Braves save $6M in '06 with Chipper's new $37M deal

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves finalized a $37 million,
three-year contract with Chipper Jones on Friday that guarantees
the third baseman an additional $15 million and saves the team $6
million in 2006 salary, money that could be used to re-sign
Rafael Furcal or pursue a top closer.

Jones had $22 million in guaranteed money remaining in a $90
million, six-year contract that began in 2001. He was due to make
$17 million next season, and Atlanta had team options for 2007 and
2008 at $15 million annually. The options, which carried a single
$5 million buyout, would have become guaranteed if he had 450 plate
appearances in the previous season or was an All-Star.

Under the new deal, he gets a $4 million signing bonus in
January and $11 million in each of the next three seasons. The
contract contains a 2009 team option at $8 million that would
become guaranteed if he has 450 plate appearances the previous year
and escalators that could raise his 2009 salary to $11 million.

General manager John Schuerholz praised Jones for reworking his
contract to give the Braves their "best possibility of maintaining
our remarkable winning tradition."

"Whatever it takes, Chipper is always willing to step up,"
Schuerholz said, "and we are pleased that this latest unselfish
act will likely ensure that he will play his entire career as a

Atlanta is still trying to re-sign Furcal, their shortstop and
leadoff man, who had a career-high 46 stolen bases last season.
They desperately need a closer as well, going through three
pitchers in that role while winning their 14th straight division

Kyle Farnsworth, acquired July 31 from Detroit, finished the
season as the closer but agreed Friday to a $17 million, three-year
deal with the New York Yankees.

The Braves have shown interest in San Diego closer Trevor
Hoffman, a free agent who is second on the career saves list with
436, including 43 in 46 chances this past season.

Schuerholz said the contract restructuring was similar to Jones'
willingness to move to left field from third base in 2002 so the
team could sign Vinny Castilla. Jones moved back to third during
the '04 season.

"Chipper has always displayed a consistent, strong desire to
contribute to our winning on the field," the GM said.

Jones, whose new contract was first reported by The Atlanta
Journal-Constitution on Nov. 18, is a five-time All-Star who won
the National League MVP award in 1999. He has been slowed by
injuries the last two seasons, missing significant time in 2005
with a foot ailment. He batted .296 with 21 homers and 72 RBI.

"The first professional uniform I put on 16 years ago was a
Braves uniform, and I wanted to try to make sure its my last,"
Jones said. "I want to retire as a Brave, but more importantly, I
knew this was something that could help continue the winning
tradition we've built and our quest to bring our fans another world

The Braves won the World Series in 1995, Jones' rookie year, but
that is their only such championship during the unprecedented run
of division titles.