Chipper Jones has spent the offseason rehabbing his surgically repaired knee and dry-heaving on his neighbor’s lawn, and yesterday general manager Frank Wren told David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution that he should be ready for Opening Day:
I think he’s progressed very well. He had a setback earlier in the winter when he was away for a week–I think he was actually on a hunting trip–and he was not doing the [leg] lifts. But as soon as he got back on his weights, he was fine. Right now, talking to the trainers, he should not have any restrictions coming into spring training.
According to O’Brien, if Jones isn’t ready for Opening Day the Braves will move Martin Prado back to third base and use Eric Hinske, Joe Mather, or Jordan Schafer in left field.
Jones is no longer the middle-of-the-order monster he once was and as a 39-year-old coming off a major surgery he’s a big question mark, but he still finished with an OPS above .800 and prior to the knee injury he was batting .307 with nine extra-base hits and a .924 OPS in 23 second-half games.
Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com has a really good article today about Chipper Jones’ comeback from the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that ended his season in mid-August and attaches plenty of question marks to how he’ll fare returning from the injury (and previous talk of retirement) at age 39.
Jones told Crasnick some interesting stuff about how he views the Phillies’ rotation, how he regrets not being able to held send manager Bobby Cox off a winner, and what type of production he expects out of himself in 2011.
All of that was good, but here’s my favorite part:
Come January, Jones will head to his hitting facility in the Atlanta suburb of Suwanee and begin taking batting practice with Brian McCann, Mark DeRosa, Jeff Francoeur, Andruw Jones and his other winter workout buddies. At the moment, he’s focused on lifting weights at the gym and running the hills in his subdivision.
“I actually have a funny story about that,” Jones said. “I’m so out of shape, one of my neighbors caught me dry-heaving on his lawn. We had a nice little chuckle out of it. I grabbed his phone to make sure he didn’t take any video and people would see it on YouTube.”
Being a Braves fan is Craig’s territory, but Jones has always been one of my favorite players and I’m glad he’s coming back at age 39 even after the injury. Much has been made of his decreased production, but Jones has topped an .800 OPS in each of the past two seasons and hit .307 with a .924 OPS in the second half before tearing his ACL.
Washington has been linked to just about every veteran first baseman on the market this offseason, so not surprisingly Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports that the Nationals “have expressed interest in Derrek Lee.”
Lee is 35 years old and coming off his worst season since 1998, hitting .260/.347/.428 with 19 homers in 148 games for the Cubs and Braves, but he played nearly the entire time with a thumb injury that eventually required surgery and had posted an OPS above .800 for 10 straight seasons.
Ladson adds that the Nationals “are still in the mix for Adam LaRoche” and they’ve been linked to him throughout the offseason, so it’s unclear which first baseman is atop their wish list.
Josh Willingham is already on the roster and the Nationals could seemingly just plug him in at first base, but general manager Mike Rizzo has made it very clear he doesn’t view that as a viable option and Willingham is likely to be traded eventually.
Lefty reliever George Sherrill is “closing in on a deal” with the Braves, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com.
With a 6.69 ERA this season Sherrill earned his non-tender from the Dodgers, but he was an All-Star in 2008, had a 1.70 ERA in 2009, and still looks plenty capable of being a good left-handed specialist in 2011.
Right-handed batters crushed Sherrill this year, but he held lefties to .192/.286/.288. And that’s actually worse than his ridiculously great career mark of .167/.235/.265 versus lefties.
As long as the Braves keep his matchups against righties to a minimum, Sherrill should be a nice low-cost pickup.
UPDATE: Sherrill’s deal is for $1.2 million, with another $200,000 in possible incentives.
No doubt looking to shed some salary after signing Adam Dunn and re-signing A.J. Pierzynski yesterday, the White Sox have traded veteran reliever Scott Linebrink to the Braves for mid-level pitching prospect Kyle Cofield.
Chicago will reportedly send some cash to Atlanta to cover part of the one season and $5.5 million left on Linebrink’s four-year, $19 million deal and he’ll slot into the Braves’ bullpen as a setup man.
He posted a strong 147/48 K/BB ratio in three seasons in Chicago, including a 52/17 mark in 57 innings this year, but Linebrink struggled to keep the ball in the ballpark while serving up 28 homers in 160 innings and had ERAs of 4.40, 4.66, and 3.69.
Moving from the AL to the NL and from Chicago’s power-boosting ballpark to Atlanta’s pitcher-friendly home will definitely help hide Linebrink’s long-ball weaknesses, and he should be a solid (if overpaid) seventh-inning setup man.
In exchange for Linebrink the White Sox get some payroll flexibility and minor leaguer Kyle Cofield, a 2005 eighth-round pick whom Baseball America ranked as the 24th-best prospect in the Braves’ farm system. A ground-ball pitcher with poor strikeout and K/BB numbers, he currently projects as a potential middle reliever down the road.