Former Braves players are making big bucks

August 20, 2012 

You rarely see a major league baseball player remain with the same team throughout his career. But there are exceptions, with Chipper Jones being one.

Atlanta has been his only team during a 19-year career that will end at the conclusion of this season when he officially retires. He will leave quite a legacy in Atlanta. Through Sunday, he has a career batting average of .304, 467 home runs (He is the only switch hitter in major league history to hit over .300 with over 400 home runs) 546 doubles and 1,615 RBI. This season, he is hitting .313.

I can’t see Derek Jeter with any other team than the Yankees where he started. The 38-year-old Jeter, who makes $16 million this season, will bring home $17 million next year. Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer has a $184 million deal through 2018, and he is probably a Twin for life. Another factor that would keep him there is he is from St. Paul.

I hoped that Albert Pujols would be a lifetime St. Louis Cardinal and the team would commission a statue for him like the one currently in place for Stan Musial. But the Los Angeles Angels offered a 10-year deal worth $240 million, which includes a no-trade clause and another 10-year personal services contract, and he left the Midwest for the West Coast.

Movement in baseball is constant. Take the Braves for example. There are just five players on this year’s squad who were with the team in 2006: Chipper, Brian McCann, Tim Hudson, Martin Prado and Matt Diaz. Diaz went on the disabled list July 21 with a thumb injury that will probably sideline him for the rest of the season. During that six-year period, Atlanta has had 85 pitchers to see action along with 35 outfielders, 33 infielders and eight catchers.

You could field a team from all those players and I doubt they would be a contender, more so because of pitching than any other factor. The Braves seldom let a good pitcher get away.

How about this starting lineup of these ex-Braves? Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia of the Boston Red Sox, with a salary of $2.5 million. At one time he was considered Atlanta’s next superstar but fortunately the Braves saw a brighter future for Brian McCann, who will most likely be a lifetime Braves player.

At first base, Mark Teixeira, currently with the Yankees in the fourth year of an eight-year deal that pays him $22.5 million a season. At second base, we have Kelly Johnson, who now plays in Toronto. The Blue Jays are paying him $6.37 million this season.

Rafael Furcal, who got his start as a member of the Macon Braves, is the choice at short. He is in his second season with the Cardinals at a salary of $6 million this season. At third base would be Yunel Escobar of the Blue Jays, who has a two-year deal worth $10 million.

The outfield consists of Melky Cabrera in left, Andrew Jones in center and Jeff Francoeur in right. Cabrera (currently suspended for testing positive for testosterone) is making $6 million with the San Francisco Giants this season, Jones is at $2 million with the Yankees after having a $14.7 million deal with the Dodgers in 2008, and Francoeur, now in Kansas City, has a two-year contract worth $13.5 million.

The real challenge is finding a starting pitcher from the former Braves who are still in the game. The best of the lot appears to be Derek Lowe, who gets $15 million ($10 million paid by the Braves) with the Yankees. The top reliever is Rafael Soriano, also with New York, who has two years remaining on his three-year, $35 million contract he signed following the 2010 season. He gets $11 million this year and $14 million in 2013. Using Lowe as the starting pitcher, that lineup makes almost $70 million combined.

Of all the players who have come and gone in Atlanta, the only one I would like to have back is Teixeira.

Contact Bobby Pope at bobbypope428@gmail.com

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