Jones renegotiates contract for team

Jones renegotiates contract for team

ATLANTA -- Chipper Jones has impressively proven his desire to retire wearing a Braves uniform.

Whether or not that happens, he's already established a legacy as one of the most unselfish professional athletes the city of Atlanta has ever known.

When the Braves wanted to add power in the form of Vinny Castilla, it was Jones, two seasons removed from a National League MVP season, who was willing to move to the outfield.

Now, with the Braves looking for the financial flexibility needed to improve their chances of extending their unprecedented streak of 14 consecutive division titles, it's Jones who is willing to sacrifice millions of dollars.

Two weeks after it was first reported, the Braves have officially announced that Jones has renegotiated his contract and is now guaranteed of being in Atlanta through at least the end of the 2008 season. He passed a physical last week, and the insurance company approved the new deal early Friday evening.

The 33-year-old third baseman's previous contract included options for both the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

"He's always been a team-first person no matter what the circumstances, no matter whether it was moving from his All-Star position at third base to make room for Vinny Castilla or to do something as remarkable and dramatic as what he has now done with his contract," said Braves general manager John Schuerholz.

The Braves come out winners because they have potentially saved $15 million over the next three seasons. As for Jones, he now has the satisfaction of knowing there's a much better chance he'll retire as a member of the organization that selected him with the first overall pick in the 1990 draft.

"Atlanta is my home, and it's where my family is comfortable," said Jones. "The first professional uniform I put on 16 years ago was a Braves uniform, and I wanted to try to make sure it's my last. I want to retire as a Brave, but more important, I knew this was something that could help continue the winning tradition we've built and our quest to bring our fans another world championship."

Jones, currently hunting in Texas, could only be reached on Friday afternoon with the use of a CB radio.

Because of Jones' selfless act, the Braves have been able to keep hope alive that they'll retain the services of free agent Rafael Furcal. Had the veteran third baseman not volunteered to renegotiate his contract, Schuerholz might have had to trade talent to create the finances necessary to bring back Furcal, or the player or players who would fill the voids he'd leave at shortstop and the top of the Braves' lineup.

When asked whether his team would still be in the chase for Furcal without this contract renegotiation, Schuerholz simply said, "It would have been more challenging."

Schuerholz also is looking to find his team a closer. Before Kyle Farnsworth signed as a setup man with the Yankees on Friday, Schuerholz had said that his intentions over the past month were to bring back Farnsworth as the team's closer.

But Farnsworth rejected a three-year offer from the Braves in exchange for more money, sacrificing the opportunity to continue being a closer.

Obviously, Jones has developed much more financial security than Farnsworth over the years, but that doesn't diminish his unselfish act of sacrificing millions of dollars. He first made the offer to renegotiate his contract in February, when it looked as though the Braves might need some money to sign Tim Hudson to a multi-year deal.

"He was willing to renegotiate his contract at his suggestion, not at our request," said Schuerholz.

Jones will have an $11 million salary for each of the next three seasons and will receive a $4 million signing bonus in January. His former contract included very attainable vesting options that would have garnered him a $15 million salary for the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

Included in the new contract is a vesting option for 2009 that will be worth between $8 million and $11 million, based on his on-field performance from the previous season.

In the now-voided contract, the options for 2007 and 2008 would have vested if Jones simply recorded just 450 plate appearances or been an All-Star the previous season. Despite missing more than six weeks with a foot injury in 2005, he registered 432 plate appearances.

If both of those options had vested, Jones, who will be 37 after the 2009 season, also would have received a $5 million bonus.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.