Chipper Jones to retire after this year

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Chipper Jones swing.jpgUPDATE: O’Brien Reports that Jones is meeting with Bobby Cox and GM Frank Wren today and that afterward he will address the media.  It seems apparent that announcing his retirement is the purpose of the meeting and press conference.

11:00 A.M.: David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution just tweeted that, while unconfirmed, Chipper Jones has told people that he’s going to retire at the end of the season.

This would not shock me. He already made noises about this last season and earlier this season, and he has been a non-factor as the Braves have climbed into first place in the NL East.  When he has played Jones has hit .228/.375/.341.  His primary replacement, Omar Infante, has hit .314/.351/.387.

It would be one thing if the Braves were playing terrible baseball — maybe Jones would feel like he was badly needed or something — but any sensible person in Jones’ position would realize that, however hard it is to admit, the Braves simply don’t need his production anymore.  And though I respect Chipper Jones as a player and am grateful for all of his accomplishments on the field, I look at the $26 million he’s owed for 2011 and 2012 and wonder just how much the team could be improved if it was devoted to finding an outfielder or two. I bet he thinks about that too. At least when he’s not thinking about how nice it would be to spend more time fishing and stuff.

Still no official word from Jones or the team, of course, but let’s speculate about a couple of things.  First point of speculation is not exactly a stretch: if Jones retires after this year, he joins Ken Griffey Jr. as a first-time inductee in 2016.  I think this is a lock. He’s one of the top third basemen of all time, he has an MVP Award, a World Series ring, a reputation for coming up big in big situations, he’s never been accused of PED use and he was the one offensive constant (or at least near-constant) for the Braves’ run of division titles.  I’ll take — and subsequently dismiss — counterarguments in the comments.

Second bit of speculation, but much, much wilder: Chipper Jones gets named as the Braves’ new manager next year.  OK, maybe that needs about ten more “wilds” in front of it, but he’s been at Bobby Cox’s right hand for the past 16 or 17 seasons, he’s smart, and he has what seems like the right kind of temperament to handle the job.

Does he have the desire? Hell if I know, but at least it gives us something to talk about while we wait for Jones and/or the team to either confirm or deny O’Brien’s report.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.