Posts Tagged ‘contract extension

10
Nov
09

To trade Vazquez or not to trade… that is the question?

Javier Vazquez

What in the world will the Atlanta Braves decide to do with Javier Vazquez?

That is the burning question surrounding Braves Nation on the MLB Hot Stove this week at the GM meetings.

Vazquez, 33, is coming off a career year and posted one of the best seasons of any major league pitcher in 2009.

His 15-10 record is misleading as he could have won at least 18 games with better run support from the Braves’ often inconsistent offense. The eye popping stats to take note of for Javy were his 2.87 ERA and 238 strikeouts with only 44 walks in 219-1/3 innings pitched.

Vazquez has also proven to be a durable horse, pitching more than 200 innings in nine of the past ten seasons.

So, why on earth would a Braves team who came thisclose to playing October baseball consider trading arguably its best starting pitcher?

I’ll break it down:

Atlanta is blessed with a wealth of starting pitching depth.

As it stands, their rotation is set to return Jair Jurrjens, rookie sensation Tommy Hanson, veteran Derek Lowe, Japanese standout Kenshin Kawakami, and Vazquez, who has one year, $11.5 million remaining on his contract.

Add Tim Hudson to the mix, who the Braves have agreed to terms on a new three-year contract, which is set to be finalized after the veteran hurler’s MRI on his elbow is completed later this week, and Atlanta will have six starting pitchers with only five slots to fill.

It is no secret that Atlanta is looking to add a power, right-handed bat to its lineup.

This year’s crop of free agent hitters appears underwhelming, which makes the likelihood of the Braves finding a bat on the trade market that much higher.

While the club would much rather trade Derek Lowe or would even prefer to move Kawakami over Vazquez, it seems Javy is the prized piece that could net the Braves the greatest return.

Kawakami is still owed $13.3 million over the next two years, but the Braves should be able to find suitors for him, if they decide to go that route.

Lowe’s remaining three-year, $45 million dollar contract stands to be much tougher to move, without the team taking on a portion of the salary to unload him, which I can’t see the cost conscious Braves agreeing to do.

Despite Lowe’s disappointing first season in Atlanta, the veteran righty posted a 15-10 record with an inflated 4.67 ERA, his career track record makes him a strong candidate for a rebound season.

And, with the dearth of starting pitching talent on the free agent market, some teams desperately seeking an added boost to their staff, may opt to engage in trade talks with the Braves regarding Lowe.

However, in the event that the Braves did move Kawakami or Lowe, they likely aren’t going to get the young power hitter they covet in return.

That may only happen if the team makes Vazquez available.

But, even though Atlanta knows that Javy is a hot commodity and that he may not duplicate the success he enjoyed last season, it still seems unlikely the team will move him.

He has a no-trade clause to teams in the NL West and AL West, but that doesn’t seem to be the barrier stopping a potential deal from being struck, as there are plenty of other trade partners the Braves could find a match with.

It is not just Vazquez’s numbers alone but the outpouring of support in the clubhouse for his return that has played a key role in the Braves’ decision to now consider offering a contract extension to the right-hander, in lieu of a trade.

Many players and team officials have credited Vazquez as being a mentor to the young Jair Jurrjens, helping him ascend to record heights this season.

Since Vazquez has openly expressed his desire to remain in Atlanta this season and beyond, it is not unreasonable to think an extension could be worked out between the two sides this offseason.

It seems to be the Braves’ first priority and desire to retain Vazquez’s services at this point, however, if the club does approach Vazquez about an extension and the two can’t come to terms on a deal, it is then that I think the team will more seriously explore potential trade scenarios.

The Braves know Vazquez’s value if they make him available, but the tipping point may be if the team feels they could lose him at the end of next season to free agency.

If that is the case, then Atlanta may want to sell high on Vazquez and cash in while they still can.

In the meantime, let the speculation continue…..

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24
Apr
09

Happy Birthday Chipper!

Chipper Jones during batting practice in Philadelphia, PA.

Chipper Jones during batting practice in Philadelphia, PA.

Happy 37th Birthday Chipper Jones!

Wait, did I say 37? That must be a typo.

It feels like just yesterday that I was 11 years old enamored with the wide-eyed “rook,” high socks and all, manning third base for the 1995 World Champion Atlanta Braves.

Ah Champions of baseball! Chipper Jones was instantly an Atlanta sports hero and icon, helping to lead a franchise that had been to three previous, consecutive postseasons and two World Series’ to their first ever title in his first full season in the majors.

Fans weren’t surprised. Atlanta was buzzing about Chipper long before he made his Major League debut. The DeLand, Fla native was chosen with the 1st pick in the 1990 Amateur draft by the Bravos. Manager Bobby Cox was the General Manager at the time which was the beginning of a storied, now nineteen year relationship between the two.

The road to the bigs wasn’t easy for Atlanta’s golden boy. Chipper was drafted a shortstop but was moved to third base in the minors before making his Major League debut in September of 1993. Chipper was expected to compete for a job in the Braves outfield (as he was blocked by Terry Pendleton at third base and left fielder Ron Gant had suffered a broken leg in the off-season) but tore his ACL and as a result missed the entire year.

In 1995, it was finally Chipper’s time to shine. Jones finished runner-up to the Dodgers phenom pitcher Hideo Nomo in the Rookie of the Year balloting. He led all major league rookies in RBI and runs scored, among other categories. But most notable was his appearance in the World Series which finally found the Braves victorious. Atlanta defeated Cleveland in six games.

There was no sophomore slump for Chipper, as he proved in 1996 that he was the real deal. Jones helped lead the Braves back to the World Series. However, the Yankees dashed the Braves hopes of winning back-to-back championships, and in six games defeated Atlanta.

Chipper’s personal accolades continued to pour in. In 1999, he was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player. He became the first player to ever hit over .300 with 40 or more homeruns (45) and doubles (41), drawing 100 or more walks (126), RBI (110), and runs scored (116) and stealing 20 or more bases (25). Chipper led the Braves back to the World Series that season but Atlanta was swept in four games by the Yankees.

Chipper will go down in history as one of the greatest switch hitters of all-time. He is behind only Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray on the all-time switch hitter career home run list.

The lifetime Brave was also selected to six All-Star games, won the Silver Slugger at 3rd base twice, had eight consecutive 100 RBI seasons (1996-2003) and nabbed the 2008 National League batting title.

This past Spring Training, Chipper inked a three-year, 42-million dollar contract extension with Atlanta. Chipper’s dream of playing his entire career with the Braves now seems like it will become a reality.

Braves fans can now rejoice!

It has been almost two decades that I have watched Chipper sport the tomahawk across his chest. When I think of the Atlanta Braves, I think of Chipper Jones. The two go hand-in-hand. It’s all I’ve ever known as a fan and it’s all he’s ever known as a player.

As a person, he’s grown and evolved into a man that all of his fans, myself atop the list, should be proud of. Chipper’s human and he’s made mistakes. I don’t put him on a pedestal, but I do believe his imperfections and flaws make him a relatable hero, which has given me a personal rooting interest.

So today, I salute you Chipper Jones… for the iconic ballplayer you are and the honorable man that you’ve become. May this year bring you continued success, personally and professionally and good health, on and off the field.

And maybe, just maybe, if we are all lucky… may it bring you and Atlanta another World Championship!




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