If there was any doubt that injuries have attacked the Braves recently you need only look at the lineup that beat Pittsburgh and a very good Charlie Morton 2-0 tonight. Jordan Schafer led off and played center, he didn’t get a hit but his speed resulted in our second run. The wildly flailing without contact Dan Uggla has a nice night’s rest making way for Brooks Conrad to get his first start at second base. Conrad drove in the first run on a sac fly and Uggla came on in a double switch in the eighth. Wilkin Ramirez pinch hit and struck out on an awful swing at a slider that was never a strike. That’s why he was virtually free from Detroit. he’s a 4A player. Jair Jurrjens overmatched the Pirates for 7 2/3 innings and had a hit while Venters and Kimbrel did what they do. Meanwhile all the news of DL and call up from Atlanta woke up the big city reporters that we were still playing.
Jayson stark reported that “The Atlanta Braves are currently searching for a right-handed hitting outfielder and a utility infielder “ and confirmed that we had checked on Hunter Pence (three months late in my opinion) and had been politely told no thanks but thanks for calling. Over the past two days discussion here has been about who is realistically available and who based on their history management might pursue. Realistically we have no idea what goes on in the minds of baseball executives. Does the GM feel the Braves are close enough to go big and try to get Chipper another ring before he retires? Is there really no Liberty Media limit on their payroll? How many teams are really sellers already but haven’t let anyone know outside of their secret society? Without that kind on insight all we can do is speculate, so I will.
We’ve been concentrating on big bats and what matches but while discussing why neither Andrew McCutchen nor Michael Bourn would be available. I had a thought that someone speculated about when Chipper Jones was injured last year makes more sense this year; Chone Figgins. Now before anyone says I made light of that suggestion in August let me say yes I did but, things have changed.
Last year Figgins was in the first year of a relatively large contract for a super utility guy and not playing well. This year the M’s expectations have returned to earth and after a rough start he is beginning to play more like his old Angel self. While he doesn’t have the power we need he has three other things that are missing; a leadoff mentality and ability, speed and Omar Infante – like versatility.
In 644 games as a leadoff man the switch hitting Figgins is .289/.367/.380/.746 with 210 stolen bases (74.75%) and played centerfield, third base, and second base. He has also played both corner outfield spots and shortstop; sound familiar? Along the way he’s finished in the top 24 MVP voting four times, led the league in walks, stolen bases and sacrifices. His contract is nine million this year and eight million next and a nine million option for 2014 that vests if he gets 600 plate appearances in 2013. That’s doesn’t sound nearly as expensive as it did last year when we have Nate McLouth and Kenshin Kawakami coming off the books at the end of this year. As leadoff man his presence changes the lineup tremendously. Prado moves to the two hole, Jason Heyward slides in behind Uggla (or Freddie Freeman if he doesn’t hit when he returns) giving him some protection and the OBP goes up; career his is .355 but when leading off he was over .350 five out of six years. If payroll isn’t an issue he should certainly be considered. What would the M’s want for him?
I’ve read they’d like to get younger and have a switch hitting prospect they would like to play regularly and freeing up some money never hurts a GM’s feelings. I suspect they’d want at least one pitching prospect, a catching prospect maybe a another B level player as well. We might have to send a major league ready infielder (Diory Hernandez perhaps) too help out this year. I don’t see that as outrageous but I’m sure everyone had a pitching prospect we can’t live without and will tell me so.
I’d like to see us get a power bat to sit alongside Eric Hinske. Michael Cuddyer fills that bill and adds more flexibility to the bench as he has played first, third and even a little second as well as the outfield. He is pricey though at $10.5 million this year. If a lefty will do Jason Kubel ($5.25 million) or Luke Scott ($6.4 million) are options too. All are in their walk year. Getting Figgins plus any of those would add (prorated) between 10 and 13.5 million to the payroll. We won’t move much money in return so that would take us to between 102 and 106 million.The Phillies are 165.9, the Mets 142.8, the Cubs 134, Cardinals 109 and Giants 118 for comparison.
Will it happen? Eh, probably not. But it would surely change the lineup and the pennant race wouldn’t it?