Atlanta Braves May Still Make a Left Field Move Before Spring Training
Although they waited until it already had New York Yankee ripples, the Atlanta Braves have made a splash in the free agent off-season market.
The Braves strengthened their pitching staff with the acquisitions of Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami.
Kawakami is unproven in America, so it isn’t known how significantly he will contribute to Atlanta’s 2009 pennant hopes.
Lowe is a steady pitcher who almost always wins in double digits and throws 200 innings.
Are the Braves finished improving their roster before Spring Training starts later this month?
Only Atlanta’s management knows for sure, but don’t bet on it.
While free agents like CC Sabathia, Mark Texeira and A.J. Burnett scored lucrative deals with the Yankees, the market has generally been down.
How else can you explain the fact that quality free agents like Manny Ramirez, Adam Dunn, Orlando Cabrera and Bobby Abreu are still available?
The Braves are not going to be able to afford someone like Ramirez who will command between $20-25 million per year, however, there has been talk that Atlanta may try to pursue Dunn or Abreu to anchor left field.
Dunn will probably require between $10-15 million a year, while Abreu will probably fall closer to the $8 million annually that Pat Burrell received from the Tampa Bay Rays.
If the Braves do go after one of these free agents for the left field spot, which one should they pursue? There are advantages and disadvantages to each player, but here is how it boils down.
Dunn is still in his prime at only 29 years of age, and should offer five or six more productive years.
What the Braves would get with Dunn is power. He has hit at least 40 homers in each of the past five seasons. He has also driven in at least 100 runs in four of those five seasons.
However, Dunn also strikes out a lot and doesn’t hit for the highest of averages. He has struck out at least 164 times in each of the past six seasons. Last year, Dunn only batted .238.
So, do the Braves sacrifice on-base percentage and average for a boatload of home runs and RBIs with Dunn?
Abreu will be 35 years old when the 2009 season starts, so he has much less to offer long-term than Dunn.
Abreu, though, is a career .300 hitter who has a much higher on-base percentage than Dunn. Abreu is guaranteed to give you at least 20 homers and 90-plus RBIs each season.
Abreu doesn’t roam the outfield grass like he used to, but he is still quicker than Dunn.
Neither of these players will win the Braves a Gold Glove in left field, but Abreu is less of a defensive liability.
The Braves have some young outfield talent that should be ready to contribute significantly within the next two years.
As a result, they should take a less expensive and shorter commitment and sign Abreu rather than Dunn.
Abreu can still help protect Chipper Jones and Brian McCann in Atlanta’s lineup. He will also fit with the Braves’ scheme of clutch hitters who hit for average and have a good on-base percentage.
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