Andruw out of Atlanta picture for 2008
Schuerholz makes announcement after meeting with veteran
ATLANTA -- When the conclusion of the 2008 season arrives and it comes time for Mark Teixeira to enter the free agent marketplace, his agent Scott Boras may find himself amid regular negotiations with the Braves.
But as he prepares to take Andruw Jones into free agency this offseason, Boras won't be negotiating with Braves general manager John Schuerholz, who announced on Tuesday at Turner Field that the Gold Glove outfielder won't be returning to Atlanta next year.
"It wasn't easy," Schuerholz said of this decision to say goodbye to a popular figure, who debuted in Atlanta in 1996 and desired to be a life-long Brave. "We debated it. We had a lot of lively debate ... but it just doesn't work for us."
While it may have been surprising to some that this decision came just two days into the offseason, Boras doesn't count himself among this group. Over the past year, he gained a sense the Braves were preparing to end their long relationship with Jones, whose future in Atlanta was in doubt even before he hit a career-worst .222 with 26 homers and 94 RBIs this year.
"General managers of teams that I have [established] players playing for call me all the time," Boras said. "With John [Schuerholz], I have never discussed anything about Andruw Jones for two years."
Per Jones' request, Boras said that he sent two letters to the Braves last winter to gauge their interest in signing him to a contract before he became eligible for free agency this winter. When he didn't get a response to either, the agent informed the organization that there wouldn't be any further contract-related discussions until this offseason arrived.
Schuerholz says that an e-mail he received from Boras on Dec. 11 of last year provided him his first confirmation that it might not be feasible or wise to re-sign Jones.
While there hasn't been any further discussions or contact between the parties, Schuerholz says this belief began to strengthen over the past few months, when he read articles that quoted Boras as saying he intended to land Jones a contract that would recognize him as a top-tier player.
"It started high and stayed high," Schuerholz said of what he viewed as contractual requests. "We didn't get a subsequent e-mail of a different evaluation. It was reiterated -- that belief in the value of the player -- in articles that I've read within the last 10 days."
Schuerholz didn't provide specifics regarding what was included in this e-mail. But he acknowledged that Boras is seeking a contract similar to the ones received by Vernon Wells and Alfonso Soriano before this season began. Both of them gained contracts that consisted of at least seven years and included an annual salary of at least $17 million.
Despite his sub-par offensive statistics, Jones' history does provide Boras an opportunity to gain a similar contract. Just two years ago, he collected career highs in homers (51) and RBIs (128) and finished second in National League MVP balloting. In November, he'll likely win his 10th consecutive Gold Glove.
In addition, this year he became one of 14 Major Leaguers to ever have hit at least 25 homers for 10 consecutive years. And according to Boras, the fact that he's started more games than any other Major Leaguer since the beginning of the 1998 season, is indication that he's "the game's most durable outfielder" and not indication that he's accumulated wear and tear that will affect his future performance.
"I'm going to miss the clowning around and the headaches that he gave me on a daily basis," said Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton, who has a brotherly bond with Jones. "He gave it everything he had every day, even when he was hurt and struggling. I'll take that any day of the week."
This past weekend, Jeff Francoeur said he was looking forward to one more opportunity to play alongside Jones in the outfield. On Tuesday, he gained a sense his always-proud former teammate was battling emotions.
"I think he's upset because he spent all this time here and then just suddenly it's done," said Francoeur of Jones, who in 1996 became known as a 19-year-old phenom when he homered in his first two career World Series at-bats.
Schuerholz has fond memories of Jones' many contributions to his organization and that's why he chose to personally inform him of this decision early on Tuesday afternoon in his Turner Field office.
"He was very professional, very understanding and very appreciative of the fact that we worked as quickly as we did, decided as quickly as we did and let him know in a forthright, straight and honest manner," Schuerholz said.
Jones told Boras that the conversation included Schuerholz telling him that it wouldn't be financially feasible for his future rosters to include both him and Teixeira, who will earn a substantial raise as an arbitration-eligible player this offseason, and then likely serve as one of the most attractive figures on next year's free agent market.
For now, the Braves are just happy to know they have Teixeira's services for at least another year. In the 54 games he played for the Braves after being acquired from the Rangers at the trade deadline, he hit .317 with 17 homers and 56 RBIs.
Teixeira took full advantage of hitting in the cleanup spot behind Edgar Renteria and Chipper Jones, who combined to own two of the four best batting averages compiled in the National League this year.
"We are really happy as an organization to have Mark Teixeira come to Spring Training from day one," Schuerholz said. "We've seen the type of impact he has on our team, not only with his production, but the residual benefit of him being here."
Teixeira said he had more fun the past two months than he's had at any other point of his career. But still when it comes time to re-sign him next year, he'll be come with a hefty price and the request that the Braves ignore their strict thoughts regarding no-trade policies.
"He wants to stay in one place for a long time," Boras said. "But that's probably not in Atlanta because the Braves don't offer no-trade clauses. That's been a problem with a number of my clients who have wanted to sign there."
In a perfect world, Schuerholz says he would've continued employing Greg Maddux, Kevin Millwood, Tom Glavine and many of the organization's popular figures who have previously said goodbye. But as Jones has been reminded, it's an imperfect world which brings great fortune and also prevents both players and management from showing eternal loyalty.
"It doesn't demean or diminish all that he's done for us and I thanked him for all of those contributions," Schuerholz said. "We'll all have a lot of fond memories of him. But it's our judgment."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.