Tagged: Jeff Francoeur

Decision time in Atlanta

Nick SwisherThe Braves have recently made a flurry of moves to make their team a contender. Now they are at a crossroad and need to make a decision. Atlanta has about $6MM-$7MM left to spend this off season. Atlanta has been rumored to be in a potential trade for Yankee outfielder Nick Swisher. Swisher will make $5.3MM this year which would leave almost nothing left in the bank for Atlanta. That would be fine if Atlanta wasn’t also trying to sign fan favorite Tom Glavine. If you crunch the numbers you will quickly realize it would appear Atlanta can only afford one. But which one?

Nick Swisher would almost certainly bring much needed power to what is a light hitting outfield. Jeff Francoeur was the only outfielder last year who had any glimpses of power but managed to only hit 11 home runs on the year. Swisher hit 24 last year in fewer games than Francoeur. Both had very low batting averages but many are attributing that to the occasional “down year” that the normal human being is known to have. Swisher is also a switch hitter and would be able to be placed in the cleanup spot in the lineup in between Chipper Jones and Brian McCann.

If Swisher produces the same power numbers and boosts his average his salary would be considered a major bargain. Unfortunately in this situation it may not be a big enough bargain. Swisher has a reasonable salary and is also under contract for 3 years. He can also play all outfield positions as well as first base. In any case I believe Swisher to be well worth the money. But what about Tom Glavine?

Tom GlavineGlavine is coming back from surgery and appears to be doing well in his rehab. Glavine doesn’t expect to be blown out of the water but does expect to be offered something fair. He deserves nothing less. Glavine is no where near what he used to be but does not deserve to be tossed aside like John Smoltz was earlier this year.

Tom GlavineAtlanta needs to bring Glavine back for themselves, for Glavine, and for the fans. I think if Glavine is not re-signed there could be an ugly backlash from Atlanta faithful. They already saw one fan favorite leave for another team and I don’t think they are in the mood to watch it again. Everyone knows that if the fans are against you then it is hard to win. Every game turns into a road game and that is going to lead to a very long season for a team trying to return to greatness.

Not only is Glavine a fan favorite but he is left-handed. Glavine would fit nicely in the 3rd spot in the rotation with four right-handed pitchers. An all right-handed rotation doesn’t exactly scream variety. Glavine has value just because of the fact he is left-handed. Either way, Atlanta needs to bring him back. Even if Glavine doesn’t produce the way he is expected to he would be a great mind to have in the clubhouse.

Personally if I had to make one move I would take Glavine. I think Swisher could be a great help on the field but Glavine will produce on the field, in the clubhouse, and is loved by the fans. Having both is great but if I had to pick one it would be Tom Glavine.

~Ben

Filling the void

Nick SwisherWith all the acquisitions made this off season the Braves still have two voids to fill in the outfield. Jeff Francoeur seems to be entrenched in right field for at least the 2009 season which leaves two spots open. Atlanta has shown interest in both Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady, though Swisher appears to be the favorite.

Nady is the superior player both offensive and defensively but Swisher would come at a bigger discount. Nady also happens to be a Scott Boras client and will hit free agency after the 2009 season. Jason Heyward could be Nady’s replacement in the likely hood that he departs, but there is no guarantee that he will be ready in time.

Heyward is already a tremendous talent but Atlanta does not in anyway want to rush him. He has been invited to this year’s spring training but is not expected to make the roster.

Atlanta’s beat writer Mark Bowman has said that the Orlando Hudson idea died about a month ago. Atlanta let the idea go over defensive worries. I don’t really buy that idea as before last year he won consecutive Gold Glove awards. Hudson was also injured for part of last year so that may have effected his range factor, which has provided concerns for Atlanta. The signing of Hudson could have made Kelly Johnson expendable and led to a possible trade for Ryan Ludwick.

Gregor BlancoI would like a trade for Swisher if Atlanta didn’t need to include too much value. It would take less to land Swisher than Nady, but Swisher is also under contract for $22.5MM over the next 3 seasons. Swisher had a down year last year but did hit 24 home runs. Swisher is also a switch hitter which gives him a lot of value to the Braves.

If Atlanta can’t land Swisher it looks like Matt Diaz, Brandon Jones and Gregor Blanco could be battling for the spot in left field. Center field is also up for grabs with Blanco, Josh Anderson and Jordan Schafer all fighting for the spot.

When this is all said and done I think Atlanta can land Swisher and that Jordan Schafer will win the starting spot in center field. Schafer is just as good defensively as Anderson and Blanco but can provide more offense. Atlanta was in desperate need of offensive production from the outfield last year and Schafer is the most likely to provide it out of the three.

Till next time,

~Ben

Orlando to Atlanta?

Some recent headlines have mentioned that Orlando Hudson has drawn interest from the Atlanta Braves. Let’s break this idea down.

Orlando HudsonFirst, don’t the Braves already have a solid second baseman in Kelly Johnson? Yes they do, but Orlando Hudson could be an upgrade. Hudson is not that far removed from winning a Gold Glove and will also hit for a higher average. Johnson has the edge in power, but also racks up more strikeouts. Hudson missed time last year but his health issues should be finished if Atlanta is considering him.

Orlando Hudson would come at a significantly cheaper price tag than he first imagined at the beginning of free agency. Johnson would still be much cheaper but he has trade value that Atlanta could use in their attempt to acquire a power hitting left fielder such as Ryan Ludwick. The biggest advantage Hudson has is the batting average. As a second baseman he wouldn’t need to be relied upon for power numbers. Hudson had fewer strikeouts than Johnson, a higher OBP, and could have been better in home runs and walks had he played the entire season.

Ryan LudwickMoving Kelly Johnson to left field doesn’t seem like a great option. Johnson underwent Tommy John surgery and who knows how much is left in his arm. Second base isn’t exactly the best place to build up arm strength either.

The Cardinals have expressed interest in Kelly Johnson and packaging him with a minor league pitcher or two could land Ryan Ludwick. Ludwick would easily provide Atlanta’s outfield the much needed boost in offense that they have desperately been looking for. Pat Burrell could have been an option before he landed with Tampa Bay.

Ludwick strikes out more than what would be wanted but that comes with the territory of big power numbers. Ludwick would also come cheaply at less than $1MM next season. He is the big, right-handed bat Atlanta has been looking to sandwich in between Chipper Jones and Brian McCann. Jeff Francoeur can still be that player, but I don’t think the Braves want to take any chances and have him have another down season. Adding Ludwick could take pressure off of Francoeur and let him develop more out of the spotlight.

~Ben

What To Do Now?

Derek LoweEveryone probably knows by now that the Atlanta Braves went out and got the guy they wanted, Derek Lowe. They have gone out and solidified their starting rotation, but now what? Atlanta is still not a playoff team.

If you look at their rotation you will notice one thing they all have in common. They are all right-handed. Every single one of them. Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, Jair Jurrjens, and Kenshin Kawakami are all right-handed pitchers. There needs to be a little variety in the starting rotation. That’s why I think they need to bring back Tom Glavine. He may not be what he used to be but the fact that he is left-handed gives him an advantage over other pitchers vying for the 5th spot in the rotation.

Tom GlavineI would think if Glavine returns he would be given the 3rd spot in the rotation just because of the fact he is left-handed. Being able to throw different styles of pitching at an opponent is an underrated part of the game. If the other team knows you only have right-handed pitchers it will make it a lot easier for them to game plan against you. Hence the idea of bringing back Glavine.

Will OhmanI also think that if Glavine is physically able to pitch and the Braves don’t resign him there is going to be an outcry from Atlanta faithful. Already this season the Braves let long time favorite John Smoltz go and now if they were to let Glavine go things could get ugly around Atlanta.

Another addition I think the Braves need to make is resigning Will Ohman. He isn’t Brian Fuentes but he is a very good left-handed reliever that played really well for the Braves last year. Atlanta’s bullpen also lacks a wide array of pitchers, seeing that they are overloaded with right-handed pitchers. The only lefty in the bullpen is closer Mike Gonzalez. Atlanta needs to have a lefty specialist that can come in to face the murder’s row of left-handed batters that the NL East is home to. They include Carlos Delgado, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard. Atlanta has to have someone that can come in and get key outs when those guys are batting.

I would really like Atlanta to add a bat like Xavier Nady or Nick Swisher but the Yankees appear to be asking too much. Nick Swisher isn’t what he used to be a few years ago and Nady is only under contract for 2009. His agent is Scott Boras so it is safe to assume he won’t be sticking around for anything less than $700MM over 8 years. If things continue the way they are it doesn’t look like the Braves will be able to add another bat. If Jeff Francoeur can produce I don’t think adding a bat would even be needed.

Jason VaritekIn other baseball news it looks like Jason Varitek could be returning to the Red Sox. He wants to come back and I think Boston knows the fans want him back. They call him “Captain” for a reason. He is the heart and soul of that team, they need to bring Tek back. This should be an easy decision.

In more MLB news where is Manny Ramirez going to end up? The Angels don’t want him and the Dodgers don’t want to give him more than three years. Will the Giants take another risk on a super star becoming a huge bust (Barry Zito)?

Everyone knows the guy can hit but if he doesn’t get his money he will not be a happy Manny. And we all know an unhappy Manny can be a cancer to his baseball team. Boston found out the hard way.

Till next time,

~Ben

Now What?…Again

Well, the Braves lost the bidding for Rafael Furcal on questionable acts by his agent. I’m not going to turn that whole debacle into a huge thing. It is what it is.

Rafael FurcalThat move could have opened things up for the Braves. Furcal could have played second base and Kelly Johnson could have been used as a trade piece. The Cardinals are apparently interested in Johnson, but I don’t really see the Braves moving him. I heard rumors about Johnson and a pitcher going to St. Louis for Ryan Ludwick, but that deal is dead. Rick Ankiel is a possibility, but he is left handed so I doubt the Braves would pull the trigger.

I was really looking forward to having Furcal back. He provided the speed at the top of the lineup that the Braves have lacked since he left. He was a great guy in the clubhouse but obviously things weren’t going to work out. I blame a lot of that whole signing on Furcal himself, if he wanted to come back to the Braves he would have. I think he is just greedy at this point. He passed up going somewhere he could have been really happy for a bigger contract.

A minor signing I would like to point out is that of Greg Norton. He may not be a super star but he is a switch-hitting pinch hitter that can knock in runs when they are needed. He can play the corner outfield positions and first base. He was a clutch hitter for the Braves after they signed him. I was hoping they would bring him back and they did. Next I want Atlanta to bring back Will Ohman. It may take more than they wanted but we all know the Braves have been saving up as they have done almost nothing this off season. Ohman is a top notch lefty that will come a lot cheaper than Brian Fuentes.

Jason Heyward

I still think the Braves should take a shot at Pat Burrell. I was not high on him at the beginning of the off season but the Braves have cornered themselves into this position. Burrell could be a short term solution before Jason Heyward is ready for Atlanta. Burrell is a right handed, power bat that Atlanta has been looking for. I like Jermaine Dye better, but I would think the Braves would have traded for him at the same time as Javier Vazquez. It just makes sense.

Jordan SchaferIf Atlanta went into the season today, I would be hoping for 3rd place in the division, at best. They don’t have a power-hitting outfielder. They don’t have an ace. They don’t have an established lead off hitter. The outfielder may not be needed if Jeff Francoeur can bounce back, while Jair Jurrjens is no ace. He has the potential to be one, but he isn’t one now. Josh Anderson has the potential to be a legitimate lead off hitter, but I want to see him do it over the course of an entire season. I would almost rather take my chances with Jordan Schafer, who can be a 5-tool player. Gorkys Hernandez also has the potential to be a 5-tool player, but I think Schafer has a little more power.

I actually like Atlanta’s bullpen. Mike Gonzalez is great at the end while Peter Moylan is an excellent set up man. I would like Rafael Soriano to be the set up man, but he has yet to prove he can stay healthy. I had thoughts that he may be faking his injuries since the trainers couldn’t find anything wrong. Every time he said he was healthy, bam, he is hurt again. I was actually beyond frustrated with him. Blaine Boyer is not as bad as people think, he just was overworked.

If things stay the way they are I think the Braves can compete, but not win anything big. I’m not going to sit here and tell myself the Braves are a lot better than they are. I’m not going to sit here and tell all of you the Braves are better than they are. Right now they are mediocre at best. If they stay pat, 85 wins is a good season.

Over and out,

~Ben    

I Am Not A Happy Camper

The past two days have been extremely frustrating for me. I, an Atlanta Braves fan, has sat around while my team does nothing and other teams sign the best players. I won’t name those other teams but I will say they rhyme with Spankees and Bets.

CC Sabathia

First, C.C. Sabathia, you may have heard of him. He is going to be a very, very rich man. He can start picking out a $40 Million mansion now because he is going to rolling in the dough. His contract is completely ridiculous. Sabathia is going to be the highest paid pitcher in the history of baseball. Does he deserve it? No. Will he get it? Hell yes. With the aid of my handy dandy calculator his new contract will be worth $23 Million per year. Yes, that is roughly $22.96 Million more than you make per year.

Francisco RodriguezThat Francisco Rodriguez guy also signed with one of those before mentioned teams I am not happy with. He signed for 3 years which means that is 3 years of knowing my team has almost no chance or rallying in the 9th inning. He kinda had 62 saves last year but I doubt he will get anything close to that in New York. The Angels were a small ball team that was perfect for someone rack up saves like he did. I really doubt we will see anything else like a 62 save season anytime soon.

While those signings were going on my Atlanta Braves were having “talks” with A.J. Burnett. Did they sign him? No. Does it look like they will? No. The “evil empire”, you all know who I speak of, look like they will go after him too. Basically this means the Braves have close to a zero percent chance of singing him. The only reason I can see him coming to Atlanta is that they offer a guaranteed 5th year while the “evil empire” doesn’t.

Jake PeavyFrank Wren really needs to make a big push for Burnett or return to the Peavy sweepstakes. I really don’t think there is another option out there that can get the Braves to the playoffs. I mean, come on, Atlanta’s back up plan is Randy Wolf. Please, that is a disaster waiting to happen. Wolf is a 4 or 5 starter at best. He is not a reliable backup plan.

Peavy may come at a high price but so does winning. If he waits around too long there won’t even be Randy Wolf left. I also don’t think the whole Zack Greinke for Jeff Francoeur idea is a great one. Greinke was pretty good for a really, really, really bad Kansas City team but that doesn’t mean he will be great in Atlanta. Francoeur just had a down year and I believe he will rebound and do just fine this year. Even if he had trouble at the plate he still played Gold Glove defense which is more than you can say about most players. Francoeur has tremendous potential. I mean, he does hit baseball to little kids across the globe.

Wren needs to make some moves soon before the rest of the free agents have signed with the Mets or Yankees. If Atlanta wants to compete this year something needs to be done!

Adios,

~Ben

So Many Options

Well, it looks like the Braves are going to go after one of three players to serve as their power hitting outfielder. They appear to be Rick Ankiel of the St. Louis Cardinals, Corey Hart of the Milwaukee Brewers, or Jeremy Hermida of the Florida Marlins.

Rick AnkielPersonally I like Ankiel or Hermida. To be honest I just don’t like Corey Hart. I don’t know why, but I just don’t. With Ankiel you get a ton of power with an outstanding glove in the outfield. Ankiel may not hit 35 o 40 home runs but he will drive in runs consistently while playing Gold Glove defense. The guy is a human highlight reel. If you are a frequent watcher of “Web Gems” you have seen him gunning down runners from all areas of the field. His arm is just flat out a cannon.

It would be like having two Francoeurs on defense. Which is in no way a bad thing. Jeremy Hermida is a Georgia native who wouldn’t mind playing for the home town team. Hermida was at once compared to Francoeur but doesn’t pack as much punch at the plate. So I don’t think he would be a great choice unless Ankiel wasn’t able to be acquired. I still don’t know why I don’t like Corey Hart, but to be honest I don’t need a reason. I just don’t like him.

Here is a little taste of Mr. Ankiel…

He would only be under contract for one year and he happens to be a Scott Boras client. If you like keeping players around for a long time you don’t want Scott Boras anywhere near your player. But then again, Andruw Jones is a Scott Boras client and he stayed around for a while, maybe Ankiel would too. You just never know.

Corey HartThe only problem with Ankiel besides his choice of representation is he is left handed. Jeremy Hermida is also left handed. This is why I actually think Corey Hart has the advantage at this point. The Braves have left handed bats already. They are looking for a right handed bat to fill the power gap, hence the Jermaine Dye rumors. The Brewers could also try to dump his salary to try and sign C.C. Sabathia.

This being said, the Brewers may take a few decent prospects and maybe some cash in exchange for Hart. Hart also has 3 more arbitration years so Atlanta can keep him around for a while. It may take a little more to get Hart than Ankiel since Ankiel will be a free agent after the 2009 season, but I think it would be worth it. Like I have been saying, the Braves are stacked in the farm system. They can afford to give up a few guys.

Holding tons of guys that most likely won’t even pan out isn’t necessarily the smartest thing to do. To be realistic, I bet 3 out of Atlanta’s top 10 prospects end up being busts. It is just so hard to have a successful career in the MLB. Look at Kyle Davies, Chuck James, Jo-Jo Reyes, Brent Lillibridge, and Scott Thorman. They were all top prospects at once and now look what happened. They are either on another team or are having extreme struggles. You can dump a few prospects to win now. It is ok.

Till next time,

~Ben