David O’Brien explains why the Braves might be reluctant to sign an outfielder to a long-term deal.
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?
If the Braves are thinking long-term (and they are), they’ve got to plan accordingly, to have room for the prospects they’re grooming now in a farm system is back to a healthy state with a lot of legit prospects who’ll be in the upper tiers this year, not a farm system where most of the best prospects are in rookie or A-ball the way they were a year or two ago after the Teixeira trade.
What if Jeff Francoeur gets his career “back on track”? By getting back on track does he mean a below-average corner outfielder or plays like he did after he was first called up? I suspect the latter, and I think that is very unlikely. I mean what if Chipper Jones bats like he did in 2004? It’s not good policy to base decisions on unlikely scenarios.
But, let’s say Francoeur does blossom into a star, and Heyward, Schafer, and Hernandez are ready to join the team in 2010. Well, then you trade from a surplus in one area for a more-desirable basket of players. I consider this to be a nice problem, and I don’t worry about this potential occurrence. Having Jim Thome when Ryan Howard was ready to play wasn’t a problem for the Phillies.