On behalf of all Mets fans, I would like to wish Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones a happy retirement. After 19 seasons in the big leagues, the notorious Mets killer called it a career at the end of the 2012 season. However, don’t expect the Braves to wither up and go away next year.
The Braves will miss Jones, but they can replace him by moving outfielder Martin Prado to third base or signing a free agent outfielder and third baseman. With that in mind, here’s a look at five possible free agent targets for Atlanta, which finished 20 games ahead of the Mets in the NL East in 2012.
Kevin Youkilis (1B/3B) — Youkilis is an intriguing option to replace Jones, especially if the Braves are reluctant to move move Prado. Youkilis’ better days may be behind him, but he’s still a dangerous hitter (19 home runs in 2012) and there are not many other good free agent third baseman out there.
B.J. Upton (OF) — I’d be surprised to see the Braves get in a bidding war for Josh Hamilton, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make a run at Upton, especially if speedster Michael Bourn leaves Atlanta (a real possibility). Plus, Upton is only 28-years old, so a long-term deal is digestible.
Shane Victorino (OF) — I don’t know why, but I can see Victorino in a Braves uniform next season. The former Philadelphia Phillies outfielder is familiar with the NL East and would be a great fit in Atlanta. By the way, Victorino is one of five outfielders I would like to see the Mets pursue in the offseason.
Angel Pagan (OF) — For the same reasons they could sign Victorino, the Braves may consider Pagan, who helped the San Francisco Giants win the World Series. Furthermore, the well-rounded Pagan won’t command nearly the same salary as his free agent peers, making him a great value add.
Kelly Shoppach (C) — Ideally, the Braves would like to bring back David Ross to back up Brian McCann, but Ross may seek a full-time gig elsewhere. Shoppach is a solid alternative. Remember, McCann may miss Spring Training and the start of the season due to offseason shoulder surgery.
Adam Martini is a freelance sportswriter who grew up in Queens, N.Y. with a view of Shea Stadium from his bedroom window. He spent many nights in the upper deck at Shea rooting for the Mets. You can follow him on Twitter @PegCitySports.
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