Where Do We Go From Here? 2004 (Part III: The Outfield)

Ideally, the Braves will re-sign J.D. Drew. I think that’s what they want, and it’s probably what he wants. But he also wants to get paid, and I can’t see the Braves going much beyond, say, $25 million over three years. Boras will want more, and will tell J.D. he can get more, that he can get Sheffield/Guerrero money. I don’t know that he can’t — it only takes one desperate team (hello, Chicago!) to do that.

If they re-sign Drew, I’d think that they’d stick with the Thomas/Marrero platoon in left. It worked very well for them this year, of course, and is quite cheap, because Thomas makes the minimum and Marrero is signed for next year for a reasonable cost. If they don’t re-sign Drew, they might try to make Marrero the full-time rightfielder and Thomas full-time in left. That’s not going to work, and I don’t think that the Braves will do that.

Option two, if they don’t bring back Drew, is to try to make a trade. I’m just not sure who’s available yet. The Astros might trade Berkman if they re-sign Beltran. That would be great, as a one-year solution; he’s a free agent after this season, and will make a huge salary when that happens. But there’s a “might” and an “if” involved there, so don’t count on it.

The Reds could trade one of their outfielders. Sorry, Terrance, the Braves aren’t going to get Ken Griffey Jr., not unless the Reds pick up most of his salary. Adam Dunn had a tremendous season last year — so good, that his comp list through Age 24 now has “Reggie Jackson” at the top. He’s headed for arbitration, and the Reds are very cheap, but unless they’re even stupider and cheaper than I think they’ll move mountains to keep him. However, Austin Kearns — like Drew, a guy with lots of talent who’s had some injuries — could be up for arbitration and could be the odd man out.

How about a familiar face? Ryan Klesko had a rough year in San Diego, and doesn’t like the new park at all. He only hit nine home runs last season! His salary is pretty reasonable, and the Padres might pick up some of it. They really need to get good outfield play in that park, and you probably remember Ryan’s defense. Negatives, in addition to last year’s problems, include that he’ll be 34 years old, which makes me feel about sixty. Plus he and Bobby had a few problems late in his Braves tenure, but I don’t think they were that serious.

I’m sure there will be other players available in trade. In particular, some of the teams likely to be active in going after Beltran actually have three credible outfielders already. Whoever signs him will probably deal someone.

The free agent list, after Beltran and the two injury risks Ordonez and Drew, is not at all exciting. I’ve mentioned Richard Hidalgo, who had a tough year for the Mets, and everyone says he’d be a bad choice. But honestly, who else is there?

There’s Jermaine Dye, who hasn’t been the same since his broken leg in 2001. He had a good first half this season, but was abhorrent in the second half. There’s Moises Alou, who remembers the first Nixon Administration, and Steve Finley, who may remember the Johnson Administration.

There’s Jeromy Burnitz, who is a Coors Creation and has a mutual option that I’m sure either he or the team will take. There’s Carl Everett, who is insane. There’s Juan Gonzalez, and enough said. Honestly, these are the good options. The outfield crop after that is full of people like Marquis Grissom and Gerald Williams, who weren’t that good when they were here the first time and now are very old.

In the minor leagues, there’s Ryan Langerhans, who really doesn’t quite have the bat for a corner outfield spot, but wouldn’t kill you in a platoon with Marrero. That doesn’t actually solve anything, though. And there’s Andy Marte. If Chipper’s back at third permanently, and LaRoche is at first for the next few years, he’s probably going to need an outfielder’s glove sometime. Right now, I think there’s maybe a twenty percent chance he opens next season in right field. That’s at least as likely as anything else.

I’m sure Scheurholz will think of something. I’m just not sure what.

29 thoughts on “Where Do We Go From Here? 2004 (Part III: The Outfield)”

  1. Mac, thanks for the great analysis. I agree with you, I think the Braves will offer Drew a three-year contract worth $24M, and Boras will be asking for a five-year 50M package. The conversation will be stuck right there, and Drew is gone. I don’t think Scheurholz will play anymore arbitration game with Boras again.

    This year’s options are really not that exciting, unless the Braves want to take a chance on Ordonez, who I think will accept an $8M per year package.

    I donít think Berkman will be available as I donít Astros will sign Beltran back. I doubt the Reds will trade away Dunn and Kearns either as they are their ticket sellers.

    The question in my mind is how much Beltran will get this winter. Everyone seems to assume he is going to the Yankees, but not everyone likes to play in NY like Glavine. So, if we can put together a package which is structured around Chipperís and Andruwís deals, we may be able to get him paying him $12M in the first year. However, this assumption requires Furcal to be traded.

    With the unexciting options out there, I think it is even more important if we can get the impact player, even if it means we have to let Furcal go. I wouldnít mind if we play Betemit or signing Pokey Reeves for cheap. If Scheurholz thinks he will not keep Furcal beyond next year, we might as well trade Furcal for an impact reliever or prospects now, and sign a player like Beltran who can be a cornerstone for the Braves for many years to come. Imagine an outfield of Thomas, Andruw, and Beltran.

    It’s not like last year when we were cutting payroll, and we can not compete for Guerrero to replace Sheffield. If the Cardinals can have Pujols, Edmonds, Rolen and Walker at the same time while operating at an $80M payroll, I am sure we can have Chipper, Andruw and Beltran at the same time. I am just tired of us talking about second tier players while there is someone out there who is so good.

    Anyway, enough of my whining. What do you guys think?

  2. We could have the Joneses and Beltran if we didn’t also have Smoltz and Hampton. Trade Smoltz? But I think Beltran has said that he wants to play in New York.

    Mac, I’m with you on the Richard Hidalgo bandwagon.

  3. I think that Austin Kearns might really be a serious thought. I had the impression that lil’ Willy Mo Pena moved passed Kearns on the depth chart last year (although the braintrust in Cincinnati seems to turn a blind eye towards Pena’s .316 OBP), which would mean that along with Griffey & Dunn (and Sean Casey still at 1st), there mightn’t be much room for Kearns. The Reds also seem to really like Freel, who played over 60 games in the outfield as well.

    I’m not saying getting Kearns will happen, or that it’s even a good idea (check out the regression over the last 3 years!), but I think it’s a definite possibility.

  4. A couple of thoughts on the Kearns posibility: The Reds have Danny Graves as a closer, who’s talented but dippy. Imagine if we put soething together for Kearns and Graves and called Smoltz’s bluff on starting?
    My second thought is to wonder who’ll give Drew a 5 year contrxt with his injury history?
    One more silly thought: If we could get the Cubs to take most of his salary, would we take Sammy?

  5. I think more than likely we’ll be able to sign Drew. If we don’t, I hope we don’t get Dunn. We don’t need the guy who set the single season record for strikeouts this season. We strike out too much already. I’d much prefer Kearns, if he’s healthy. Ideally though, I think Drew will be back and we’ll stick with Thomas/Marrero in left, which is fine with me.

  6. I don’t know who would give Drew 5 and 50, but if the Tigers were willing to gamble on I-Rod with 4 and 40, I imagine that a younger, non-catcher like Drew could probably fetch a similar contract.

  7. What are the chances that Terry Pendleton will get offered the Phillies’ managerial job? If so, will he take it? Any other potential changes to the Braves’ coaching staff?

  8. I don’t see the Reds being interested in trading Dunn. If they did, though, I would LOVE to see him land in Atlanta. Strikeout record or no – you don’t hear people complaining about how much Jim Thome strikes out. Or rather, the hoards of people cheering his homers drown out those who complained about all of his k’s. I would imagine, though, that IF the Reds tried to trade Dunn, a team like Oakland (LA?) would offer much more for him than Atlanta would be willing to part with (what with differing management philosophies and all…)

  9. What are the chances that Terry Pendleton will get offered the Phillies’ managerial job?

    I’ve read comments from TP talking about how hard the travel schedule is on him not getting to see his kids as often as he would like so I’m not sure he is looking to move his entire family to a new city to take on an even more demanding job than the one he has with the Braves. From what I understand he was even reluctant to take the Braves hitting coach position at first, but his family kind of helped talk him into it. He’s got to be seriously considering it if he’s interviewing, though I doubt that he would be the Phillies first choice.

  10. Andy Marte will play in Atlanta next year. Only spot available will be in the outfield.

  11. What about Trot Nixon or Kevin Millar? The Red Sox have a massive OF/1B/DH glut, and they might be willing to let one of their extraneous guys go for pitching, especially since Derek Lowe and Scott Williamson are probably leaving.

  12. Trot Nixon is an interesting possibility. He was just inked to a 3 year deal at around $8 mil per, and though he suffered through some real injuries this year, he is a left-handed OPS machine. But who would the Braves give up? The Sox are perennial competitors — I doubt they’d give up major league talent for prospects, unless they thought the prospects would be valuable for another trade. So would the Braves give up Rameriez or Capellan, even while they look to be a pitcher short for the rotation as it is? That’s a tough call.

  13. Nixon’s a good player. Is he the sort of player who can step in and be one of the team’s key hitters? That I don’t know. Millar can’t really play outfield, and the Braves should be happy with LaRoche.

  14. Looking him up, Nixon made $4.5 million this year. If he doesn’t make much more next year — or if the Sox pick up some — you could bring him in and then take a flyer on another outfielder or splurge on one of the big-ticket pitchers.

    I’ll mention something else. When the Braves looked dead back before the break, I thought that Furcal might be a good fit for the Red Sox. If they let Cabrera go, he still might.

  15. Mac, I doubt the Red Sox will trade Nixon. Nixon is one of the core of that team, and his salary is cheap. There is really no reason for the Red Sox to give me up. Besides, I think the Sox and Cabrera are quite happy with each other.

    Seriously guys, do you think the Braves are good enough to win again if we bring back Drew and Wright? I have my doubt…

  16. If the Reds trade either Austin Kearns or Adam Dunn then the good folks in Cincy should burn thier stadium down. Dunn is the kind of guy you build a team around. Kearns might be JD Drew lite. If he could stay healthy then I think he’d be great. Of course these are the same Reds that signed a 37 year old fading Barry Larkin to a 27 million 3 year contract when they desperately needed pitching. So what if the Braves offered a player say Langerhans a couple of our TNSTAAPPs (yup even Capellan) for Griffey (they pay half his remaining contract) and Kearns? Nope not even the Reds are that dumb. How about a couple of our TNSTAAPPs straight up for Kearns?
    I agree with you on Dye. He is broken goods. I still can’t get my brain wrapped around Hidalgo. He was pretty good for a couple of years but when he was bad he really really sucked. By the way Ordonez turned down 14 mil per year from the Chisox. I think he is going to be dissappointed this off season.
    I’ve said before that Schuerholz is going to do something to acquire another LF or RF bat that will blow our minds. And we’ll carp like hell about how he is trading away the future or something like that. Then it’ll work out somehow (I hope) just like it does every other season.

  17. I’ve been racking my brain for where the Braves can try to improve their team over last year if they fail to land Drew (or his equal). I figure the Braves won’t make any changes at 1b, 2B, 3B, C and CF. So, if they take a hit at RF by losing Drew, they could try to improve at LF — which I don’t think will happen, because acquiring yet another outfielder would leave them with a glut of OF (and they’ve already committed $2 mil to Marrero) — or SS.

    I know Nomar is going to be a free agent, but it’s probably foolhardy to think the Braves would shell out the mackrels to get him. Would Renteria be an improvement over Furcal? Is there any scenario where the Braves could swap at both their RF and SS and still come out ahead?

  18. I don’t know how much he will be asking, but Omar Vizquel would be a nice option. I would go for anything that will save us enough money to go for Beltran. Perhaps we can trade Furcal and Marrero to the Angels for Jose Guillen to improve our leftfield and a couple of relievers (Angels have many good relievers).

  19. “Strikeouts, schmikeouts. Forget them, look at the .388 OBP and the .569 SLG.”

    One guy with a lot of strikeouts is fine, but we already Andruw Jones. The plus for him though, is that he isn’t making any money yet.

  20. I believe that unless you get the top tier free agents, you’ll be stuck with division titles and nothing more for the foreseable future (The only team that will commit more to payroll will be the Phillies, and their GM doesn’t know how to pick players). Klesko is a non-starter, Dunn is the second coming of Dave Kingman. If you could pick up Dye for one year/$1-2 million, would you do it?

    I have always felt what was missing was a power pitcher. Glavine and Smoltz were as close as we came to it in the past 10 years, and neither are starting. Capeelan may be th answer long term, but that may not help us next year like we want it to. But that’s a discussion I’m sure you’ll have later Mac. When you do, my question would be, what are the chances the Braves would go after Millwood or try and trade for Randy Johnson for a year or three?

  21. I’m pre-drafting (i.e., thinking) the starting pitching entry. It’s a tougher task than the outfield because there are a lot of pitchers who have been successful available this year. Which is good, because it might drive down the price.

    I disagree with the Kingman comparison. Kingman was a .236 career hitter with a .306 career OBP, and a terrible defensive player. Dunn is more of a Rob Deer type, but better — he can play some defense, he draws a ton of walks, and his batting averages aren’t quite as bad as Kingman’s, albeit in a different era. Actually, he’s similar to my man Darrell Evans in many ways, though he’s not a third baseman or as good of a defensive player.

  22. Plus, as far as I know, Dunn has yet to gift-wrap a dead rat and give it to a female sportswriter as a birthday gift. Classy guy, Kingman.

  23. Hey Mac, I’m looking at the list of potential free agent pitchers, and I have to say that I’m not hopeful. I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on the following guys –

    In no particular order:
    (1) Derek Lowe probably is going to get some real offers from somebody, but even if he fell through to the $4 – 5 million range (which is probably close to his real value), he’s not a guy you want pitching game 1, which is what the Braves really need.
    (2)I’m going to assume that Pedro Martinez is not going to sign with the Braves
    (3) Esteban Loazia is probably going to be a mid-market pickup, but given the fact that his numbers the past year are in line with what he’s posted every year of his career except for 2003, I don’t see him as likely ever repeating his ace pitching again.
    (4) Brad Radke I like, and he might be affordable.
    (5) Matt Clement I like, but you have to figure that one of either Clement or Carl Pavano are going to the Yankees, making the other that much most attractive (& therefore expensive) young FA pitcher on the market.
    (6) Clemens isn’t going to play for the Braves
    (7) Millwood, Carpenter, and Benson all strike me as similar risks — Millwood was injured at the end of this season, and both Benson and Carpenter have had Tommy John surgeries. I don’t know if I’d feel good about having any of them be the Braves main FA rotation pickup.
    (8) Matt Morris might be washed up — who knows. I like a flyer on him better than a flyer on Benson, but doesn’t everyone agree that Morris will be the more expensive of the two, based on his record?
    (9) There isn’t terribly much to like about Eric Milton, or Ryan Dempster, for that mater
    (10) I’m not so sure that Odalis Perez would want to come back and pitch for the Braves.

  24. Oh, and if Furcal does end up leaving the Braves, I have $5 on Barry Larkin being his replacement.

  25. Chipper + Larkin = Many, many more hits for opposing team. Hampton would never make it out of the fourth inning….

  26. The only thing I like about Dunn is his salary, and his BA since 2001 is .249, including .215 in 2003. It’s nice to see his slugging % on the rise, but his BA isn’t going up much. He would have walked over 100 times in 2003 if he had’ve played more games. He’s got potential, but I think we’d have to give up too much to get him.

  27. Just a warning; I’m working on the starting pitcher entry and it looks like it’s going to be really long. I mean, it’s 11 paragraphs and over 1000 words and I haven’t gotten to the outside free agents yet.

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