Dave O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is one of the handful of newspapers dudes who really gets into blogging. Well, he calls it a blog, but because he’s not really linking to anybody, it’s more of a freewheeling stream-of-consciousness thing. Either way, it’s nice loose Posnanski-lite writing that I tend to enjoy more than your typical, boring columny stuff. Here are a couple of notable thoughts from today’s entry:
Among hitters, I just don’t think the Braves have any desire to give a three-year or whatever contract to a poor defensive outfielder like Pat Burrell or Adam Dunn. Not that they couldn’t use the homers (they obviously could), but I don’t think they want to go long-term with a guy who’d block one of the younger outfielders a year or two from now, namely Jason Heyward, their top position-player prospect.
What if, just what if, Francoeur were to get his career back on track in 2009? Then a year or two from now, when Jordan Schafer or Gorkys Hernandez is in CF and Francoeur’s a fan-favorite again in RF, do you just assume you’d be able to shed the salary of a Burrell or Dunn and open a spot for Heyward?
I read a lot of O’Brien’s work, and I get the sense that he’s more plugged into his hometown’s front office than many of his counterparts are at other newspapers, so my guess is that the Braves front office really is banking on a Francoeur rebound. Which isn’t dumb, necessarily. If he can figure it out he’s a good guy to have based on his talent and price tag. And indeed, after his terrible 2008, he’s likely to regress (progress?) to the mean. The problem is that Francoeur’s mean does not appear to be that of a productive corner outfielder, so he is not likely to ever bring real value to the Braves.
This may not matter all that much in the short term, however, because in light of one of O’Brien’s other comments — this one having to do with the notion of signing Ben Sheets or Derek Lowe — the Braves may not be thinking about 2009 anyway:
The other thing is, if there’s any sort of thought within the organization — and I’m just thinking aloud here, not anything whatsoever that I’ve heard indicated by any Braves people — that they probably aren’t going to be able to win the division or wild card in 2009 and don’t believe it’s worth giving a big salary to Sheets even for a year because he’s not going to make the difference. But again, I’ve heard nothing from anyone in the organization to make me believe they’re thinking like that, as though they can’t contend for a playoff berth.
Regardless of what Atlanta really thinks about Jeff Francoeur, if they truly believe that they don’t have a shot at contending in 2009, it would make a lot of sense to simply plug ol’ hacky in right every day. If he catches 2005’s lightning in a bottle again, great, trade him to a contender while his value is temporarily high. I think that’s happened to Jose Guillen about 12 times. If he doesn’t produce, well, at least they’re not paying him all that much and they can enter 2010 with a clean outfield canvass upon which to paint the colors Heyward, Schafer, Hernandez, or someone else.