After seeing Chipper Jones work out this weekend, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has grown confident that the veteran third baseman will join Atlanta’s starting lineup within the next handful of days. Via David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“Definitely the home opener [April 12], based on [Friday’s] workout,” Gonzalez told reporters, “And maybe even sooner than that. We’ll see what happens in the next couple of days with him. We’re going to ramp him up to get him some extra work. And we’ll see how it goes, how he feels.”
Jones underwent surgery in late March to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee and was placed on the disabled list just before Opening Day. Juan Francisco played third in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Mets.
Jones, 39, has already informed the Braves and the media that this will be his final season. The .304/.402/.533 career hitter batted .275/.344/.470 with 18 home runs and 70 RBI in 126 games last year.
In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.
“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.
Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.