Chipper Jones Rumors
With nearly 81 games in the books, the Braves signed Ben Sheets to a minor league deal earlier today as the team hopes he can help bolster its rotation in the second half of the season. Here's the latest from Turner Field...
- Look for Atlanta to join the pursuit of Zack Greinke's services if the team can secure him long term for closer to $15MM per season than $20MM, tweets David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Greinke, 28, is enjoying a strong season in his second year with the Brewers after being acquired from the Royals in December 2010. The right-hander has posted a 2.82 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 through 16 starts.
- The Braves were among a series of teams scouting Francisco Liriano today during his start against the Royals, reports Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com (via Twitter). While Liriano failed to turn in a quality start on Sunday, the former All-Star has improved his performance each month of the season thus far. The 28-year-old signed a one-year, $5.5MM deal with the Twins in January and will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2012 season.
- Count Bryce Harper among Chipper Jones' supporters for his bid to be added to the National League All-Star roster through the Final Vote competition, writes Mark Zuckerman of NatsInsider.com. The 19-year-old rookie, who is competing with Jones for a spot on the team, said that a future Hall of Famer should be able to go to the All-Star Game during his last season. "If I was going to make a vote, I'd go vote for Chip."
Let's check in on the players who have vesting options for the 2013 season...
- Jason Bartlett, Padres - $5.5MM option vests with 432 plate appearances. Bartlett came to the plate just 98 times before being placed on the disabled list with a knee injury. There is no firm timetable for his return and it seems unlikely that the option will vest at this point.
- Kevin Gregg, Orioles - $6MM option vests with 50 games finished. Gregg has finished just six of the team's 70 games and it seems likely that Baltimore will keep the option from vesting.
- Brett Myers, Astros - $10MM option vests with 45 games finished or based on a points system. Myers has finished 23 of the club's 70 games and is a trade candidate. If he continues to close, the option seems likely to vest.
Chipper Jones has an option worth $9MM+ that will vest with 123 games played, but he's already rendered the option moot by announcing his plans to retire after the season. Chipper has played in 38 of the Braves' first 70 games.
Alex Gonzalez has an option worth $4MM that will vest with 525 plate appearances, but he is expected to miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Gonzalez came to the plate just 89 times before the injury, so the Brewers do not have to worry about this one kicking in.
Baseball America recently ranked all 30 organizations based on how much talent has passed through their systems since the end of the 2008 season and the Nationals and Braves place third and sixth, respectively. The Marlins (11th) and Phillies (12th) were also better than average, but the Mets were 28th. Here are today's NL East-related links...
- The Phillies are less motivated to trade Joe Blanton than they were earlier in the spring, when Joel Pineiro was around, Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com reports (Twitter links).
- The Phillies are cautiously optimistic about Chase Utley and hopeful that Ryan Howard will play in early May, Knobler writes.
- Braves third baseman Chipper Jones told reporters that his upcoming retirement will be final, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick writes (Twitter link). "I'm very comfortable with this decision and I'm ready to stick to it," Jones said this morning while discussing his decision.
Chipper Jones' 19th season in the Major Leagues will also be the final one of his career. The Braves announced that their 39-year-old third baseman will retire following the 2012 campaign.
Larry Wayne 'Chipper' Jones has been a fixture in the Braves' organization ever since then-GM Bobby Cox selected him first overall in the 1990 draft. He leads all active players in service with one club, and it sounds as though he'll remain involved with the Braves after he stops playing. The Braves and Jones have expressed mutual interest in continuing to work together in future years.
Jones' credentials are worthy of the Hall of Fame. The seven-time All-Star won the 1999 National League MVP Award and the 2008 NL batting title. He also has 454 home runs, 1561 RBI, more walks (1455) than strikeouts (1358), and a .304/.402/.533 career batting line. Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle (536) and Eddie Murray (504) are the only switch hitters with more career home runs.
Jones' contract included a 2013 club option for $7MM that would have become guaranteed at $9MM if Jones had played 123 games in 2012. The BB Abbott client earned upwards of $155MM as a Major Leaguer, according to Baseball-Reference.
Photo courtesy Icon SMI.
TUESDAY: Jones said yesterday that he's not sure if he'll make it through the season, but he was just joking, according to MLB.com's Mark Bowman. "It was tongue and cheek. I was kidding," Jones said. "I just got done playing eight innings with three at-bats. I was a little tired. I wasn't by any means suggesting I couldn't make it through the season."
MONDAY: Chipper Jones spoke to reporters today (including David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) about his health and future in the game, and the veteran third baseman sounded less than optimistic about both topics.
"The body is starting to tell me every morning when I wake up that [retirement] is getting close," Jones said. "I’m signed through the end of this year. If I play in a certain amount of games, I got an option for next year. I don’t know what next year entails....I don’t know if I can make it through this year."
Jones turns 40 in April and has been hinting about retirement for the last two seasons, so it's perhaps no surprise that he seems to be leaning towards hanging up his cleats after 2012. Then again, Jones didn't retire in 2010 nor after last season, so he could easily once again change his mind once he works through the offseason rust.
“The big reason for me coming back was my teammates wanted me to come back,” Jones said. “I still feel like I can be a productive major leaguer. We’ll give it this year and see how it feels.”
This is the last guaranteed season of Jones' contract with the Braves, who hold a $7MM option on their long-time star for 2013. That option will vest (and grow to $9MM) should Jones play in 123 games this season. He has passed the 123-game mark four times in the last seven years, including playing 126 games in 2011. Jones missed time last season due to arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, the fifth overall surgery he's endured on his knees.
"As I alluded to earlier, this game is going to wear you down, whether you have major injuries such as two torn ACLs, meniscus tears – I’ve got no meniscus in the right knee," Jones said. "That takes its toll. I’ve got to go when I can go and tell Fredi [Gonzalez] when I can’t.”
Martin Prado is Atlanta's primary backup option at third base. Jones' questionable physical condition is no doubt a major reason why the Braves held onto Prado despite a plethora of trade rumors this winter.
Which players can lock in 2013 contract options based on their 2012 performance? Let's take a look.
- Jason Bartlett, Padres: $5.5MM option vests with 432 plate appearances.
- Alex Gonzalez, Brewers: $4MM option vests with 525 plate appearances.
- Chipper Jones, Braves: $9MM+ option vests with 123 games.
- Kevin Gregg, Orioles: $6MM option vests with 50 games finished.
- Brett Myers, Astros: $10MM option vests based on unknown starting or relieving milestones.
- The Phillies will have a tough time re-signing Cole Hamels at anything less than full market value, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, as GM Ruben Amaro has rewarded big contracts to both under-control players like Ryan Howard, and free agents such as Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon and Jimmy Rollins.
- Within the same piece, Amaro addressed the signing of Papelbon this offseason, saying the club regarded Pap slightly higher than the incumbent Ryan Madson, who eventually signed with the Reds for far less. “We didn’t just want any closer. The way our team is set up, we wanted the best guy, or one of the top two or three guys. We could have gotten a ‘B’ or ‘B-plus’ closer. But we wanted an ‘A.’ With (Papelbon), as good and as durable as he has been, I felt he was the right fit for us.”
- Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, 40 in April, said 2012 may not be his final season, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Jones is in the final guaranteed year of his contract, but his deal includes a $7MM club option that will vest to $9MM if he plays in 123 games. “As long as I stay healthy and I’m having fun, I’m going to keep going. I sit here with three weeks to go before spring training and I’m not ready to say this is it.”
- Nationals manager Davey Johnson wants Bryce Harper to start the season as Washington's right fielder, hears Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. That seems like an aggressive approach to me, but it would create quite a bit of buzz in Washington -- and in baseball, in general.
The latest from Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports...
- The Dodgers' payroll will be well under $100MM in 2012, sources tell the FOX writers. If James Loney and Hiroki Kuroda return, there will be little left to spend. On the plus side, the Dodgers were able to reduce Matt Kemp's '12 salary to slightly more than $10MM as part of his new multiyear deal, in a year where as much as $16MM seemed possible through arbitration. Rosenthal and Morosi say the Dodgers would want to buy out at least two free agent years in a long-term deal for Clayton Kershaw, who may take home the NL Cy Young award tomorrow. With Kershaw under team control for three more years, the Dodgers don't have the same urgency to lock him up as they did Kemp. In MLBTR's exclusive arbitration salary projections, Kershaw was pegged at $8.4MM, easily a first-time record for a pitcher.
- The Astros "probably will acquire a shortstop and add low-cost relief pitching" this offseason, write Rosenthal and Morosi. GM Ed Wade told the FOX writers he plans to stick with Mark Melancon at closer. The GM explained his team's corner outfield situation: "From the standpoint of corner outfield, there are going to be guys out there, looking for opportunities. We’re pretty much the land of opportunity right now."
- Chipper Jones still enjoys playing, says Braves GM Frank Wren. The 39-year-old third baseman is signed through 2012 with a '13 vesting option. Rosenthal and Morosi say Martin Prado is available in the right deal, but the Braves value his versatility, including his ability to back up Jones.
- Yoenis Cespesdes could petition baseball to declare him a free agent fairly quickly, after he establishes temporary residence in the Dominican Republic. The residency part is expected to happen within 10 to 14 days.
- The Blue Jays have expressed interest in trading for Rockies reliever Huston Street. Street has one year and $8MM remaining on his contract. Rosenthal and Morosi say the Rockies remain interested in a deal for Prado, which would require Seth Smith and another piece.
The Braves narrowly missed the playoffs last week, losing to the Phillies in the final game of the regular season as the Cardinals surged past them into the Division Series. Atlanta GM Frank Wren looked ahead to the offseason in a Q&A with reporters, including Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The details:
- There’s a strong likelihood that Martin Prado will return to left field in 2012. The Braves haven’t discussed moving Prado to another position.
- The Braves know that Chipper Jones’ knee won’t permit him to play seven days in a row, so they’ll be on the lookout for utility help this offseason. They have a $1.5MM option for Eric Hinske in 2012 ($100K buyout).
- Wren isn’t looking for bullpen depth, since he was pleased with the late-season results from Cristhian Martinez and Anthony Varvaro.
- The Braves aren’t certain whether Kris Medlen will start or relieve in 2012.
- Wren is open to the idea of extending Michael Bourn. They “like the infusion of speed” and could discuss a mutliyear deal instead of going through the arbitration process. Bourn, who is scheduled to hit free agency after 2012, will earn a raise from $4.4MM next year.
The Braves will be facing extra pressure this offseason as the team tries to recover from its September collapse. Here's the latest from Turner Field....
- "There is some sentiment within the organization that Atlanta might be better off dealing Jason Heyward," writes ESPN's Buster Olney (Insider subscription required). Heyward suffered through a difficult sophomore season and as a result, "there are voices within the franchise asking the question of whether he can be counted on" as a long-term building block. I'd say that there's little chance the club gives up such a promising young talent, though as the Yunel Escobar trade showed, the Braves aren't afraid to deal a quality player if they feel the player isn't a fit. The Braves would be selling low on Heyward, though they would still recoup a nice return given his reputation and impressive 2010 rookie season.
- Chipper Jones says the team's September failure hasn't affected his decision to return in 2012, reports David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- Fredi Gonzalez confirmed that the entire Braves' coaching staff will return next year, reports MLB.com's Mark Bowman.
- The Braves don't require a major overhaul, opines Fangraphs' Eno Sarris, though he suggests a few position switches that could improve the team's defense.
- ESPN's Jim Bowden (Insider subscription req'd) agrees that the Braves don't need to shake up their roster and suggests that Atlanta could be one of the top suitors for Jose Reyes. Bowden also notes that the Braves have fewer looming issues than their September collapse partners in Boston: "While age and a barren farm system dim the Red Sox's upside going into 2012, the Braves have a much brighter outlook."