The Braves are not good. Maybe you noticed. Atlanta pitchers gave up 26 hits in an 18-3 loss to the Cardinals last night. It was the Braves’ sixth consecutive loss and 11th in 12 games. They are now 16 games back in the NL East.

So, it’s safe to say Braves fans are looking ahead to next season. But what will next year’s team look like? AJC columnist Jeff Schultz seems to think it will be a team stocked with expensive free agents. He says the Braves may have $47 million to spend. $47 million!

The Braves might lose five of the top seven salaries from this year’s payroll: Mike Hampton, John Smoltz, Mark Teixeira (already traded), Tom Glavine and Mark Kotsay.

So who might the Braves sign?

Hello, C.C. Sabathia or Ben Sheets?

Hmmm…that sounds like a little bit of wishful thinking. But let’s say Schultz is right. Let’s say the Braves give Sabathia a six-year $120 million contract. They’ll have $27 million left to spend. And all they’ll need is two more starting pitchers to pitch alongside CC, Jair Jurrgens and Jorge Campillo. Free agent pitchers will include Jon Garland (29), Braden Looper (34) and Derek Lowe (36). Bringing back Glavine didn’t work, but Greg Maddux (43) will be a free agent this winter. How about it?

Oh, and they’ll need a centerfielder to replace Kotsay. Free agent centerfielders include Rocco Baldelli (27), Jim Edmonds (39), Mark Kotsay (33), Corey Patterson (29). Will $27 million accomplish all that? Will Liberty Media grow the team’s budget?

For what it’s worth, AJC blogger David O’Brien has a plan to put together a contender and keep Tom Glavine and John Smoltz in Atlanta (in the unlikely event that either returns to pitch in 2009). He says ownership should set a budget, but make it clear that they’ll exceed that budget only to sign Glavine or Smoltz, or both.

I really don’t get O’Brien’s plan. It seems to me that if you’ve got $100 million to spend on a team that does include Tom Glavine, then you should have $100 million to spend on a team that doesn’t include Glavine.

A much better plan for rebuilding the Braves is the plan floated by Sabernomics earlier in the week. Part of that strategy involved trading Chipper Jones:

I think Chipper would be willing to play for another team that has a chance to win (a source has told me that this is the case). And if the Braves are rebuilding, I don’t think he’ll miss being part of the process. Sure, some fans will miss him, but it’s not like the organization heavily promotes him now. Chipper will go into the Hall of Fame as a Brave, that is settled. And the fact that his bat can net prospects that can help the team rebuild is an asset that the Braves shouldn’t waste. for nostalgia.

Trading Chipper would be unpopular, to be sure. But there is simply no way Atlanta is going to compete in 2009, especially now that Tim Hudson is going to be out all year. So why not make 2010 the goal?

Hey, plenty of folks here at Umpbump picked the Braves to win the NL East this season. Well, ok, it was just me. But I’ll be the first one to admit that I was wrong. The Braves aren’t a championship team. Not even close. It’s time for Frank Wren to come to the same conclusion. $47 million worth of free agents won’t fix this team. Atlanta needs to get younger. And cheaper. And trading Chipper Jones is the quickest way to do that.

NOTE: For a complete list of 2009 free agents, check out MLB Trade Rumors.

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