Chipper: I want to stay with Braves

Chipper: I want to stay with Braves

ATLANTA -- Like the average Braves fan, Chipper Jones rode a wave emotions over the past few months. The prolonged search for an ace created doubt about the organization's future and the departure of John Smoltz caused Jones' frustrated emotions to reach a boiling point.

But over the past two weeks, Jones has come to understand why the Braves were reluctant to sign Smoltz. At the same time, the signing of Derek Lowe provided him reason to be more encouraged about a future that he hopes will include him.

"The Braves organization is the only one I've ever known and I want to play in Atlanta forever," said Jones, who was acquired by the Braves with the first overall pick in the 1990 First-Year Player Draft. "But, as we've found out, it doesn't always matter what the player wants."

Entering the final year of his contract, Jones is hoping to receive an extension in the near future. But he hasn't had any recent talks with the Braves about this matter.

Given that the Braves are still reconstructing their roster and taking care of their unsigned arbitration-eligible players, there's no reason to worry about the fact that they haven't approached Jones. But knowing that he doesn't want to negotiate during the season, Jones is hoping the process begins soon.

"I'm hoping that an extension will be on the table soon," Jones said. "I've negotiated a contract during a season once before and it worked out fine for me. But there are too many distractions and that's not something I want to do again."

Sticking to company policy, Braves general manager Frank Wren won't comment on these potential negotiations. But at the same time, he added, "I think Chipper understands how much we value him in our organization."

While together in an elevator in New York in September, Wren told Jones that he would attempt to work out an extension as soon as possible.

The fact that he hasn't heard anything more over the past four months doesn't necessarily disturb Jones. He understands that Wren's primary focus during this span should have been on reconstructing his roster to be competitive during the 2009 season.

But with the start of Spring Training less than a month away and Wren's needs primarily reduced to finding an outfielder, Jones believes it is approaching the point where the Braves need to show how interested they are in keeping him around for the start of the next decade.

When Jones played amid contract negotiations during the 2000 season, he was 28 years old and the reigning National League MVP. Currently, he finds himself as the reigning NL batting champion who is approaching his 37th birthday. And he's hoping to find the health that has eluded him over the course of the past five seasons, during which he's never played in more than 137 games.

Realizing his recent health history and understanding that Father Time isn't on his side, Jones understands why the Braves might be somewhat hesitant with the years and financial guarantees they might provide in any potential offer. With this in mind, Jones is looking for a fair three-year contract and possessing confidence that he'll still be highly-productive when he's 40-years-old and in the final year of this potential three-year deal.

Hot Stove
"I lump myself into the category of being the John Smoltz-type of athlete," Jones said. "When I'm done playing, I'm not going to bulk up to 250 pounds. I work out and do stuff to keep myself in shape year round. I think I'm going to be as productive at 40 as I am now. You're not going to be as spry in the legs as you were when you were 25, but you can still be productive."

With the desire to play his entire career for the Braves, Jones doesn't have any current desire to enter the free-agent market next year and make himself available to the highest bidder.

But if he doesn't reach an agreement to prolong his association with the Braves, he certainly has credentials that indicate he would draw plenty of interest from other Major League clubs.

Over the past three seasons, Jones led all Major Leaguers with a .342 batting average, ranked second with a .435 on-base percentage and stood fourth with a .592 slugging percentage.

On a negative note, Jones has made an average of 124 appearances during these past three seasons, which have included five trips to the disabled list.

While his body hasn't provided full cooperation recently, there's no doubt that Jones' desire to remain a Brave remains as strong as it was before the start of the 2006 season, when he agreed to alter his contract by agreeing to sacrifice potential earnings of $15 million for the guarantee of sticking with Atlanta through at least the end of the 2008 season.

With the alteration of this contract, Jones will have earned $48 million -- including the $11 million option that vested for 2009 -- from the start of the '06 season through the end of this upcoming season. His previous contract, which included club options for '07 and '08, could have netted him a maximum of $52 million from 2006-08.

Jones, who has made nearly $120 million during his career, has never worried about any of the money he might have lost by altering his contract. He's always been more concerned about the guaranteed opportunity to remain with the Braves.

And as he waits for a possible extension, his mindset remains the same.

"Everything is in play at this point," Jones said. "I haven't been offered an extension. I'm not going to negotiate during the season. We've got a period of time that we can work with and we're hoping to hear something definitive soon."

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