In the Atlanta Braves recent win over the Houston Astros, longtime third baseman Chipper Jones tore his left ACL and will need season-ending surgery to repair it.
Right off the bat, this leaves the Braves (and Jones) with many questions. While the long term question facing Jones may be about retirement (which I go into more detail about here), the short term focus for Atlanta is on finding a capable replacement for Chipper.
With the trade deadline already passed, I’m not sure that the Braves would be able to make a deal for anyone better than the players currently on their bench, and they would be wise to simply look within the organization.
Omar Infante/Brooks Conrad
The obvious solution to Chipper’s injury is to replace him with some combination of Infante and Conrad. For the next week, this would be primarily Conrad (as Infante has been filling in for the injured Martin Prado). In the long run, the two would share time, while Infante would also continue to back up other positions for Atlanta.
The drawback to this solution is that the Braves lose some of the talent off of their bench, which may be the best in the league. Infante is an All-Star utility player who is invaluable to the Braves, and nobody else on the Braves roster would be able to back up so many positions.
Conrad has also been a huge boost to the bench, hitting multiple grand slams and giving the bench a power bat that it has lacked in recent years.
Half of you might be saying, “Who?” right now.
Surprisingly, Timmons has been in the organization longer than most of the guys currently on the Atlanta roster. Now in his ninth professional season (all within Atlanta's minor league system), Timmons has proved himself a capable hitter and on-base machine in AAA.
Thus far in 2010, Timmons has compiled a .289/.397/.402 line in Gwinnett. Although he has little power (the same can be said about Infante), Wes has a great career minor league on-base percentage (.382), something that can’t be said about Conrad or Infante.
Over the past two seasons in AAA, Timmons has proved he deserves a shot at the major league level, and the injury to Chipper might finally give him a chance.
Glaus to Third, Freeman to First
I’ll admit, this idea may be somewhat of a stretch. But first baseman Troy Glaus has spent the majority of his career playing third base, and he might be able to switch back to third and allow the Braves to call up Freddie Freeman.
While many could (and will) make the case that Freeman deserves to be starting over Glaus, it would appear that Bobby Cox will continue to be loyal to Glaus, and this may be the only way to get the Braves top hitting prospect to the majors.
In 2010, Freeman has a .305/.367/.506 line in AAA (and he is only 20 right now) and was ranked 20th in Baseball America’s mid-season prospect list.
What Will Happen
If I had to guess, I would say the Braves will simply let Infante and Conrad split time at third base for the remainder of the season, which probably will be the best for the Braves.
I’m hoping that Wes Timmons will get called up to Atlanta, although the Braves will likely just keep Diory Hernandez on the roster after Martin Prado returns from his injury.
While I like the third option because it gets Freeman to the majors (and the Braves could use a power bat at this point) I don’t really like the thought of putting Glaus at third base. Ideally, Glaus would be benched and Freeman could start at first, but that doesn’t seem to be an option that Braves management wants to pursue.
While nobody will be able to replace the leadership that Chipper had in the clubhouse, Infante and Conrad are capable backups (heck, Infante was an All-Star and Chipper wasn’t) and the Braves would be wise to use this opportunity to give them more playing time.