Braves' focus in offseason will be on third base and center field

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Atlanta will have to fill the spot vacated at third base by the retiring Chipper Jones, a likely hall of famer. Martin Prado and Juan Francisco are possible replacements.  JOHN BAZEMORE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
JOHN BAZEMORE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Atlanta will have to fill the spot vacated at third base by the retiring Chipper Jones, a likely hall of famer. Martin Prado and Juan Francisco are possible replacements.

ATLANTA — Item by item, Chipper Jones’ shirts and pants were folded and stacked neatly for the final time in his Braves travel bag.

His teammates also went through the familiar routine of cleaning out lockers Saturday. Jones is taking more than his clothes: The team gave the third baseman the entire locker as a retirement gift.

A likely future Hall of Famer, Jones will be difficult to replace. The Braves also could lose centerfielder and leadoff hitter Michael Bourn, who can become a free agent.

“This is a lot easier than I thought it was going to be when I thought about it five years ago,” the 40-year-old Jones said. “That lets me know I’m ready.”

General manager Frank Wren said with other parts of the team in place, he’ll be able to focus on third base and center.

“I’m looking forward to it, because I think there’s a narrower focus of what we need,” Wren said Saturday. “We’ve got a lot of good young players in place and we’ve got to determine what we do in centerfield, and that kind of couples with leadoff, and we’ve got to determine how we replace Chipper. Beyond that, our club is pretty solid. So it’s a pretty narrow focus.”

Atlanta’s season ended with Friday’s 6-3 wild-card loss to St. Louis.

Wren, manager Fredi Gonzalez and the players all talked Saturday about the disputed infield fly call in the eighth inning. There also was much regret about the Braves’ three errors, one by Jones.

“The way we lost yesterday was never in my mind, and I’m not even talking about the ruling,” Gonzalez said. “I’m just talking about the way we handled the baseball. We’ve been so good for two years playing defense.”

Jones was 1 for 5 with a throwing error.

“Had I had a better game, I probably would have accepted it a little bit better,” Jones said. “I’m a little disappointed in myself for the game that I played.”

Jones plans to visit the Braves in spring training, but not to coach.

“I’m not going to be a mainstay down there,” he said. “I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes.”

Jones’ retirement clears $13 million from the Braves’ payroll. If the team can’t re-sign Bourn, Wren will have about $20 million to spend elsewhere.

“I think the Braves need some pieces, but I think Frank will have fun playing with all the money,” Jones said with a smile.

Wren said he’ll be a serious off-season shopper.

“We’re going to be looking for premium players, I think there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “We’re losing one Hall of Fame player and the salary that goes with that Hall of Fame player, and we’re going to be looking to replace him. And as we do that, it gives us the opportunity to add another big player.”


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