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.