What do you think Andruw Jones' future is in the Braves organization if we don't make the playoffs? -- Matthew M., Greenville, Tenn.
Whether or not the Braves make the playoffs won't factor into Jones' future. The most important factor is his desire to stay in Atlanta. He says he wants to be a Brave for the rest of his life. But his agent, Scott Boras, has often been able to produce some big contracts that have led other players, even center fielders (see: Johnny Damon), to defy such previous declarations.
A couple days before the media-created waiver wire circus that surrounded Jones earlier this month, he was asked if there was any chance he would take Boras out of the negotiating process like he did with his current contract. Jones smiled, indicated he wouldn't, and then provided the reminder that this could be his final contract, one with which he wanted to make sure he maximized his opportunity.
I guess I'll never know the difference between earning $13 and $15 million a year. Right now, I'd have to say I'd forfeit $2 million a year to continue enjoying the comforts of a place that has been my home for my entire adult life. But over the course of a four-year contract, I'd be forfeiting $8 million. Even those of us who got a D grade in our economics course know that's a hefty sum to leave on the table.
Now back out of my dream world; I'm of the impression that the Braves should at least keep Jones until next year's trade deadline. With the no-trade right that he's earned with his service time, he'd likely make it very difficult if the Braves were to try to trade him this winter.
At the same time, I'm not sure it would be wise to trade Jones during the offseason. Obviously any trade involving him would need to include a very healthy return. But it would be difficult to compensate for the loss of the five-time All-Star and likely soon-to-be nine-time Gold Glover.
As he's currently showing, Jones will always provide maddening stretches of inconsistency. At the end of every season, he's going to have a batting average between .265-.270. But at the same time, he'll also have produced at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs. He's accounted for five of the nine 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons a Braves player has produced since 2000.
If the Braves truly want to compete in the highly talented National League East next year, they'll need Jones. But if his presence proves not enough to unseat the Mets or push past the upstart Marlins or Phillies, then obviously there will be reason for them to explore trade options next July.
Jones will be just 30 years old next year and it seems he has a number of productive years left. But at the same time, he has the credentials and the agent that lead me to believe he'll prove to be too expensive for the Braves to keep.
Thus, it's in their best interest to explore options. But first, it would be wise to reap his on-field benefits as long as possible.
Do the Braves have a chance? -- Jake P. Rome, Ga.
Because this story is running immediately after they scored 23 runs over a two-day stretch and captured consecutive home wins for the first time since the All-Star break, I'll say yes. Had this mailbag come out on Saturday, you would have found me sarcastically responding, "Yeah, and Kelly Ripa and I will also be getting married next week."
As we've seen in the first five months of the season, the Braves don't possess the talent of your typical postseason team. But fortunately, they are in the National League, where strong teams can be found only in New York and Los Angeles and nowhere in between.
A couple of weeks ago, it seemed highly unlikely that they could survive with three starting pitchers on the disabled list. But they're not dead yet and Kyle Davies will be fortifying that rotation in a few days.
Offensively, the Braves have enough to compensate for their bullpen woes, which grew yet again with Danys Baez's appendectomy last week.
It's going to take an unbelievable September in which they may need to do something ridiculous like win 24 of 29 games. But, unlike me ever marrying Ripa, that's still a dream that could come true.
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So I will ask again, is there anything the Braves can do about their bullpen this year? -- Steve M. Cottageville, S.C.
This was included just so many of you could enjoy the same laugh that I did. When Steve sent this same question, it was used as the lead in the mailbag that ran two weeks ago.
I apologize to the hundreds of you that have sent a similar question throughout the season without ever seeing it in print. It's easy to kick a man when he's down. But it's not a whole lot of fun when he stays down for five straight months.
Thus, we won't throw any direct jabs at the bullpen this week. We'll simply allow humor to temporarily replace the disgust it has created since this season began.
As far as next season is concerned, it looks as if the rotation could be John Smoltz, Tim Hudson, Mike Hampton, Kyle Davies and Chuck James. Do you see that to be the likely starting five? -- Jay J., Las Vegas
For all of you who are unable to continue bashing the patience I showed with Adam LaRoche, here's your opportunity to start bad-mouthing me again. Yes that's certainly a potentially strong rotation, especially if Hampton is able to quickly regain his successful form.
But (and here's where the bashing will begin), I believe next year's rotation must include Horacio Ramirez. His injury-plagued season won't allow him to receive much of a raise, and I'm not of the belief that his injury history means he's a soft individual.
Injuries have wrecked two of Ramirez's first four full Major League seasons. But it's not like he's not pitching because his shoulder or elbow is sore. He's had legitimate ailments. When healthy, he's shown why some believe he could consistently win at least 14 games per season.
This offseason could be a very busy one for the Braves. Along with Marcus Giles, I believe Chuck James is somebody who could draw some interest on the trade market. Although he is cheaper, I don't believe James has the upside that Ramirez possesses.
If Marcus Giles leaves, is Pete Orr capable of taking his spot in the field as well as the leadoff role? -- Nate H. Portland, Ore.
There are players like Orr and Ryan Langerhans who belong in the Majors to serve simply as role players. Both of them are capable left-handed hitters who possess speed and defensive versatility. But when attempting to construct a championship-caliber roster, I don't think either should be counted on to be an everyday player.
If I were a general manager, I'd want both Orr and Langerhans on my team. Of course, if I were them, I'd have to laugh at the fact that some sports writer, who wasn't even good enough to play in the Minors, was labeling me as nothing more than a role player at the Major League level.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.