Could this be the most crucial decision in the history of the Braves' franchise? Will Andruw Jones…
Do it now - trade Andruw Jones
But after Boras' comments Tuesday night to the Atlanta Constitution it is obvious the Braves have no other choice: they must trade Andruw Jones as soon as they can.
Boras pretty much told the AJC that there will be no hometown discount this time around and that the next contract would "dwarf" Andruw's current deal that paid him $75 million over six years. Boras hinted that he might even ask for $20 million per season for Jones.
Well, decreased payroll or not, the heck with that. Andruw Jones is a great player. I love watching him play. But $20 million? Are you kidding? No way I'd pay that much for him. We saw how three teams have had to deal with Alex Rodriguez's outrageous contract, so why in the world would any team be burdened with something that crazy again?
Scott Boras was probably furious that Andruw went behind his back and got the previous deal done with his dad in Schuerholz's office. Boras hates Schuerholz anyway. So this is his chance to really stick it to the Braves. He might ask for $20 million, and there might be some team that would give Jones between $15-$20 million, but Boras is getting the Braves out of the bidding even before it really begins.
I've said for a while that if the Braves believed there was any chance at signing Jones, Schuerholz should have gone to Boras and Jones and given them a deadline. The smart thing to do was to say, "Okay, we're going to try to get a deal done before December 1st or we are going to try to trade you."
I realize that Andruw now has the right to veto any trade, but I'm not convinced he'd turn down a chance to go to a team that could actually pay him close to the money he will covet. If the Braves go to Andruw and tell him that they've worked out a deal with the Yankees or the Red Sox or the White Sox or the Angels, Boras will convince Jones he needs to accept the deal. So if it's the right team, with the right money, Jones will accept a trade.
And the Braves just need to start talking to those type teams right now. Forget the talks. Okay, if Jones somehow understands that his only chance to remain in Atlanta, his preference, is to do this deal without Boras, then deal with him. But otherwise, forget this game that Boras is going to want to play.
The situation with Jones is similar to that of the J.D. Drew situation back in 2003 and the Tim Hudson/Mark Mulder situation with the Athletics two winters ago. All three players were a year or two away from free agency, and with little hope of getting a long-term deal done, instead of risk losing them with only getting draft picks in return, they were traded.
The Cardinals got the Braves' best pitching prospect (some guy named Wainwright), a pitcher looking for a role (Jason Marquis), and a reliever (Ray King). The next winter the A's got the Braves' best pitching prospect (Dan Meyer), a pitcher looking for a role (Juan Cruz), and an outfielder (Charles Thomas) for Hudson. And then they A's got the one of the Cardinals' best pitching prospects (Dan Haren), a promising reliever (Kiko Calero), and a very good prospect (Daric Barton) for Mulder.
Now Jones is a future Hall of Famer, while those three are (or were) simply very good players. But there are two differences. Again, Jones has the right to veto any deal, so the market will be more limited. And secondly, the team that acquires Jones will have to be able to turn around and give him a huge contract, which means there are only a handful of teams that the Braves could deal with in a trade.
If the Braves are going to trade Jones, they need to do it as soon as possible. Forget holding on to him and then trading him in July at the trade deadline. Heck, they won't get much in return at that point. So with Boras' comments, go ahead and put Jones on the market as soon as possible. Start talking with teams tonight at the World Series party. Don't wait around for Boras to try and stab you in the back.
Look, I realize part of this is agent speak. This is Boras's game. But what makes this different is his relationship with Schuerholz and the situation that happened the last time Andruw was coming up on his free agent year. That had to infuriate Boras, so he's going to try to stick it to one of his biggest rivals this time around.
So don't play that game with him. Let Andruw know what the organization is able to offer for the future, and if that is not enough to feed his kids, then move on. Yeah, he's a hell of a player. He's the best centerfielder most of us have ever seen. But $20 million? $15 million?
Tuesday night in The Braves Show's chat room about twenty of us went through the two leagues to see what teams could possibly be in the hunt for Jones on the trade market. We knew some of these deals might be stretching it a bit. We went around on a ton of names and settled on the following deals. Again we knew that some of the other teams may not make the deals, but this is what we, the GMs of The Braves Show chat room, want for Andruw Jones:
YANKEES - Okay so the obvious trade is Jones for Alex Rodriguez and a little cash. Then the Braves could turn around and trade Edgar Renteria for pitching help. I think the Braves might investigate a Jones-for-A-Rod deal, but you can't tell what the Yankees might do with their troubled third baseman. So instead, we came up with this: Phillip Hughes, Melky Cabrera, and Scott Proctor for Andruw. The Braves get a top pitching prospect, an outfielder, and a reliever they were interested in back in July.
RED SOX - We decided to stretch this out a bit and include Tim Hudson in this deal. Andruw and Hudson for Josh Beckett, reliever Craig Hansen, outfielder CoCo Crisp, and outfield prospect Jacoby Ellsbury. This deal would allow Hudson and Beckett to go back to their original leagues, where they may recapture their previous success. The Braves would get a young reliever in Hansen, who was mentioned in rumors about Andruw back in July, along with two outfielders – one in Ellsbury being a great prospect.
ORIOLES - The one player we all agreed had to be in the deal was outfielder Nick Markakis, whom the Braves scouted heavily in junior college. He's a young outfielder with great potential that could combine with Francoeur to give the Braves the best outfield duo in the game. The Braves would want a pitcher, so Daniel Cabrera was the choice, along with second baseman Brian Roberts. The Braves will probably trade Marcus Giles anyway, perhaps for pitching help, so Roberts could take over there. The Braves will throw in Horacio Ramirez, so it's Horacio and Andruw for Markakis, Cabrera, and Roberts.
WHITE SOX - The obvious thing to do would be to go after one of the White Sox proven starters, such as Javier Vasquez – a longtime favorite of Bobby Cox. But we preferred a deal for younger players: Andruw for starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy, young reliever Neil Cotts, and third base prospect Josh Fields. Chances are the Braves would have to take Vasquez or Mark Buerhle or Freddy Garcia, but we decided to go for the younger talent.
TIGERS - Do you go after the starting pitcher (Jeremy Bonderman) or the centerfielder (Curtis Granderson)? Rumors have already started that the Tigers might sacrifice one of their young starters for a big bat, so we went with Bonderman, Marcus Thames, and pitching prospect Jordan Tata for Andruw. Bonderman would be that young ace pitcher most believe the Braves need for the future. Thames could play left while Jeff Francoeur moves to center, and Tata is an arm for 2008.
ANGELS - This did not take long. Ervin Santana, Scot Shields, and Chone Figgans for Andruw and Lance Cormier. The Braves get their young ace in Santana, a quality setup man for Bob Wickman in Shields, and an outfielder that could also serve as a leadoff man. This was by far the preference of most every poster in the chat room.
RANGERS - Forget Mark Teixiera. He's a client of Mr. Boras as well. The Rangers have two great pitching prospects, so we'll take either John Danks or Thomas Diamond along with shortstop Michael Young. We're going to move Young to second base to replace the traded Giles and then groom Danks or Diamond to be a top of the rotation starter in 2008.
DODGERS - This is an interesting team. We'd love to have Chad Billingsley, but it's doubtful the Dodgers would give him up. So we'll take Jonathan Broxton, who is a Georgia boy and who can be the future closer, along with outfielder Matt Kemp, and a lefty pitching prospect named Scott Elbert.
Now I know some fans of these teams will call us nuts, but at the least this shows the types of deals the Braves may be looking to make. This is Andruw Jones, a future Hall of Famer, and if Drew and Hudson and Mulder can get what they got in deals, Jones is certain to fetch at least one super player, one medium player, and perhaps another prospect.
I hate the thought of Andruw Jones not being in centerfield for the Atlanta Braves. But if Boras' comments Tuesday night are any indication for what's to come in this game, the Braves do not need to play. They instead need to find the best deal possible for Jones and move on.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can also be heard regularly on the Braves Radio Network. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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