OK, now it’s the Braves’ turn. After all those seasons of shoring up their roster with blockbuster trades in mid-season, at the expense of raiding the farm system, consider this: (Are you sitting down?) Tell the world they’re putting Chipper Jones on the open market. Anybody out there in need of a third baseman, or, on the American League side, a designated hitter?
I can hear all the gulps, and the screeches, and calls for my scalp. First place, forget where you saw this. This is not my choice at all, but considering the direction the Braves have taken the past four years, the lock is running low on sentimentality. Sure, Chipper is the face of the Braves. And the voice. He speaks for the team when anyone is looking for an opinion, or reaction to a news event. All of us seek him out, and he responds in his even baritone voice. He never lets you down. So to offer him for trade, hang him out there like a piece of meat for swap, a dreadful thought.
But think again. He deserves one more chance at a World Series, or postseason play, and he’s not going to get it here. He just signed a fresh contract, so that much is done, but the front office was rather slow getting around to that. This front office hasn’t been distinguishing itself, anyway. It has been making trades for Gary Sheffield, Mike Hampton, J. D. Drew and Mark Teixeira and shredding the farm system in the process. The Teixeira deal was the most destructive of all, literally re-stocking the Texas Rangers’ roster. Check the standings of the American League West.
By bartering Chipper, what the Braves might be able to do is re-stock its own roster with fresh talent. True, Chipper is 37 years old, but so is Raul Ibanez, the fresh personality who has brought so much to the Phillies’ lineup. And Chipper is a young 37, keeps himself young hunting and ranching on his acreage in Texas. He was the leading hitter in the National League last season, so the years haven’t been weighing heavily on him.
I don’t know what his contract arrangement may be, whether it includes a non-trade agreement or not. I doubt that he would stand in the way, with the right deal, with the right team. He only has to take a look around at what has happened to some of his old Braves pals. John Smoltz, for instance, tired of hemming and hawing and went his own way. And Tom Glavine’s rejection has been heavy on the minds of Braves fans lately. A deal for Chipper might go a long way toward re-stocking the roster, but it would have to be more productive than a lot of swaps that have been made lately. Except for Jair Jurrjens, and to a degree, Omar Infante, those transactions have not been richly productive, including such as Royce Ring, Josh Anderson, Mark Kotsay, Will Ohman, Jeff Ridgway and Mike Gonzalez, and a lot of them are history. Not a pennant-building haul, you might say.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals, Rangers, Rockies and Rays enjoy the fruits of some of the Braves’ misjudgments. Time to make a move while Chipper is still a major commodity. They can’t close the gap left by all those absentees, so skillfully scouted and carefully nurtured. Not that dealing Chipper Jones can come close to making up for them all, but he could wipe out some of the damage, and in the long run, have a good closing run for himself. If the thought of this offends you, let me remind you that this is the team that traded Henry Aaron and Dale Murphy, and allowed Phil Niekro to take a hike, and Smoltz and Glavine to go adrift.
There, I’ve said it. And I’m not sorry.