Nick from Salt Lake City, Utah writes:
If the Braves lose Andruw Jones this offseason, what is the likelihood that Atlanta picks up a quality major league center fielder? Who could it be and what would be the price?
The chances are very good that the Braves pick up a solid center fielder to fill Andruw's void. And I'd say it's about 80% that Jones leaves the Braves after this season.
The Braves could try an internal option for center field in 2008, Brandon Jones. Jones will be 24 at that point. He's a fine athlete with speed, range, and a good arm. However, the Braves have been using Jones in left field at Double A this year and probably envision him playing that position in the bigs.
Turning to the crop of free agent center fielders, Ken Rosenthal has repeatedly mentioned Mike Cameron as a possibility for 2008. Cameron lives outside of Atlanta apparently. Though he will turn 35 in January, the Braves might need to give three years and $30MM to secure Cameron. That's not a lot less than Andruw Jones was making annually, but his contract was a huge bargain.
If things get out of hand with the Cameron bidding - and that's a legitimate possibility - the Braves could turn to Eric Byrnes, Aaron Rowand, Milton Bradley, or even Corey Patterson or Kenny Lofton. They've got options.
It should be noted that Tim Hudson's salary jumps from $6MM in 2007 to $13MM in 2008. John Smoltz goes from $8MM to $14MM. Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano will get decent arbitration raises.
Swapping Jones for Cameron and holding all else equal could still take the Braves' payroll from $87MM this year to $100MM in '08. Or they could let Bob Wickman go and keep it in the low 90s.
Let's get this mailbag thing rolling, see if anyone enjoys it. You can send me mailbag questions at email@example.com.
This question comes from Yochai of Brookline, MA:
What's the deal with Matt Clement? What are the Red Sox's plans in regards to him? Are they basically going to wait until his contract expires or are they actually waiting for him to come back to pitch?
Clement underwent shoulder surgery last September. An exploratory procedure found labrum and rotator cuff damage, and that was repaired. Clement's agent has compared the work done to that of Saints QB Drew Brees. Serious stuff.
Back in November, Clement was making positive progress in his rehab and hoped to return to action by the All-Star break. He threw for the first time in February. He was up to 105 feet in the last report in April, but wasn't close to throwing off a mound. According to that report, he was setback free and ahead of schedule.
Unfortunately I can't find a word in print about Clement since the April 25th Boston Herald article. Maybe injury gurus Will Carroll and Rick Wilton can dig something up, or a reporter can just ask Terry Francona.
Clement is earning $9.5MM this season in the last year of his contract. My guess is that the Red Sox will take their time with him and treat him as a complete luxury. If he's able to pitch competitively sometime around August, he's going to have to prove himself in the minors first. Will his velocity still be there? By the time Clement returns, Jon Lester may be in the rotation in place of Julian Tavarez. If not, and everyone else is healthy, Lester will be the sixth man.
I can definitely see Clement pitching in the bullpen to re-establish himself. If the Red Sox clinch a playoff berth, maybe they'd rest a rotation member and give him a start or two. It will mainly be an audition for the 2008 season, during which Clement will be 34. No doubt he will hook on somewhere as a free agent if his arm is still attached. Let's say $3 mil plus a ton of incentives. I'm rooting for him and I have my Clement goatee ready.