an Atlanta rotation beginning with Peavy, Hudson, and Jurrjens. At least John Smoltz is gone through June — though I have a funny feeling he’ll be back with Braves during the second half of ’09.

If the Peavy deal falls through, Miller also reports that the Braves have inquired about Marlins pitcher Scott Olsen. That punk makes me angry; I hope he gets sent to an AL team.

In addition to pitching, the Braves are supposedly after St. Louis outfielder Ryan Ludwick, who is coming off a career year. The Cardinals are looking to sell high, and hoping to get Kelly Johnson in return. This tidbit comes from Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer David O’Brien.