The big question in Bravesnation right now is whom to move before next week’s trade deadline. The most obvious players to go are Mark Teixeira and Will Ohman. Both are free agents at the end of the year and could contribute to a contender for the stretch run. Of course, this means that the Braves cannot expect all that much in return given the lack of long-term control over these players. I don’t see the Braves offering Teixeira arbitration—because he might accept it—therefore a trade is the only way to get any future help from holding Tex’s rights.
But, which other players might the Braves deal?
Kelly Johnson: He’s proved that he is a capable major-league player: an above-average hitter and average defender as a second baseman. He’s arbitration-eligible for the next three years, which means teams might be willing to part with some decent prospects in return for his below-market salary. While I’m a KJ fan and I’d hate to see him go, I will not be surprised if the Braves package him in a deal. Plus, the Braves don’t seem totally enamored with his game.
Tim Hudson: Hudson has been the Braves ace this year, and with John Smoltz’s starting career over, he’s slated to be the number one in 2009 as well. The Braves and Hudson hold mutual options for 2010. Hudson is guaranteed $13 million next season, and the option year includes a $12 million salary with a $1 million buyout. Hudson has been a consistently good for the past few years. His salary is in line with what he is making, but he would probably earn a bit more on the free agent market; therefore, the Braves might be tempted to move him. The downside is that this would be a huge blow to the rotation. While the Braves have some good young arms, we don’t know how good. A quality veteran at the top of the rotation is something the Braves will want if they think they might be in the things in 2009. I say that he stays.
Brian McCann: His contract is affordable, which makes him attractive to many teams. He would bring back a bounty of prospects. But, he is a local kid who’s done good, not just a local kid. I can’t see the Braves parting with McCann.
Jeff Francoeur: Like McCann, he’s a local kid, but that is all he is. Right now, there are probably more calls to trade Jeffy than any other player on the team, because fans usually prefer to trade away bad players. There is no doubt that the Braves could get something in return for him, but I don’t think it would be much. The problem is compensating the Braves for what they will lose on and off the field. In any other organization, Jeffy would be in the minor leagues or spending a large portion of his time on the bench. There would be few fans sporting #7 Francouer jerseys. There would be no bobble-head or t-shirt night in his honor.
No matter how poorly Francoeur plays, he will always have some value in Atlanta, because he is a hometown kid who once did something good. Casual fans don’t hear that giant sucking sound in right field. He is where he is valued the most, and there are no gains from trade from moving him to another team. That is why the Braves will not be trading him this year. In fact, once it’s a near certainty that the Braves won’t make the post-season, I expect the Braves won’t consider sending him to the minors again no matter how he performs. This doesn’t mean that the Braves won’t replace him in the future, but I don’t see much value to doing so now.