23. Will the Braves consider trading Chipper?
The Braves are not going to trade Chipper Jones. Instead, they'll talk with him about a new deal that will last past the 2009 season, when his current contract expires.
Chipper Jones won a batting title in 2008, the first of his career. He hit .364 with 22 home runs and 75 RBI in 439 at bats. Jones played in 128 games, missing 34 games on the season.
Jones has obviously put together a Hall of Fame career. He has a .310 career batting average, 408 home runs, 2277 hits, and 1374 RBI. Jones will turn 37 next season, so he still has three of four more years to add to those totals.
And chances are he'll do it in a Braves uniform. Jones has expressed an interest in finishing his career in Atlanta. It's possible he'll look for a three-year contract after his current deal that will take him through his 40th birthday.
Jones battled through nagging injuries last season. He's averaged 124 games played in the last four years, which is like him missing a game per week over that span. The Braves desperately need him to get healthy again, especially since they are creating a team that will hopefully get them back on track.
Chipper is still the most integral part of the Atlanta lineup. The team is just totally different with him out. With the Braves wanting to find another big bat this winter, Jones will be even more important next season if the lineup is improved around him.
The Braves could have thought about trading Jones. It's normal to wonder if you need to move on and at the same time take advantage of the value a player has before he gets too old. But the Braves are not rebuilding. If they were, it would be a completely different situation that would create a probability of a Chipper trade. Instead, the Braves are trying to get the team good around Jones so they can return to the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
Expect the Braves and Jones to talk about a potential contract extension sometime this winter. It's doubtful both sides would want to go into the season with Jones's contract set to run out at the end of the year.
This is still Chipper Jones's team, and if the Braves continue to rework the roster, he'll have a chance to get back to the postseason in his waning seasons in the big leagues.
Bill Shanks hosts The Braves Show Talk Show, The Atlanta Baseball Show on 680 the Fan in Atlanta, and The Bill Shanks Show on SportsRadio 105.5 the Fan in Macon. He is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. You can email Bill at email@example.com.
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