Atlanta Braves payroll and future contracts, part two: Gonzalez gone?
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After examining the starting rotation for next year, next up is the hitters. (Click here to get a refresher on what’s going on and the starting rotation.) Not much will change this off-season, but a strong SS free-agent market has me thinking a big splash is in the making.
Shall we dive in?
C – Brian McCann (Age 27). Current stats: .278 season average that is in large part to his recent struggles. He’s only batting .118 in his last 10 games. He has clubbed 23 HRs along with 16 doubles in only 112 games.
Notes: McCann is easily one of the top catchers in the game and arguably the top NL catcher. He’s locked in for a reasonable amount and even though he’s had his share of medical problems (eyes), he still hits for a high average with decent power. I’m sure the Braves would like to see him be less “physical” behind the plate, but he’s as hard nosed as ball players come.
1B – Freddie Freeman (Age 21). Current stats: Freeman continues to stay hot, batting .324 in his last 10 games. He’s second on the team in RBIs with 67 and has 18 round trippers to compliment his 30 doubles. Leads the team with a .293 batting average … and he’s only 21.
2012: $0.44M – $0.50M
Notes: Freddie helped take the pressure off of Heyward’s sophmore year by putting up ROY numbers. Freeman, who started out slow, has drawn praise from teammates and opponents around the league for his stellar defense. His large swing and gap to gap power has shown a limitless potential that he will certainly grow into. Look for Freddie to be the first player in over 10 years to man first base for more than two years consecutively.
2B – Dan Uggla (Age 31). Current stats: After a 33-game hitting streak, Uggla’s average currently stands at a .235. He leads the team with 33 HRs and 76 RBIs. He’s batting .278 with three homers in his last 10 games.
Notes: Don’t let his line fool you. He’s carried this team at times. Most were debating whether he would get 30 HRs this year after the way he started (waaay below the Mendoza line in June) but went on a 33-game hitting tear that brought his average up 50 points and powered 15 HRs in that span. Here we are in September debating if he can get to 40. He won NL player of the month for August. It’s safe to say he has finally adjusted to his new team and next year should be even better, at least consistently.
SS – Alex Gonzalez (Age 34). Current stats: Gonzalez has been a disappointment this year, batting .228 with only 12 homers on the year. If not for his stellar defense, fans would be in a rage. He’s been better in his last 10 games, batting .233 … sigh.
2012: Free Agent
Notes: At $2.5M, Gonzalez is a good deal. He’s a great stopgap. He’s a good player. Plays great defense and hits OK at times, but he’s nowhere near what Braves fans are used to at shortstop. We’re used to seeing our shortstops batting at the top of the lineup, high average and on base percentage. We won’t get that with Gonzalez. He doesn’t argue with teammates, he plays the game hard, there is nothing wrong with him and he’s a number-eight hitter in the Braves lineup, not too shabby. With the Braves not really having any “stellar” prospects available at short, they might try to bring him back. If he’s looking for a raise, let’s say more than $4M, I don’t think it will happen. The Braves will either fill the void from the minors, trade or via free agency because we all know Rafael Furcal would love to come back …
3B – Chipper Jones (Age 39). Current stats: Jones has been hot in his last 10 games, batting .324 while belting three homers. He sports a .283/.354/.486 line so far this season.
2011: $13M with $1M in signing bonuses
2012: $13M with $1M in signing bonuses
Notes: Chipper isn’t going anywhere. Chipper won’t be traded. Chipper isn’t going to retire this year. Chipper is a Hall of Fame player. Have I said enough?
CF – Michael Bourn (Age 28). Current stats: He just gets on base and then steals. .298 batting average to go with 51 steals. That’s good enough.
2012: $5M – $6.5M
Notes: Bourn brings a dynamic lead-off hitter that the Braves have needed since Furcal. He leads the league in stolen bases, year in and year out, and there hasn’t been a problem with him in the clubhouse. The Braves will try to lock him up long term during the off-season, but with Bourn a Scott Boras client, it’s unlikely.
LF – Martin Prado (Age 27). Current stats: Yes, he has struggled. Batting .225 in his last 10 games. He has 25 doubles to go with 11 long balls in 112 games.
2012: $3.5M – $4.5M
Notes: Prado and McCann carried the Braves early in the season and then an injury comes along to damper his season. He’s still putting up a respectable line, but well below Martin’s standards. The Braves have juggled him a bit in the lineup to get him going recently and moving him further down the lineup seems to have paid off. In the past, it’s been, when Prado rolls, the Braves do. He’s a tremendous positive clubhouse guy but the Braves would probably be open to trading him in the winter if it means to save money to bring in a big-time bat.
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