The other day, in the aftermath of Johnny Damon’s decision to sign with the Detroit Tigers, we asked you to pick your favorite for the Braves’ leadoff hitter. Your overwhelming choice was Nate McLouth (49 percent), who finished just slightly ahead of my outside-the-box pick of Yunel Escobar (13 percent).
I’m leaving the poll open in case there’s a late run on Escobar votes. I hear the polls never close in Havana.
Today, we go in a different direction. Many of you do not feel comfortable with this Braves team, primarily because of the seeming lack of offense and trades like Javier Vazquez-for-Melky Cabrera.
The chances of another trade at this point are relatively non-existent. But there’s a significant number of unsigned veterans still on the market. Do I think Frank Wren will sign one? No, not for some time anyway. Damon was his one shot, and even then Wren wanted him only at discount.
But with spring training now open, there are still several free agents left on the market. The most intriguing name out there from a Braves’ perspective probably is Jermaine Dye. Many of you have pushed for Dye’s signing in the past. I considered Damon more important because I thought — and still think — the leadoff position in this lineup is more important than adding power.
That said, Dye is still out there. The Chicago White Sox considered bringing him back but ironically, are hoping two ex-Braves, Andruw Jones and Mark Kotsay, can fill the offensive void at designated hitter and in the outfield. They bought out Dye for $950,000 rather than pick up a $12 million option.
But even White Sox general manager Kenny Williams said, “I am shocked that Jermaine Dye is still out there. Somebody is going to get a [heck] of a player.”
Dye played 141 games last season. He hit only .250 but he showed he still has power (27 homers, .453 slugging percentage, .793 OPS).
If Dye doesn’t do it for you, there are several ex Braves still unsigned, including Gary Sheffield, Garrett Anderson, Paul Bako, John Smoltz and Russ Springer.
Or how about Mike Hampton? (That was a joke.)
Below is the list of unsigned players. All have obvious issues (age, injury, declining production, combination thereof.).
What do you think of Dye? Or should the Braves just stand pat for now and see how things develop?
♦UPDATE: Not that’s we’ve discussed Aaron Boone, but he just retired and will join ESPN as an on-air analyst.
Outfielders Pos. Age Last Team Garret Anderson LF 37 Atlanta Rocco Baldelli RF 28 Boston Darin Erstad LF 35 Houston Jermaine Dye RF 36 Chicago Sox Gary Sheffield LF 41 NY Mets
♦ Infielders Pos. Age Last Team Rich Aurilia 1B 38 San Francisco Hank Blalock 1B 29 Texas Joe Crede 3B 31 Minnesota Carlos Delgado 1B 37 NY Mets Nomar Garciaparra 1B 36 Oakland Felipe Lopez 2B 29 Milwaukee Ramon Martinez SS 37 NY Mets Dmitri Young 1B 36 Washington
♦ Catchers Pos. Age Last Team Paul Bako C 37 Philadelphia Rod Barajas C 34 Toronto Shawn Riggans C 29 Tampa Bay ♦ Pitchers Pos. Age Last team Joe Beimel RP 32 Colorado Chad Bradford RP 35 Tampa Bay Paul Byrd SP 39 Boston Kiko Calero RP 35 Florida Chad Fox RP 39 Chicago Cubs Mike Hampton SP 37 Houston Livan Hernandez SP 35 Washington Jason Isringhausen RP 37 Tampa Bay Braden Looper SP 35 Milwaukee Alan Embree RP 40 Colorado Ron Mahay RP 38 Minnesota Pedro Martinez SP 38 Philadelphia Eric Milton SP 34 LA Dodgers Tomo Ohka SP 33 Cleveland Troy Percival RP 40 Tampa Bay John Smoltz SP 42 St. Louis Russ Springer RP 41 Tampa Bay Brett Tomko SP 36 Oakland Jarrod Washburn SP 35 Detroit David Weathers RP 40 Milwaukee