Will Michael Bourn return in 2013?
Even though the Braves are playing very good baseball right now, change is inevitable.
After this season, just like almost any other winter, the Braves will make some changes to their roster. Some of these moves will be made by the front office to help the Braves reach the playoffs in 2013, but some players are likely to leave as free agents.
This article takes a look at five players who aren't likely to be wearing a Braves uniform in 2013. I decided not to include Chipper Jones, as that move is already well-known.
Jair Jurrjens is likely gone at the end of the year.
After spending last winter on the trading block, then having a disappointing season this year, Jair Jurrjens appears to be a candidate to leave the organization.
Jurrjens was an All-Star in 2011, and was arguably the best pitcher in the game for the first half of this season before an injury knocked him out for the remainder of the year.
He may not have been expected to repeat that level of success going forward, but he was expected to remain a solid middle-of-the-rotation pitcher.
With the Braves already Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson, Ben Sheets, Paul Maholm, Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor, Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran as options, Jurrjens couldn't have picked a worse time to have a clunker of a season.
The Braves wanted to get rid of Jurrjens a year ago, and that was before he struggled badly. Now the Braves have reason to cut the cord and non-tender him, so it's unlikely that he returns.
Paul Janish has been good with the glove.
The injury to Andrelton Simmons caused the Braves to look outside the organization to find a replacement at shortstop.
Then when Jack Wilson went down right after with a minor injury, the Braves got that extra push to bring in a veteran with a good glove.
Despite hitting just .223 with no homers and seven RBI in 35 games with Atlanta, Janish has been very solid. This is because he is one of the better fielding shortstops in the league, and he has helped the defense remain strong while Simmons has been out.
Janish is likely to be gone at the end of the year because there isn't a place for him.
Obviously shortstop belongs to Andrelton Simmons, the top young prospect who has shown some promise with the bat to go with a great glove. Second base is going to belong to Dan Uggla, in part due to his big contract.
Then, the utility spot may go to Tyler Pastornicky, who has shown some promise with the bat as a rookie.
Matt Diaz isn't likely to return to Atlanta next year.
Matt Diaz has spent parts of seven seasons with the Braves, mostly being used as a specialist off the bench against left-handed pitching. He has done very well in that role for most of his time in Atlanta, where he has hit .299 in his career.
This year Diaz has struggled. The 34-year-old Diaz is hitting just .222/.280/.333 with two homers and 13 RBI over 51 games, before going out with an injury. He's also only hitting .269 against lefties, which is a very low number for him.
Diaz is getting older and less productive, and with his contract set to expire, it is likely that the Braves allow him to walk, as they already did once with Diaz following the 2010 season, when he left Atlanta and signed with the Pirates.
Eric Hinske has struggled at the plate this year.
Just like Matt Diaz, Eric Hinske has been a very potent bat off the bench during his career. However, also like Diaz, the 2002 American League Rookie of the Year is getting up there in age.
Hinske is now 35 years old and is starting to play like it.
After hitting 21 homers with 79 RBI over the last two seasons, Hinske was quietly among the top bench bats in the National League. This year he has failed to play at that level, hitting just .203/.280/.297 with a homer and 12 RBI in 75 games.
Hinske has actually been pretty bad this year overall, and that has led to the team signing Lyle Overbay and trading for Reed Johnson to be bench pieces for the stretch run.
Michael Bourn may cost too much for the Braves.
Michael Bourn has been one of the keys to the season for the Atlanta Braves, but his strong individual campaign makes it unlikely that he returns.
Liberty Media, the Braves owners, is known to be cheap. That means that—although there is some money to play with this winter with some big contracts set to come off the books—the group may not be willing to commit a huge chunk of cash to a 30-year-old outfielder who bases his game around speed.
Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that the Nationals and Phillies will also be chasing Bourn this winter, and others have been saying the same thing. This is not a good situation for the Braves, as Bourn is a Scott Boras client, and they will be fighting against teams with more cash to keep their All-Star center fielder.
It's easy to see the Braves making an effort to keep Bourn, but come up short in the end.
Unfortunately with the current ownership group, this scenario seems very likely.