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Inbox: Should Braves lock up Jurrjens?

Inbox: Should Braves lock up Jurrjens?

As the offseason is quickly drawing to a close, Braves beat reporter Mark Bowman answers your questions about the Braves' future and who will be coming up through the Minors.

Should we start trying to sign Jair Jurrjens to an contract, similar to the one that carried Brian McCann through his arbitration years? He is extremely talented and we cannot let him go.
-- Walt B., Spokane, Wash.

Before potentially going through the arbitration process with Jurrjens for the first time next year, the Braves certainly have reason to approach Jurrjens with this kind of contract, which would provide them with cost certainty during his three arbitration-eligible seasons.

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Such a deal would also provide Jurrjens insurance to protect against any unforeseen injuries or struggles. Based on the 23-year-old right-hander's makeup, maturity and sound mechanics, the Braves would at least have reason to feel confident about making this kind of offer.

Still, it's a roll of the dice any time you make this kind of offer to a young pitcher. Last year, Cole Hamels was on top of the world. But now there's reason to question whether the Phillies were wise to commit $16.15 million to him over the next two seasons.

Along the same lines, the Braves undoubtedly have something special in Tommy Hanson. But before guaranteeing his salaries through his arbitration-eligible seasons, shouldn't the club wait at least one more season to see what kind of effect his unique delivery could have on his arm?

Clubs often feel more comfortable providing these kinds of deals to their top position players. With this in mind, don't be surprised to see Jason Heyward possibly gain a guaranteed, multiyear contract before Jurrjens or Hanson.

My guess is that Jurrjens and Hanson will both gain multiyear deals before their arb-eligible seasons expire. But the greater concern should be focused on how long the club can keep this duo together past the end of the 2013 season, when Jurrjens will first be eligible for free agency.

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Question:

Chipper Jones mentioned something recently in an interview about signing Javier Vazquez next year as a free agent. Is this possible or is Chipper just dreaming like the rest of us Braves fans?
-- Andy R., Huntsville, Ala.

It might be more appropriate to say that Chipper was doing some wishful thinking. Vazquez was impressive on the mound and a delight to everybody in the clubhouse. It was great to see him hone his craft every five days and just as impressive to see what kind of leadership he provided in the clubhouse on a daily basis.

Vazquez gained comfort with the Braves and the Braves certainly had comfort with Vazquez. This certainly wasn't something that went unnoticed by Frank Wren. But at the end of the day, he had a to move a high-salaried starter and there was only one that he could move.

Now to answer your question, I don't see a situation arising that would allow Vazquez to return to Atlanta after he enters the free-agent market at the end of this season. Barring a significant injury to one of their starters they won't have to make any changes to their starting rotation between the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

Derek Lowe has three years remaining on his contract and Kenshin Kawakami will be around for at least another two seasons. In addition with Jurrjens scheduled to become arbitration-eligible at the conclusion of this upcoming season, the Braves will have to spend a little more to utilize this rotation in 2011.

This question may seem premature, but sadly I feel it's important to know. What is the contingency plan for Chipper at third base? Would they consider moving Yunel Escobar from short to third? It really doesn't look like they have Major League talent to play this position in their farm system.
-- Dan K., Buford, Ga.

Given that I'm pretty confident that Chipper will stick around for another three seasons to complete his contract, this probably is a bit premature. But at the same time, I think it's important to point out that it seems the Braves are making strides to improve their quality of infield prospects at the Minor League level.

A year ago, I would have thought Brandon Hicks might eventually find himself as the club's third baseman of the future. But with another disappointing offensive season behind him, there's reason to wonder if this talented defensive shortstop will ever be able to show his glove at the Major League level.

Over the next couple of years, we'll likely see the Braves place a greater emphasis on finding infielders in the Draft. During the Winter Meetings, I was told the club was attempting to land young shortstops to improve depth at that position and also increase the candidate pool for potential third basemen.

But the best solution might actually prove to be Martin Prado, who has been pretty impressive when he's been asked to man the hot corner over the past couple of years. Plus, I think you're going to see him start to show the power you would want at this position. Based solely on the raw strength shown during batting practice, Prado has as much power as anybody on the club right now.

Do the Braves have any promising left-handed pitchers on the cusp of coming up to the Major Leagues?
-- Timothy J., Anniston, Ala.

As mentioned previously, the glaring weakness on this year's club is the lack of depth in the starting pitching department. Kris Medlen and Jo-Jo Reyes currently stand as the first line of defense if any of the first five starters should suffer an injury. But after that, the options are scarce.

But as this season nears its conclusion, I think there will be some debate about when the Braves should bring left-hander Mike Minor to the big leagues.

There's no doubt the Braves could have seemingly gained something better than Minor with the seventh overall selection in last year's Draft. But the left-hander from Vanderbilt fared pretty well in the Arizona Fall League and provided every indication that the Braves won't be disappointed in their selection.

My guess is that Minor could arrive at some point during the 2011 season and then possibly become a mainstay in 2012. From what I've gathered, he has a chance to be a solid No. 3 starter.

Who will serve as the broadcast team for the Braves games that are carried by Peachtree TV?
-- Kenny K., Elyria, Ohio

The Braves and Turner Sports, which runs Peachtree TV, are still attempting to finalize these plans. They have interviewed a handful of broadcasters who have never previously been affiliated with the club. In addition, there have been discussions about the roles that Joe Simpson and Chip Caray (broadcasters for games on Fox Sports Net and SportSouth) could play.

But given that Caray and Turner Sports parted ways in November, I think there's a good chance that at least one new face will be brought into the Braves broadcasting family to take care of the 40-some games that will be carried on Peachtree TV.

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

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