Leaving aside the managerial question — which everybody seems to think is basically settled anyway — the Braves have some decisions to make. Let’s start out by defining what we know.
We can be pretty certain that:
- Brian McCann will be the catcher;
- David Ross will be his backup;
- And Jason Heyward will be in right field.
Those are the givens; barring something remarkable, the Braves are set at two positions and one bench spot. We can be slightly less sure of the following, but they’re extremely probable:
- Martin Prado will play somewhere, probably second base;
- Nate McLouth will play somewhere, probably center field;
- And Freddie Freeman will play first base, at least against righthanders.
Lord knows a lot of people would like to see the back of McLouth, but his contract ($6.5 million in 2011, a certain $1.2 million buyout of his $10.65 million 2012 salary) makes it essentially impossible. You’d have to be a maniac to take that off the Braves’ hands, though I’m sure the Braves are looking for the right maniac. Prado would seemingly be as sure as McCann and Heyward, but it’s just possible that the Braves would deal him as he enters his arbitration years. He’ll probably play second… unless third base is unexpectedly open. Everybody thinks that Freeman is a lock to play first base, and who am I to disagree? Money’s going to be tight, and he will work cheap. More questionable are the following:
In Chipper’s case, the question is if he can rehab his knee and return to the team. I don’t doubt his will, but as his age, it has to be a question. My guess is that there’s a drop-dead date that he and the Braves have agreed upon, probably in December, when he’ll tell them if he thinks he can play. As unfond of the AAG Experience as I was (really, guys, you thought Yunel was a whiner and you like this guy?) I don’t see that the Braves have any choice but to pick up his (reasonable, $3 million) option for 2011. There really is nobody else who looks like a full-time shortstop in the organization.
So basically, we have seven of eight spots filled for 2011:
C McCann (w/Ross)
Put the right guy in left field, and that might be a playoff team. However, it’s not that easy. I think Jayson Werth is a pipe dream.
The bench positions, other than catcher, are more up-in-the-air. My guess about the incumbents is:
- Omar Infante will be traded;
- The Braves will try to re-sign one of Troy Glaus and Eric Hinske as a reserve and first base insurance;
- Melky Cabrera will be non-tendered, and hopefully thrown out of an airplane;
- The Braves will make an effort to sign Rick Ankiel to an extension, and upon failure turn down his $6 million option for 2011;
- Likewise, the team will try to sign Matt Diaz to backup money, and if he refuses not offer arbitration;
- And they will let Brooks Conrad go for the sake of everyone’s sanity.
Those are all guesses, of course, but I can’t believe they’d take Melky back after that display, plus at his current rate of expansion he’d weigh 350 pounds by January. Infante just seems like he’d be more valuable in trade than he would as a reserve, though considering the Braves’ injury situation that might not be the case.