The Top 10 Atlanta Braves Untradeables
Yesterday, I gave you the 10 players who the Braves might or should try to trade for.
Today, I give you the list of players in the Braves organization that management shouldn't trade away—unless someone like Albert Pujols or Evan Longoria is coming to Atlanta.
No player is completely untouchable, but Frank Wren would have to be absolutely blown away for a player in a position of need in order to trade any of these 10 guys.
Some you might expect, others maybe not so much. We start with the obvious.
In about 10 years, Chipper's head will be shown in Cooperstown with the Braves "A" centered on the cap.
He's going to be remembered as one of the five best third basemen the game has ever seen, and one of the five best switch-hitters the game as ever seen.
He signed a three-year extension through 2012 just this past offseason—likely his final contract, as he'll be 40-years-old at the conclusion of the deal.
As a matter of fact, if I were GM Frank Wren, I wouldn't trade Chipper.
I'd use $1 million a year to pay for an orthopedist, a podiatrist, a masseuse, physical therapist and a nutritionist perhaps to be at his beck and call to keep him healthy with all of his nagging injuries.
2009 Stats: .322, 4 HR, 16 RBI
2009 Salary: $10 million
Contract Status: Three-year extension through 2012 (~$40 Million)
Big Mac showed Sunday why he's arguably the best catcher in baseball—and at age 25 may still be getting better.
He's averaged .300 with 24 HR and 90 RBI over his first three full seasons in the Majors, and now that he can see, he appears on his way to similar numbers in 2009.
2009 Stats: .303 BA, 5 HR, 17 RBI
2009 Salary: $3.7 million
Contract Status: Signed multi-year extension through 2013 (Age 29)
Near the end of the 2007 season, I remarked to a coworker that Yunel Escobar's production while Edgar Renteria was on the DL would enable the Braves to trade Renteria after the season. I thought Detroit was a logical landing spot, given that Carlos Guillen was moving to first base and the manager was Jim Leyland.
Ten years earlier, it was Renteria's base hit that won Leyland his World Series ring.
I said to this person "I could see the Braves sending him to the Tigers for a young pitcher and an outfield prospect." Two weeks later, Jair Jurrjens was a Brave.
JJ, as he's called by many Braves teammates and fans, has been solid if not spectacular at times for Atlanta.
He led the staff in wins and ERA as a 22-year-old rookie in 2008, and finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting. This year, he's looking like an All-Star, currently fourth in the Majors in ERA.
2009 Stats: 4-2, 2.07 ERA
2009 Salary: $450,000
Contract Status: Arbitration Eligible after 2010. Eligible for Free Agency after 2013.
Hanson is the best pitching prospect the Braves have had this decade.
At 6'6", 220, he possesses a 99 mph fastball, an A+ slider and curveball, a developing changeup, a no-hitter, the Arizona Fall League MVP award, and a good mental grasp on the game.
He's the ace of the future—and likely the very near future. I expect him to be right in the middle of the Braves rotation on Opening Day 2010, if not sooner.
Age: 22 (23 in August)
2009 Stats (AAA): 3-3, 1.59 ERA, 53.2 IP, 73:15 K:BB ratio, .160 BAA
Contract Status: Not eligible for free agency until after 2014 at the earliest.
When the Braves drafted him in the first round of the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft, scouts described the Braves as getting great value in the middle of the round, and a player who was "a more athletic version of Fred McGriff."
He's done well so far in his Minor League career. He hit .323 with 11 home runs in his first season at Rome (A).
The 6'4", 220 pound right fielder also has a great arm, and stole 15 bases last year. He's picked up right where he left off after moving up to Myrtle Beach.
He, like Tommy Hanson, was rated on of the five best prospects in all of baseball by both MLB.com and Baseball America.
If he continues progressing, I'd guess sometime around his 21st birthday in 2010, he'll get a call to the big club.
Age: 19 (20 in August)
2009 Stats (A): .282 BA, 9 HR, 19 RBI
Casey Kotchman only has his job as the Braves first baseman until this guy joins the Braves.
The 6'5", 220 lb first baseman earned the award as the top offensive player in the Atlanta Minor League system in 2008, hitting .316 with 18 HR, 95 RBI, and an .899 OPS at Class A Rome.
Like Heyward, he's still 19 and at Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach this season. His timetable for arrival is probably pretty close to Heyward's—late 2010 or 2011 if he continues producing.
Age: 19 (20 in September)
2009 Stats (A): .290 BA, 4 HR, 21 RBI
The other player heading to the Braves in October 2007 in exchange for Edgar Renteria was a fast outfielder.
He's actually rated as a faster player and better outfielder defensively than Jordan Schafer, who's proven to have those two tools as well. He stole 20 bases in 100 games last season at Myrtle Beach and scored 75 runs.
He's a year or two away, currently knocking around the pitchers in the Southern League. A September call-up in 2010 is not out of the question.
Age: 21 (22 in September)
2009 Stats (AA): .339 BA, 0 HR, 18 RBI with 9 SB
Myrtle Beach is supposed to be a tough park to hit in. Looking at Cody Johnson's numbers this season would make you think otherwise.
At 6'4", 195 lbs, the lefty-swinging outfielder belted 26 home runs in Rome in 2008 and drove in 89 runs in just 127 games.
This season at Myrtle Beach his numbers are better. He's not noted for defense, but considering Hernandez and Schafer are centerfielders and Jason Heyward is slotted to play right, that's not much of an issue.
The one issue is that while he's got a lot of power, he whiffs a lot. He totaled 177 Ks in less than 500 AB in 2008. His strikeout rate is still above 35 percent this year. Adam Dunn seems to make that ratio work.
Age: 20 (21 in August)
2009 Stats (A): .300 BA, 16 HR, 32 RBI with a 1.004 OPS.
I jump back to the Major League club because the Braves just spent $60 million for a 35-year-old sinkerballer.
He's not a true No. 1, but considering what the Braves needed to add, he's perfect. He'll be 39 by the time his contract is up after the 2012 season, but he just crossed the 2,000 inning threshold in his last start.
He's only been a starter for eight seasons, but he's a workout fiend between starts, doesn't have a violent delivery that would put undue stress on his arm and body, and has made at least 32 starts and pitched at least 182 innings EVERY year since he became a full-time starter in 2002. His career ERA is 3.74 and has gone 112-77 over the past seven-plus seasons.
And he will be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter eventually. Tommy Hanson will be a No. 1...and so is the last guy on this slide show...
Age: 35 (36 next week)
2009 Stats: 6-2, 3.45 ERA in 62.0 IP
2009 Salary: $15 million
Contract Status: Four-year, $60 million contract through 2012
Unless you're a rebuilding team—which the Braves aren't—you never trade away your ace.
Tim Hudson's on his way back, and for the season-and-a-half leading up to his Tommy John surgery in August 2008, he was about as good as any pitcher in baseball.
He's the real staff ace, well-liked, and wanted to come to Atlanta enough that he signed a five-year deal when the Braves brought him over from Oakland.
He's the closest to free agency of anyone on this list, so the Braves could conceivably let him walk.
However, there'd be no logic in that. He's otherwise healthy, very athletic, and has a career 3.48 ERA to go with a 146-77 career record.
A pitcher who's got a winning percentage of about .650 is not one you let go, or trade away while he's still good.
He's scheduled to return in August, and has volunteered to pitch out of the bullpen if there's no slot for him in the rotation at the time. Whether he returns to the rotation late this year or early in 2010, he'll be fronting the best starting staff top to bottom in the majors.
You care to find me a better starting five from the bunch of Hudson, Lowe, Jurrjens, Vazquez, Kawakami, and Hanson? Good luck trying.
Age: 33 (34 in July)
2008 Stats: 11-7, 3.17 ERA
2009 Salary: $15.5 million
Contract Status: $12 million Team Option for 2010.
Why these guys?
The Braves may have been known for pitching over the past 2 decades, but no pitcher except Hanson is anywhere close to untouchable. Actually, this decade the Braves have probably been the best in baseball at developing catchers and middle infielders.
They traded away Tyler Flowers, Max Ramirez and Jarrod Saltalamacchia because they'd already had Brian McCann become an All-Star at age 22.
The Braves were able to trade Edgar Renteria because Yunel Escobar was ready. Rafael Furcal was the Rookie of the Year. Mark DeRosa is currently a coveted player by many teams.
None of the middle infielders are untradeable because there's so much depth, any one could potentially be traded to fill a need. Omar Infante and Martin Prado are excellent bench players who could be starters. Diory Hernandez just got called up after hitting about .350 at AAA Gwinnett.
The one thing this list showed is that the Braves either have young talent at the major league level or great prospects on the way at every position - except third base.
It won't be easy to replace Chipper Jones, and both Van Pope and Eric Campbell at AA Mississippi need to improve offensively if they're going to make it to the majors.
Hope you enjoyed this. Please take a look at 10 guys who might be good to trade for.