5 Ways Atlanta Braves Can Replace Chipper and Bourn's Production Next Season

Kevin Coughlin@@KevCough63Correspondent INovember 27, 2012

5 Ways Atlanta Braves Can Replace Chipper and Bourn's Production Next Season

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    It is the end of an era: the Atlanta Braves will enter 2013 without Chipper Jones.

    Moreover, the Braves also look like they might lose out on resigning center fielder Michael Bourn.

    Despite winning 94 games in 2012, the Braves could not manage to get past the Wild Card round this season—losing a controversial one-game playoff to the St. Louis Cardinals. If they hope to build on this outcome in 2013, the holes left by the departures of Jones and Bourn must be filled immediately.

    Certainly, one option is to pursue Bourn in free agency, but if the Braves opt to look elsewhere, here are five ways they can replace these two All-Stars.

Acquire David Wright

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    This might not be an immediate solution, as the Mets have already picked up their option on third baseman David Wright.

    However, Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria signed a six-year contract extension worth $100 million and Ryan Zimmerman signed a similar deal before the season. 

    That sets a market for Wright that the Mets do not necessarily have the luxury of competing in when the third baseman becomes a free agent following the 2013 season.

    The Braves, however, have a deep list of third-base prospects that could play well in a deal with a Mets team that desperately needs to rebuild.

    What’s more, should the Braves fail to retain Bourn, that money can be re-invested in signing Wright long-term.

Move Martin Prado to Third Base

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    Martin Prado—currently the Braves’ left fielder—started 25 games at third base this season.

    In that time, Prado committed just one error. Prado is also an established hitter with a career .295 mark.

    This does not replace Chipper Jones, however, but rather just rearranges the problem.

    What this move does do is open a spot for another outfielder.  

    Here, the Braves already have options—like Jordan Schafer—and the free agent list is a bit deeper, perhaps inviting a player like Shane Victorino.

Sign Josh Hamilton

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    I am not saying this is a likely scenario, but Josh Hamilton has tools that demand consideration from every team.

    That’s the intrigue of Josh Hamilton.

    Hamilton’s 43 home runs and 128 RBI can definitely makeup for the loss of Chipper Jones, and, although not a leadoff hitter, he can make up for Bourn in center field.

    In the end, the Braves are a team that can win now, with or without spending on Hamilton.  Still, if fans have to say goodbye to favorites like Chipper and Bourn, why not say hello to Josh Hamilton?

Sign BJ Upton

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    This is the deal I think is most likely ti happen, replacing one All-Star center fielder with another.

    BJ Upton and Michael Bourn match up pretty well, statistically. 

    Both are big base-stealing threats—Bourn had 42 in 2012 while Upton had 31—and can bat leadoff.

    Upton, in recent years, has been more of a No. 2 hitter, but did have six home runs and 11 RBI in 55 at-bats as a leadoff hitter last year.

    Where they do differ is batting average—Upton is a career .255 hitter and Bourn is a career .272 hitter.  Still, Upton hits for much more power, blasting 28 home runs in 2012.

Make Andrelton Simmons the Leadoff Hitter

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    Although he played in just 49 games in 2012, it looks like the Braves will be able to move forward successfully with shortstop Andrelton Simmons.

    Although he hit eighth in the lineup 106 times, Simmons did see success at the plate in 2012, totaling a .289 average with 19 RBI.  As a No. 8 hitter, Simmons batted .311.

    If the Braves can breed Simmons as a leadoff hitter in the spring, the answer to their questions at the top of their lineup can be solved in-house.  This certainly hinges on Simmons staying healthy but, if he can, the future is bright for the Braves and their newest Antillean.