Where Do We Go From Here? 2005: Part 3, Infield

Here’s what we know, with a ninety percent or more degree of certainty, about next year’s infield:

1. Marcus Giles will play second base.
2. Chipper Jones will play somewhere.

That’s about it. Everything else is at most a probability.

At first base, the second season of the LaRoche/Franco platoon was a disappointment. Much of this was because of a deep, Andruw-esque slump which LaRoche went into during August. LaRoche’s final .259/.320/.455 line marked a slight decline from his 2004 numbers, though that’s almost all batting average and his walk and power numbers were pretty much the same. At any event, he didn’t make the jump forward that you want to see in a player’s second year. Meanwhile, Julio Franco had pretty much the same year he’s had every year since coming to Atlanta, but faded badly down the stretch. At 47, you can’t count on him bouncing back.

The central problem isn’t that LaRoche and Julio are bad players. They may not be. The problem is that they’re not good players, or at least not the sort of players who push you towards a championship. You can live with them as #6 or #7 hitters, as they were in 2004. But if they’re hitting fifth — or even cleanup, as they did much of the time before Andruw’s bust out — they’re not helping the team win. You need a third bellweather slugger to team with the Joneses. Where’s the easiest place to put such a player? First base.

Next year, we could see the status quo remain in place, with LaRoche given one more year to prove himself and Julio one more year to do what he does. Or Julio could go elsewhere and LaRoche take over every day, or team with a different righthander, maybe someone from the minors like James Jurries. Or the Braves could import another lefty (a prodigal Ryan Klesko?) with Julio as his caddy. Or Chipper could move across the diamond. Or Andy Marte could. Or they could even move McCann out from behind the plate, though I don’t expect that to happen until they have to make a decision on him versus Saltalamacchia.

If Chipper stays at third base, you really have to start wondering about Andy Marte’s situation. Marte doesn’t have anything left to prove in the minors. He didn’t start off too great in the majors, but a lot of that was just bad luck. He’s going to hit. But the left field experiment last year didn’t last long at all. He’s fairly quick in the infield, but I doubt that the Braves would try him at shortstop. So it’s either third base or first base. Chipper isn’t going anywhere further than first; given the choice, I’d prefer Marte to LaRoche, no question about it.

At shortstop, the Braves probably won’t be able to re-sign Furcal. He’s going to be able to double his salary in free agency, and I just don’t see them matching that. Nor do I see him giving much of a hometown discount. If he’s gone, Wilson Betemit would seem like the heir apparent, but they don’t like his defense. The AAA shortstop, Tony Peña Jr., can’t hit. The AA shortstop, Luis Hernandez, is even worse. Pete Orr has played some shortstop in the past, but doesn’t have a shortstop arm. If the Braves aren’t going to go with Betemit, they’re probably going to have some awful player — either Peña or a veteran import of the Neifi class — at short.

68 thoughts on “Where Do We Go From Here? 2005: Part 3, Infield”

  1. Good analysis Mac. I believe that Chipper should move over to 1B with Marte taking over 3rd. The big slugger concept would be taken care of with the Joneses, Francouer, Marte and McCann.

    I think McCann is the future at C while Salty, who’s been likened to Mike Piazza as a hitter, will either play 1B or LF.

    Furcal is a wait and see because, like I wrote a few times already, essentially has to pick between the Cubs and us as any other club that can afford him is already set at SS.

  2. I agree on damn near everything, especially the shortstop analysis. I fear another raulmondesi/quilvioveras/ricobrogna experiment is forthcoming. Also, the team has three major league 1B/3B. One of them is definitely going to be Chipper, so either Adam LaRoche or Andy Marte has to get traded to either beef up pitching, left field, or the inevitable hole at shortstop.

  3. The whole season spun off the fact that KOLB was not a reliable closer and it threw the bullpen into disarray. Last year we had crappy starters in the playoffs, this year — a crappy bullpen. Fer crissakes, Farnsworth couldn’t get four outs without giving up less than four runs!

    We need to package some spare parts (KJ, Estrada, a young pitcher…) for a SS and a reliable closer.

    I do think Furcal should give us a hometown discount. He’ll end up like Maddux if he goes to the Cubs. Dusty Baker sux.

    I wonder if Nomar would sign for a year and play like JD Drew did last year?

  4. I think Langerhans has the LF job. Great defense and his bat should improve. And he’s not Brian Jordan.

  5. Nomar can’t play SS anymore, at least, not any better than Betemit can, and Betemit’s much, much cheaper. Betemit’s solid with the glove, he just doesn’t have any range. I’d be fine with signing Alex Gonzalez on the cheap if we can’t get Furcal and batting him 8th (and if we aren’t getting Furcal, we better darn well make some serious upgrades in the ‘pen, in left field, or with a 3rd starter).

    I still think we should re-think sticking Marte back in LF. He can’t be worse than Klesko was, and it would be worth the defensive struggles to get that bat in there. I say that now, anyway.

  6. Furcal apparently laughed at the idea of a hometown discount in an interview during the season. Now, it’s cheaper to live in Atlanta than Chicago (we all agree that the Cubs are the leading suitors, right?) and it costs some money to move, but if the Cubs are offering more years or a lot more money he’s going to take it.

    Prediction, since I left it out of the article: Estrada to the Dodgers for Izturis, some other players thrown in on both sides.

  7. I was in my car today heading to a client meeting and I turned off the radio thinking about the Braves and winter moves. I swear, some days I eat, sleep & drink this team. I need HELP.

    That said, here’s some thoughts I was having and I am curious as to what all of you guys think about this.

    There’s an obvious team we should consider trading with on several possible fronts because we have some things they need and they clearly have things, WE need.

    THE SAN DIEGO PADRES.

    First, one of the biggest Padres strengths in 2005 was their bullpen.

    Second, their best young player is shortstop Khalil Greene and one of the best veteran leaders is middle infielder Mark Loretta.

    Third the Padres biggest weaknesses were at catcher & lack of starting pitching. The Padres could use another lefty and a starting catcher.

    It’s been suggested on this website aboiut trading Johnny Estrada to gthe Padres, who need a starting catcher…something that is at a premium and something the Braves can provide.

    Second, Petco is one of the BEST pitchers parks in Baseball, possibly the best outside of Detroit; that said, a park like that would be ideal for a flyball pitcher who’s a young lefty with talent: Horacio Ramirez.

    Here’s one trade scenario: Horacio Ramirez, Johnny Estrada & Adam LaRoche for Mark Loretta, Scott Linebrink, Rudy seanez & a minor leaguer.

    The Padres get another young starter, a lefty who maybe prone to the home run but in Petco, that will be greatly nullified. Plus, Estrada can step in and be their starter. The Padres have also had troublle at the corner infield slots and LaRoche can step in and play first if they make some other moves.

    In turn, there’s a young middle infield depth within their organization and can replace Loretta at 2nd, who can play short for the soon to be departed Furcal. Linebrink was fantastic and can come in and challenge Farnsworth or at least provide a stud set up man. Seanez is old but an ex Brave, was good, and Leo is familiar with this arm.

    There’s a second trade scenario that’s BIGGER in scope:

    a trade involving Andy Marte and Khalil Greene. Before everyone jumps down my throat, I think Greene is one of the best young shortstops around; in turn, Marte would solve the Padres third base problems long term. Furthermore this doesn’t have to stop the Braves from moving Chipper to first. Wilson Betemit’s .300 hitting bat and 25 home run power can step right in and third and with Greene at short and Giles at 2nd, the infield would be SET.

    In turn, the Padres would now be set at third with Marte who has 35 home run potential, something they desperately desperately need in San Diego at the corner (where Burroughs didn’t have that and lost the job and they aren’t planning to bring Joe Randa back plus Phil Nevin is done). The Padres would still have Loretta who can play 2nd or shortstop and can call up one of their many young middle infielders, the best one, to play.

    In the Khalil Greene-Andy Marte swap, some of these other previously mentioned players can be included like Estrada and HoRam on one side, Linebrink and someone else on the other.

    Opinions?

  8. Ledt me add one more thing with regards to the San Diego Padres.

    If we can cut cost and do one of these “inexpensive” deals with them, I still support signing Brian Giles seperately and adding his bat to right field, while starting Ryan Langerhans in left.

    I don’t care where Jeff Francouer finishes in the rookie of trhe year ballot. What I saw the last 2 months from Frenchy (whom I love) suggests 1 more year of minor league Baseball might help work on maturity and plate discipline…at least we hope.

    A lineup of Langerhans, Andruw Jones & Brian Giles in the outfield, Chipper Jones, Marcus Giles, either Loretta or Khalil Greene at shortstop, Wilson Betemit at 3rd base, and finally Brian McCann doing the catching…a very very good mix of young and veteran, enough power, still very good defensively and no more expensive then last year. Yes, we don’t need Konerko if we could do one of these deals with San Diego I am suggesting.

    I think saying goodbye to Furcal is inevitable and if we could replace him with either a good veteran or young player rather then a stopgap, it would be BETTER. I also feel strongly that Betemit can play a good third base and playing 155+ games, he will produce consistent offense for the Braves…he clearly has the kind of plate presence that suggest he will continue to hit Major League pitching for power and average and he showed he can play third. I think Chipper needs to move to first and say goodbye to the 2 headed 1st base monster.

    Chipper playing first offsets my suggestion for going after and over spending on a Paul Konerko.

  9. I won’t go into details and not sure I see the trade possibilities as CLEARLY but the other team that appears to fit a possible trade scenario is THE CHICAGO WHITE SOX.

    They have a deep bullpen and I have a feeling Ozzie would be more interested in Johnny Estrada then AJ Pierzynski as his starting catcher in 2006.

  10. Loretta’s 34 years old, has never been an everyday shortstop, hasn’t played more than a handful of games at the position since 2000, slugged .347 last year, missed 57 games with various injuries, and I’m not even sure he’s under contract for 2006. Other than that, great idea.

    I would probably trade Marte for Greene, but the Padres wouldn’t. You don’t fill a hole at third base (assuming they’ve given up on Burroughs and think Nady is an outfielder) by creating one at shortstop.

  11. Thinking about shortstop next year has depressed all season. It will at least until it’s settled… but I fear it’ll much longer than that.

  12. Mac,

    The Pods have a ton of middle infield depth in their organization but have major holes at the corners. I think Kevin Towers would consider this, especially adding in other elements for both teams…if we packaged Estrada and Horam, I think Towers would definitely have a 3 hour steak dinner at Morton’s in Atlanta or San Diego with J.S. to discuss a trade.

  13. And according some San Diego writers I was JUST reading right now, they have definitely given up on Sean Burroughs and are openly looking for a third baseman, something we have in abundance.

  14. There’s depth, and then there’s Khalil Greene, a 25-year-old shortstop who was a first round pick only three years ago and has established himself on the major league level. You don’t trade guys like that, even if he had a rough year last year.

  15. Maybe the Marte-Greene swap makes some sense, but that first proposal is absolutely ridiculous.

    You really think Guillen would prefer Estrada to Pierzinski? I don’t.

    And we don’t need Loretta. And I don’t even think the Padres would want Ramirez if they have to give up their best setup option in Linebrink. All in all, I don’t think many of those ideas work very well.

    Mac, what other shortstop prospects do the Dodgers have to replace Izturis? I’d love to make that deal (maybe we could also include HR, an LA kid in a pitcher’s park) and try to swing some bullpen help out of that deal, too? (Brazoban or Sanchez?)

  16. instead of marte send betemet abd estrada. greene really isnt that great of a player. maybe if he was leadoff caliber but hes not.

  17. How high are the Red Sox on Renteria? Any buyer’s remorse? I ask because his stats aren’t that great in the American league and the Sox don’t seem to care about defense all that much. Might a trade of Renteria + Cash for Betemit, LaRoche, and a couple of others be plausible at all? I’m guessing that all depends on how much the Sox still like Renteria who really seems to me to be a National League guy.

  18. Let’s just trade for A-Rod and make the Yanks eat most of his salary. Looks like he’s worn out his welcome there and, well, I’t be worth a shot. We could send them Marte, LaRoche, Thomson, Estrada…

  19. Stu,

    Sometimes I think you come on here just to skewer everything I say but whatever…it’s all in fun I hope.

    Re: Estrada vs. Pierzynski

    Pierzynski was RUN OUT OF MINNESOTA AND THEN SAN FRANCISCO. he has made enemies wherever he has gone and has been WIDELY criticized for his defense. I am not saying Estrada is a world beater, but when healthy, most Baseball people regard Estrada higher then AJ freaking Pierzynski.

  20. Renteria has a bad back. I think that there really is some buyer’s remorse and they’d unload him, but I wouldn’t want to take him on considering that.

    The problem with a potential Izturis deal isn’t that he’s a bad player. He isn’t. It’s just that he’s a bad hitter but the Braves might stick him in the leadoff spot anyway because he’s fast.

    Oscar Robles played a good bit for the Dodgers this past year when Izturis is out. He’s not a young player but he’s cheap. But the Dodgers’ top prospect is a shortstop, Joel Guzman, who hit .273/.349/.488 last year. But I don’t know if he’ll stick at shortstop. In Dodger Stadium, infield defense isn’t usually a priority.

    Looking at Sickels’ Padres’ preseason top twenty, they had two shortstops listed. One hit .229/.281/.280 in A-ball and the other was traded to the Pirates.

  21. marte and betemente will be sinsational and be a fan favorites if we let furcal go and move larry to first :))

  22. About Pierzynski, Fox just ran a telling stat. Jose Contreras tied for the league lead with 20 wild pitches, setting a Chisox team record in the process. The other pitcher who threw 20 WPs? Freddy Garcia. The White Sox have been around since 1901 — suddenly Pierzynski shows up and balls are hitting the backstop day after day. Some of that is on him. Combine that with the 7 PBs and a 78% SB allowed, and I can see the basis of some displeasure, if any in fact exists.

  23. http://www.ajc.com/braves/content/sports/braves/1005/11furcal.html

    Comments on this AJC story:

    1. Chipper again shows incredible loyalty to this organization…very cool for him to offer up some of his pirate booty to help keep Furcal; partly he may have some guilt over 2 horrific post seasons and nagging injuries but still, nice to see.

    2. It seems the Braves really are making an effort to keep Furcal…interesting. My opinion is split down the middle on this.

  24. Alex R. I really like the pie in the sky trade scenarios. Pretty fun stuff to read however unrealistic. Just to be contrarian:
    1. Loretta aint no shortstop
    2. A cheap effective setup man for an iffy 5th starter?
    3. I thought that they were using Nady at 1b

    4. Teams don’t get better by trading away high quality middle infielders for prospect status corner infielders.

    5. No where in Wilson Betemit’s history does he show 25 homerun power. He had a great year this season in a limited role but his bat is good only for a short stop not a 3b.

    All in fun I guess but you have to give Kevin Towers credit for having half a brain. Of course this is the same guy that traded FOR Chan Ho Park so you might have a point.

    We agree on Francouer. But the Braves will go with him as the starter through sucky spring, April and May before deciding that he needs some seasoning in Richmond.

    If someone says Garciaparra again I might just vomit. Best 60 game player in the majors.

    Loyalty? Chipper is looking out for Chipper. Take those two option years and make them full contract years and give him two more and he’s happy because he gets to finish his career in Atlanta. Still if I were the Braves and it meant getting a real relief pitcher or two or re signing Furcal I’d do it in a heart beat. I also read an interview Chipper gave SI. He said that moving to LF was a mistake. Took him out of his comfort zone. Didn’t really say that it affected his bat but it had to have. Right now Dayton Moore should be getting Marte a first basemans mitt and telling the kid to have at it.

    Re signing Furcal should be priority #1 with the Braves simply because there is no replacement for his offense/defense combination on the market or in the system.

  25. We could resign Furcal for as much as Izturis makes.
    Everyone is right, Loretta is no shortstop.
    Maybe I’m alone on this, but I’d like to see JS go after Daryle Ward and Scott Eyre.

  26. I love these trade scenarios. A few things:

    a) I don’t think an Estrada-for-Izturis trade will work. You can bet DePodesta would be willing to dump Izzy and his .620 OPS on some team, but the Dodgers are set at catcher with Dioner Navarro.

    b) If we don’t resign Furcal I think the Braves would be willing to give Betemit a shot with a veteran backup (like -gag- Neifi Perez) in case he can’t cut it. I can live with Betemit’s defense if he can put up a .305/.359/.435 line (like he did this year).

  27. We could resign Furcal for as much as Izturis makes.

    Huh? He’s making 2.1 mill this year. Arbitration will bump that up some, but not to nearly what Furcal will get.

  28. WE really need to keep Furcal. Also incase no one has noticed, we don;t need to give up our debth in the infield. If you remember one Mr. Chipper Jones has gone down hard the last two seasons. IF we out Adam and WB we have Julio and MArte with no back ups.

  29. To be honest, I’d forgotten Navarro. But I’m not a fan of his, because I think he’s mostly a product of the Yankee hype machine. The Dodgers certainly went through contortions to avoid playing him until they had no choice.

    Okay, not Estrada for Izturis, but I’ve still got a feeling that Izturis is going to be a trade target. I hope not, though at least he wouldn’t be a defensive downgrade.

    Smitty, I just don’t think that the Braves can afford what the Cubs will pay… And if you keep LaRoche, there’s nowhere for Marte to play, and you don’t block the Andy Martes of the world to play the Adam LaRoches.

  30. Yeah, you have got me real worried about Izturis now. You just know the Dodgers would like to move him and he is exactly the type of shortstop that the Braves have always had, before Furcal anyway.

    I don’t know why you don’t like Navarro. A 21 year old catcher who put up a 750 OPS in both the minors and the majors this year? I think the Dodgers are keeping him around.

  31. I would do a Marte for Greene swap with no reservations. From what I heard from the beat writer I know, the talk around the front office is that there is no way they will be able to resign Furcal, FWIW.

  32. Franco is going to want to stick around, but I don’t know if he fits for us anymore, especially if Chipper moves to 1B.

    Throw Marte a claw if Chipper doesn’t want to move and have him platoon with LaRoche instead of Franco.

    Franco only plays one position, and although Bobby is fine with that, I think we need more flexibility off the bench. I’d also toss the claw to Kelly Johnson and have him available to take a few innings at 1B if we have to pinch-run for LaRoche.

    The decision on Furcal will be the big one. If he’s gone, I’m guessing Betemit (who will take at least 3 full seasons to hit 25 HRs) battles it out with Wilbur Weiss (Walt Weiss’s clone) for the SS job.

    Right now, I think the only name that can be written in pen at a position is Giles. We’ll see what Chipper wants to do.

    Orr is fine as a back-up. Wes Timmons or a FA pick-up may get a chance to contribute as well. And, if Kelly Johnson doesn’t win the LF job, I don’t see why he shouldn’t sneak into the IF at times as well.

    Don’t trade for Khalil Greene. He has a bad haircut. It’s definitely not “Braves” hair.

    Take it from a Minnesotan, not a tear was shed when Pierzynski was traded. The guy is a first-class jerk. I didn’t realize he had done so poorly on defense this year. He was no great shakes in Minny, but he wasn’t this bad.

  33. Maybe I’m missing something, but why all the excitement about Khalil Greene? .250/.296/.431 makes me want to run the other way. I don’t want a SS with a 2005 OBP of .296, because that’s just very bad. The Padres wouldn’t trade him anyway, but why are we even interested?

    The quality of the available SS pool (meaning people that would possibly be traded; obviously Jeter, PayRod, Tejada etc. aren’t going anywhere) is very low this year, leading me to state that if Furcal goes, Betemit is probably our best option, and in comparison to Furcal, he is a downgrade. We are not going to be able to replace Furcal if he leaves so we should just accept that and compensate elsewhere. I guess Giles would bat leadoff but I like him in the 2-hole (of course, nobody cares what I like ;-).

    Everything seems to hinge on what Chipper decides. It was nice of him to offer to forego some salary to resign Furcal but we also have several arbitration-eligible players that may offset some of that. I think he’d do fine at 1B and Marte, with some seasoning, would do fine at 3B, but we just have to sit and wait! I really think the bullpen needs to be the top priority, though.

    If anyone wants a book recommendation, I just finished Mind Game, a BPro book about the 2004 Red Sox and how they got to a championship. It was a little dry in places but very informative and a good read.

  34. Greene was on the DL twice this year. Once for a broken big toe, which will always hurt a hitter. His upside is bigger than this years numbers show. He’s a sleeper who can make defensive plays but is often mistaken for a Spicoli because of his hair.

  35. Mac, I think the Izturis-Estrada trade is possible, as the Dodgers didn’t start Navarro until late and certainly are looking for potential upgrades (they’re also looking for a 1b, but I don’t think Depodesta will reunite LaRoche with his little brother. But who knows?) Anyway, this leads to the point that the Cubs may not be the only Furcal bidder – if the Dodgers unload Cesar (to the Braves or elsewhere), they could easily give Furcal a 3 or 4-year contract and give their IF prospects more time in the minors. (As noted, Joel Guzman probably projects to 3b/ OF). And I know this sounds like blasphemy, but I think the best solution to the Braves problems is to deal Andruw to the Angels – they have tremendous middle IF prospects like Kendrick and Wood, as well as boppers like Kotchman or McPherson to fill the hole at 1b and a Rivera to fill in the OF spot. Oh, and some nice relievers – Shields as closer? Andruw undoubtedly just had his career season, and this could set the Braves up for the next decade…

  36. Really hard to see them dealing Andruw, especially if he does win the MVP. And the Braves generally haven’t been interested in dealing for unestablished players. But if they were interested, the Angels would be the right partner.

  37. I think all the talk about trading Andruw or even moving Chipper to first base is unrealistic. Chipper would rather re-structure his contract than to switch position again at this point of his career, and I don’t think the Braves will force this issue again because they have asked Chipper to sacrifice once already. I am seeing a platoon of LaRoche and Marte as Franco is getting a bit too expensive and his showing signs of aging toward the end of the season. Trading Andruw is impossible. The Braves have waited all these years for Andruw to mature, and they will not trade him now that there are signs that he has matured and wants to become better. If the Braves did not trade Andruw last year, there is no way the Braves will trade Andruw now.

    I think the Furcal situation is exactly the same as Drew last year, and the final result will be the same as well. The monies to be offered to Furcal will be significantly more than what the Brvaes will offer. If Furcal is leaving, the Braves will have to replace Furcal with another impact player (not necessary shortstop). I am still predicting Brain Giles to come if Furcal is leaving. The prospect of having Langerhans and Francouer starting at the corners of the outfield again is too risky. JS and Bobby are not stupid, they know Francouer needs more time to develop, but there is no reason to start Francouer at Richmond next year considering his contribution to the team this season. Therefore, the best thing to do is getting Brain Giles to play leftfield with Langerhans being the fourth outfielder. If Francouer struggles to duplicate his performance next season, there will be a backup plan in Langerhans.

    As many people have pointed out before, there are pros and cons in keeping Estrada. I think it is a plus to have a veteran catcher to play along with the catching prospect, but I think it is a luxury which I don’t think is significant. Essentially, it will be one player taking playing time away from another. I also think this offseason is when Estrada has his max trade value. Estrada is still rather cheap (around $1.5M). Everyone knows we have too many catchers, Estrada was an all-star, and the perceived reason why he struggled this season was because he was hurt. If we keep Estrada for one more season, he will be more expensive and people will realize he is not all that good.

  38. I agree that resigning Furcal is a must. There really is no replacement for his defense and speed. Who knows what will happen but they better not trade Marte. That kid is going to be a stud in the majors.

  39. Houston needs a 1B… and possibly a catcher (although the additional year for Biggio almost certainly means one for Ausmus). They have not been afraid to trade relievers in the past, and Chad Qualls sure would be a nice add. That may be further than they want to go since their pen ain’t a whole lot better than ours, but getting him in some deal would be nice. I don’t know who else, though. LaRoche might be a good guy for them. I suspect he’s no better than Mike Lamb, but they may disagree. Even 50% is too much to expect from Bagwell’s return.

  40. I think the best realistically aquirable (I’m sure that’s not a word) shortstop is probably Julio Lugo. I imagine it would take a young pitcher. Is he worth someone like Lerew? Is he worth anything? He hasn’t had any trouble since moving to TB, and I’m not sure his troubles were worse than Cox’s. Although DV issues are the HUGE, disgusting black spot on baseball that everybody’s successfully covering up with steroid paranoia, I don’t really know what happened with either case.

  41. I’ve been working on piece for the THT Annual on PrOPS (Predicted OPS), and I’ve found a few things that may be of interest to Braves fans. First, using several years of data, I found PrOPS does a good job of predicting who will improve/decline. For example, remember the horrible 2004 of Chipper’s. It’s one of the top-10 unluckiest (fluke) seasons of the past four years, and look at what he did this year. Why should anyone care? LaRoche way underperformed (very unlucky) his expectation and I expect a much better year from him next year. Also, Giles overperformed (got lucky), which means there’s a decent chance he’ll be a little worse next year. His breakout 2003 was also very lucky. Andruw way underperformed, expect 2006 to be even better.

  42. Before I get labeled an Andruw hater, I’m not. But when you think about it he is our most tradeable player.

    I’m very very convinced that Chipper is not going to switch positions. When you think about it 1B is really settled. You start with a straight up LaRoche/Marte platoon. Then when it becomes clear who the superior player is you make him the full time starter. I’m guessing it would be Marte.

    Contradicting myself here but I guess Chipper would move if they restructured his contract. According to dugoutdollars he is owed 15 next season (2 million deferred) has 450 PA vesting options for 2007 and 2008 for 15 mil each. Thats 47 over the next 3 years. When the contract is up Chipper is 36. Lets say the Braves guarentee 2007 2008 2009 and option 2010 2011 with easily obtainable incentives and increase the value of the contract to 50 mil. 10 per year over the next 5 seasons. Braves save 5 mil per season, Chipper plays until he is 39 and retires a Brave. And by the way Chip as a condition for this you have to move to 1B so that we can get our prized prospect into our lineup. Plausible?

    The Braves did this last season with Smoltz so what the heck just thought I’d throw it out there.

  43. You know the A-Rod proposal by Stu isn’t half-crazy. Of course, I just took some cold medicine an hour ago, but now would be the time to strike after a weak playoff series.

  44. Re: Andruw trade. He’ll be a 10&5 guy before long, right? So if he is to be traded, it would have to be in the next year.
    Not necessarily saying pro or con (though, if JC is right, the Braves would be wise to hold on to him)

  45. JC – what did props say about Beltran in ’04? I remember people predicting a breakout from him this year because of his low BABIP in ’04… and we know how that turned out. Although I suppose props now uses more granular inputs than mere Babip; damn you HBTers and your uber-data!

  46. He was dead-on his prediction in 2004 and this year he was actually slightly worse than his 2005 OPS. I don’t know what happened to him, but you can’t blame the Mets for trying. There was not much flukey about any of his past numbers. That doesn’t mean he won’t bounce back. It just means he had a bad season based on the way he played, not bad bounces (like Chipper’s 2004).

  47. Chipper defers 2mil, Andruw for Tejada striaght up (frees 2mil), 8Mil from insurance for Hampton, Sign Damon and Giles as free agents.

    Someone else can figure out the bullpen and the rotation (in 2007 when Hampton actually gets his salary from us and not insruace)

    cant we just increase payroll by about 10mil…if every braves fan gave 5 bucks to the team for payroll………

  48. JC, from a non-stat point-of-view, I think if LaRoche continues to try and make himself into a pull hitter, his luck is going to have to get awfully good for him to see marked improvement.

    I just don’t think he’s a #5 guy (nor his Julio) and it would be great to either develop or acquire a “professional hitter” with some power to sit in that position. I think LaRoche would be a better player if he were at a spot in the order where power was expected to be part of the package. I think he’s trying to do too much.

  49. The second to last sentence should read “where power is not expected. . .”

    Sorry about that folks.

  50. 50, is there any evidence that pull hitters are worse than all-over hitters? I’m a big believer that going the other way is overrated. There are too many successful pull hitters out there to make me think otherwise.

  51. I doubt that they are, JC, but I don’t think that LaRoche is the sort of player who can thrive trying to pull the ball all the time. He doesn’t have the bat speed or power. To be a productive hitter, he has to hit .300 with a bunch of doubles.

    Platooning Marte with LaRoche makes no sense, because Marte is the better prospect but winds up with platoon first baseman attempts — 90 games, 200 AB.

    Andruw won’t be traded.

  52. Cesar Izturis had Tommy John surgery in August. I have my doubts the Braves will target him in a trade at very least until he proves healthy.

  53. first, i would like to say that this site is a blessing for all the people that are braves fans but don’t live anywhere near atlanta. i live in upstate ny and don’t get TS or FSS, so this is the place that i come to, to get my updates. keep up the good work mac.

    second, i have been a braves fan since ’82 (the first year we got cable, and back when tbs had every game on). i’ve seen good times and bad times, but i was as excited this year as i was when glavine, smoltz, avery, etc…were young up and coming players. the new blood on the braves is very exciting and i think that they have a good chance to really keep this amazing run going.

    third, the where do we go from here sections have been right on so far..but i’ll throw my 2 cents out for what it is worth….

    1. i don’t see them signing b. giles or any other outfielder because they have 4 guys for 3 spots now. all 3 rookies proved that they deserve to be here and i think that they will be here next year..that and with the exception of andruw they are all cheap, something that aol time warner is big on..
    2. i don’t see them getting rid of estrada because you can never have to much depth at catcher..mccann and estrada start the season with pena in aaa trying to learn how to hit.
    3. chipper stays at 3b (until he gets hurt)..wb at short, giles at 2b and laroche and marte battling it out at 1b..
    4. pitching….smoltz, hudson, thomson(resigned), sosa, horam, k davies…without serious injuries is still an above average rotation…
    5. the problem is the bullpen. if they don’t sign furcal (and i hope that they do) they need to spend the money and bring in a real closer(who that is i’m not sure. I haven’t really looked to see who’s available, well besides b wag), and some bullpen help…
    6. i hope they do sign furcal. his defense and his abilty to get on base spark the braves (of course it’s only in the regular season that he can do that). if they don’t sign him they have no one to lead off.
    if it ain’t broke don’t fix it and the only thing that i see that is broke on this team is the bullpen, pour the money into it.

  54. I’d love to see the Braves resign Furcal, who is one of my favorites, but don’t think they will for purely financial reasons. I also don’t think they will be willing to just hand the job to Betemit, but will try to trade for, or sign, a veteran to compete with him. I don’t think they’re comfortable with his defense at short.

    I also think there is a problem with the corners, too many players for too few positions. If Marte is the real deal as everyone suspects, then he has to be able to play, which means someone has to go. The most likely candidate to leave is LaRoche, creating an opening at first. I have never thought Chipper would move to first, so I would like to see Marte working at first base in the winter leagues somewhere.

  55. Someone talked about the Astros needing a 1st baseman. I don’t believe that to be true. Bagwell is gone after next year. From that point, Berkman will be playing 1st. he ahs no range in the outfield which is covered up fairly well by their small left field. Either way, there not taking chances on his ACL. He was a 1st baseman his whole career. He only moved to LF b/c Bagwell was blocking him.

    However, they should be looking for a corner outfielder. They can’t keep rotating Burke, Berkman, and Palmiero (who is a free agent). They would maybe be interested in KJ or Langerhans.

  56. I’ve seen a lot of good and bad ideas in this thread, so let’s just sort a few things out:

    1. The Braves have a very enviable sitation in the infield, where they have tons of talent to try out. That being said, I think it’s probably 70-30 that we’ve all seen Raffy play his last game as an Atlanta Brave. Stick Wilson Betemit in the position that he’s been projected to take over for the last 6 someodd years, he proved last year that he can hit major league pitching consistently enough for a starter.

    2. I love the idea of a Marte/LaRoche platoon, or Marte flat out stealing the position from him. Franco should be offered a position within the organization, or a spot on the roster as a situational player, not a platoon starter.

    3. STOP suggesting that Chipper Jones moves to first base. Since he was came up to the majors, this guy has been everything you could ask him to be. He and John Smoltz are one in the same, and it’s no mystery that these two players were the only starters from the 95 championship team. There was the disaster of moving Chipper to the outfield and him getting injured. Give Chipper a full, injury-free year at 3B and we won’t be disappointed with the results. He’s played every position you threw at him, let him be.

    4. Please, no more talk of trying to get Nomar or Brian Giles. Am I the only person that was watching this past season? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. Nomar was injured for a good half of the season, while Brian Giles was a massive fantasy disappointment, and while you may not think that holds any water here, most of the arguments on these threads are based on stats anyway.

    and P.S… does anyone recall a third basemen who had a shaky experiment in left field before finally finding his niche at first base in St. Louis? you guessed it, Prince Albert Pujols… Think about that one…

  57. Why in the world you guys seem to think Chipper will move to 1st? You think just because he is a power hitter, he has to play 1st or the outfield? Chipper is no worse than average defensively at 3rd base, and with his number offensivly ill take that any day. Chipper will be at third base for at least the next 5 years.

    There is absolutly nothing wrong with LaRoche. He is one of the best defensivly, and will only continue to improve offensivly. You guys are just remembering the end of the year slump he was in. Never mind he was one of the most consistent players whe had in the playoffs for 2 years in a row. The braves are not looking to get rid of them. If they do trade him, it will be in a mulit-player deal that involves an all-star starter or shortstop coming to Atlanta.

    So that being said, here is what is most likely to happen regarding the in-field: Chipper, Giles, LaRoche, and Franco will stay put in their current roles. Franco will probally start againts every other left hander this year and be the #1 option off the bench. Resigning Furcal is really a 50-50 bet. If he is not re-signed then either Betimet is or shortstop or JS goes out and gets a replacement. If Betiment is the SS, then he will hit 8th, and Giles and whoever plays left field will be the 1-2 guys. If Furcal is re-signed, look for Betimet to be traded and some shmoe from the minors to be our emergency left infileder. Betimet is excllent trade bait. He would be applealing to any team looking for a third basemen or shortstop. Marte will probally be traded because he plays 3rd and 3rd is taken already.

  58. Oh yeah one more thing: this LaRoche hating seems to have something to do with Braves fans expecitng McGriff/Galaraga numbers out of that postion. We ain’t ever going to get a player like that unless his name is, oddly enough, LaRoche. If we get a player like that, say goodbye to one of the Joneses, and Giles because that is the only way we will be able to afford to pay him. 1st basemen that braves fans are used too in today’s language are named Poujos(sp), Oritz, Lee, Giambi(sp), and Thome. Does anybody accualy think anyone of these players can come to atlanta without totally breaking us?

  59. How about a Lugo-Estrada trade?
    Might be a little on the crazy side, just thought i’d throw in this idea though.

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