This has to be my favorite time of year. The beautiful leaves have fallen. The air is getting much cooler. Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Gone is summer—the long days, the starry nights.
College Football Bowl season is so close we can taste it, NCAA Basketball holiday tournaments are getting ready to begin, and Hot Stove League baseball is in hyper mode.
The latter of that trio is one of my favorite aspects of the great sport of baseball. That time where everyone is 0-0. Every team has a shot. And depending on what your team does over the next few months can determine how realistic that shot will be.
For the Atlanta Braves, this time of year in ’08 was up-and-down to say the least. We bade farewell to hometown hero, John Smoltz; just missed on bringing a fan-favorite, Rafael Furcal, back; yet we welcomed Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, and Kenshin Kawakami.
My expectations, based on what I’ve heard and seen over the last few weeks, are for GM Frank Wren to explore the trade and free agent markets to fill holes in the outfield and at first base.
After looking over the free agent market for a few days I have singled out five players that I believe are worthy of consideration by the Braves.
As much as I want to place Jason Bay, Matt Holiday, and Chone Figgins on this list, I am realistic. I understand there might be a better chance of a snowstorm in Hades than for any of these guys to sign on the dotted line with Atlanta.
So I tried to keep this list as realistic as possible. This list is based on any potential signee to basically become a stop-gap for a year or two while a few Atlanta’s highly touted prospects complete their development phase.
Here they are in order of my preference.
Why? I am a big LaRoche fan. One of the biggest. I enjoyed seeing him back in Atlanta this year. But simply stated, the guy is not going to sign a two-year deal to stay in Atlanta.
It is the prime of his career and if he can get a multi-year offer, which he is purportedly looking for, he should take it.
Delgado is one injury-plagued season removed from a .271, 38 HR, 115 RBI statline.
How? Considering his age (37), and the fact that his ’09 season was over before May he should be an affordable, short term steal. The bottom line is he will be working on one or two year deals for the rest of his career.
Sign him to a $6 million, incentive laden, one-year deal with a mutual option for 2012. If Freddie Freeman is ready in 2011, as is projected, let Delgado go then. For 2010, however, he’d be a steal and will likely put up at least 20 HR, 80 RBI.
Why? To those of you who have been reading my articles since the summer you know I have an affinity for Dye. He’s a former Brave who was traded in perhaps the stupidest deal of John Shuerholtz’s tenure. (Michael Tucker and Keith Lockhart for Dye)
As aging veterans go, Dye has to be near the top of the list of declining former power hitters.
Yet, even though the decline started last season, he still belted 27 HR’s, and knocked in 81 RBI. He’s not the fleet-footed, 24-year-old outfielder Braves fans will remember, but neither was Garret Anderson. He’s right-handed and will still provide power. Exactly what the Braves need.
How? He’s an aging veteran near the end of a fine career. He could probably be had for a couple years at a relatively low salary ($5-6 million) and his remaining power could prove to be the boost Atlanta needs in that department.
Why? For his age, 37, Cameron still gets around very well. He’s still has plenty of speed and has a better than average glove.
He’s right-handed and still has plenty of power. He hit 24 HRs last season for Milwaukee and could prove to be a valuable piece of the puzzle in Atlanta.
How? He’s from LaGrange, Ga, which could make Atlanta even more appetizing. He made $10 million last season, and he is not coming off of an injury, so he could be expecting money close to that amount for more years than the Braves would be willing to offer.
He also strikes out a ton (averages 137 Ks a season), but the risk/reward of his power potential might make that easier to take.
Why? The Braves coveted the outfielder at one point and were rumored to be trying to trade for him before he was lost to his second Tommy John surgery last season.
Injuries aside, he’s only 31 and has a ridiculous bat that will almost guarantee you 20 HRs and 75 RBI. He’s right-handed, which would fit in perfectly for Atlanta. And if you are worried about his arm, just stick him at first base, where he has played on occasion.
How? As I stated previously, he missed all of last season due to Tommy John surgery.
He should be easily signable to a one-year deal in which he could drastically improve his stock for the 2011 free agent market when, at only 32 years of age, he could rack up depending on what he does in Atlanta in ’10.
Why? The dude can still rake. Sure, he’s a lefty and the Braves need a righty, but his ability for clutch hits alone are worthy of taking a closer look. His home run totals were slightly exaggerated this season since 81 of his games are played in a little league park, but he still has some pop.
How? As of now it appears the Yankees want him back. We all know the Braves cannot compete with the Yanks in a bidding war. But he is 36 and could be to the point where he has to start taking smaller salaries at less years.
I would bet that he would want somewhere near $9-10 million at least, which would probably preclude the Braves from signing him, but it’s worth looking into.