There has been major news out of Atlanta Braves camp in the past 24 hours.
First off, Josh Anderson has shockingly been traded to the Detroit Tigers. Anderson, expected by many to start in center field, was given away for Minor League sidearm pitcher Rudy Darrow. He was out of options and, at age 26, not the most attractive prospect. He had been surpassed for the center field job by incumbent starter Gregor Blanco and top prospect Jordan Schafer, who has hit .373 this Spring. Anderson’s inconsistency and limited batting power likely drove him out of Atlanta. Blanco has a good skill set of speed, range and getting on base, while Schafer is a possible fivetool star of the near future. I think Schafer should start this year at AAA Gwinnett because his lack of higherlevel experience calls for more seasoning. Blanco can hold down the fort until he is ready. But the Braves may start Schafer from day one based on his play so far in camp. Who knows? Only time and the legendary Bobby Cox will tell.
Atlanta also signed its franchise player, third baseman Chipper Jones, to a threeyear contract extension with an option for 2013. This keeps him with the team through his 41st birthday, at which point his career will likely be over. With the defection of John Smoltz to an enemy camp, it was important for the Braves to sign Chipper for the rest of his career. He will forever be a Brave, figuratively and now literally. Now let’s see him play at least 130 games and win another batting title. That will send him straight to the Hall of Fame, where he belongs.
In Rays news, the team has made no decision yet on the future for reliever Jason Isringhausen, who was signed to a Minor League deal coming off of some injuries. He does not want to go down to Durham and has the option to leave, placing the ball in his court. Joe Maddon wants to keep him with the team by any means necessary. I think he should stay, at least at the beginning of the year. That kind of veteran depth is critical in the bullpen.
My idea of trading either Jason Hammel or Jeff Niemann may be coming to fruition. Multiple teams are interested in each pitcher. They are both out of options and one will likely be expendable before the season starts. The San Diego Padres are interested in either one of them. The Colorado Rockies have been after Hammel since last year’s trade deadline. The Pittsburgh Pirates have talked about bringing in Niemann. Why not? They need some kind of help. As long as we get something in return (first baseman of the future?), it is a great idea.
Despite a lateinning implosion leading to an 87 loss to Boston, three Rays who needed home runs smashed them today. Matt Joyce, Gabe Gross and Jon Weber all went deep in the narrow defeat. Joyce needed to start proving himself worthy of a Major League spot in B.J. Upton’s place at the start of the season, and this is a good start. Meanwhile, Weber has done exceptionally well so far in Rays camp. I think they should consider him for the final roster spot. He is 31 years old, so what more can he do in the Minor Leagues? He has decent speed and power, and has been bringing it for a month straight. If Joyce starts at AAA and Weber begins with the Rays, I have no complaints. Weber can finally try proving himself to MLB teams and Joyce can touch up his game a little more.
I also believe that Adam Kennedy would make a nice addition to the team if there is an open spot. He can play multiple infield positions and bring a variety of talents and leadership to the Rays. The shocking Tigers release of Gary Sheffield, who has 499 home runs, to make room for Anderson has sparked discussion of the Rays bringing him in at a $400,000 price. It’s a nice deal, but he is past his prime and there is no room left. That’s about all that is fit to blog today, but more will definitely come soon. I will be posting my lineup and pitching rotation predictions before Spring Training ends. Until next time, go Rays (and Braves).