Here we sit in the first week of 2010, and the Atlanta Braves still, seemingly, have a hole to fill in the outfield.
With a starting group currently composed of Cabrera-McLouth-Diaz (the Braves will probably end up taking the Hanson route with Heyward), you can kind of see why.
With that in mind, though, you have to think that the Braves aren't going to be looking to break the bank (sorry, no Matt Holliday ) since they could go to war with that group and be okay.
But, a player better than Melk-man would be nice since he's really not much more than an above-average fourth outfielder.
So, what are the Braves' options?
For me, there are four names that really stand out as possible fits: Jermaine Dye , Johnny Damon , Xavier Nady , and Dan Uggla (here 's a little more on how that would work).
Each of these guys bring their own pros and cons to the table, so let's take a quick look at each.
Dye is, for me, the least likely fit out of this group.
Last season was not a good season for the aging slugger.
Sure, he knocked 27 homers, but he also hit 20 of those before the break and only hit .179 after the break.
Those second half numbers are, to me, indicative of a guy losing a bit of his luster (especially the extreme power outage).
But, if he would be receptive to a one-year, incentive laden deal to serve as a swing-man between left field, first base (to occasionally spell Glaus), and the bench, there could be a fit.
However, he looks like a Garret Anderson with a lower average and only slightly more power to me.
And I'm not sure that that is what the Braves are looking for.
Damon is a very intriguing option for Atlanta.
He can still run a bit (after all, 12 stolen bases isn't exactly a lot) and still gets on base at a pretty reasonable clip (.365 OBP last season in New York).
You wouldn't expect the same power output as last season from him, but I think 15-20 homers with 40 or so extra-base hits is possible.
Plus, Damon could bat lead-off for the Braves, which would allow Cox to move Nate McLouth down in the order.
However, Damon has two issues: he throws like a girl (nothing's going to change that), and he's asking for multiple years (at a pretty high salary).
At 36 with Heyward in the wings, I don't think that the Braves would be wise to cough up any contract close to two years at nine million per season.
But, if he were to drop his asking price to maybe one year at six or seven million...it would make a lot of sense for the Braves.
Xavier Nady is another free agent whose skill set makes a lot of sense for Atlanta.
Even though he would add another "if" to the Braves' roster coming off of his second Tommy John Surgery, his ability to play the outfield well and first base would seem to make him a nice fit.
If healthy, you'd be looking at a .280-.290 hitter that could jack about 20-25 homers.
However, he, as Damon, is a bit lofty in his contract expectations as some sources are saying that he's looking for a deal that will give him seven to eight million dollars annually.
But, if the market plays out as it should and the Braves could land him at a base salary of four million dollars (with incentives for games played), he would be a worthwhile gamble.
Any more than that, though, and I'd probably steer clear.
A guy like Dan Uggla would seem to make the most sense for the Braves, though.
He would solidify the line-up with reliable power (albeit with a poor average) and could, in a roundabout way, leave the outfield open for a midseason Heyward arrival.
While the other guys would be great fits for the months of April through June, they could also compromise Heyward's potential showing.
By making a trade for Uggla, whom the Braves have expressed mild interest in, they would, seemingly, have to give up a Major League outfielder (Diaz or Cabrera) and a couple of prospects.
That would leave the door open for J-Hey when the time comes to bring him up without having to relegate one outfielder to the minors (even though the Braves could go with five outfielders on the roster, I don't think that would be the best move...given Omar Infante's ability to play there, they would be wasting a roster spot with a guy who could get into the line-up only once every two weeks or so).
Each of these guys brings his own abilities to the table, as well as their own shortcomings (be it price, injury, age, or specific facets of their game).
So, who ya got?
Do you take the (most likely) cheapest in Dye?
The "fast" old guy with a pretty ugly price tag in Damon?
The biggest injury risk in Nady?
The guy you'll have to trade for with an intra-divisional foe in Uggla?
Do you stay put?
Or, do you go down a different path?