Has Church played his final game in Atlanta?
Ryan Church made some key contributions after gaining distinction as the man the Braves acquired from the Mets in exchange for Jeff Francoeur on July 10. But there’s definitely reason to wonder if the veteran outfielder has played his final game in Atlanta.
Church returned to Viera, Fla. on Friday to be with his wife, Tina, as she gave birth to their second child, Madison Noel, who entered this world at 6 pounds and 11 ounces.
With Church unavailable for Friday night’s game against the Nationals, Braves manager Bobby Cox opted to use Omar Infante in right field to spell Matt Diaz, who was scratched from the lineup because of a bruised right thumb.
Since joining the Braves, Church has hit .260 with two homers and a .749 OPS. But the soon-to-be 31-year-old outfielder has struggled since his back began to bother him during the latter portion of August. He hit .207 (6-for-29) while playing in just 13 games (8 starts) since Sept. 1.
As an arbitration-eligible player, Church could see his current $2.8 million salary increased to somewhere around the $3.5 million range next year. Given his back problems, the Braves may balk at that potential cost and attempt to trade him before having to make a decision about whether or not to tender him a contract.
Some clubs have already expressed some interest in obtaining Church. Obviously, the return for the Braves likely wouldn’t be significant.
The decision regarding Church will be just one of the many facing the Braves this winter. But it’s quite obvious that they are in a much better position entering this offseason than they were at this time a year ago, when the only definite returnee to their rotation was Jair Jurrjens.