Jones receives three-year extension
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Chipper Jones already had a World Series ring and an MVP trophy. What he wanted was the chance to finish up in the place where he started.
The Atlanta Braves were more than glad to give it to him.
The NL batting champion and the Braves agreed Tuesday to a $42 million, three-year contract extension though 2012, a deal that could ensure Jones becomes one of those rare stars who plays his entire career in one uniform.
There's an option that could make the extension worth up to $61 million over four seasons.
"I didn't know much about the business when I first came to Atlanta, but I knew my goal was to play good enough, and long enough, to have this hopefully happen one day," the 36-year-old Jones said during a news conference at Atlanta's spring training stadium. "I am very, very grateful. The Braves made my decision easy."
Jones, the first overall pick in the 1990 draft, has never come close to leaving Atlanta.
"Nowadays, so many players play the game for the 1st and 15th [pay days], but I never have," he said. "Certainly, I want to be compensated fairly for what I do, but I wasn't going to hold the organization over a barrel. And I never wanted to be a player who makes so much money that we can't stay competitive on the field. That was my main concern."
Jones hit .364 with 22 home runs and 75 RBIs last year.
A six-time All-Star, he was the NL's Most Valuable Player in 1999. His .310 career batting average ranks second among switch-hitters, trailing only Frankie Frisch's .316. He has 408 home runs, trailing only Mickey Mantle (536) and Eddie Murray (504) in homers by a switch-hitter.
He is the only switch-hitter with at least 300 homers and a .300 career batting average.
"If there is such a thing as getting better with age, Chipper is that," said Bobby Cox, the only manager Jones has had in Atlanta. "It doesn't shock me at all what he has done. It was there from the beginning, the heart and passion to be the best. From the start, it didn't take a professional eye to see what we had. You're looking at Hall of Fame stuff."
Due $10 million this season in the option year of a contract that began in 2006, Jones gets a $3 million signing bonus as part of the new deal, payable in $1 million installments each Jan. 15 starting next year.
Jones receives annual salaries of $13 million from 2010-12 and can earn $1.5 million a year in performance bonuses: $750,000 each for 135 and 140 games.
His contract contains a $9 million option for 2013 that would become guaranteed if he plays in 123 games in 2012 or averages 127 games in 2011-12. The option price could increase by up to $4 million: $1 million each for 128, 133, 138 and 140 games in 2012 (or averages of 132, 137, 138 and 140 in 2011-12). In addition, he could earn $1.5 million in performance bonuses based on the earlier criteria.
If the vesting option fails to become guaranteed, the club would hold a $7 million option.
Jones said he considered several options this past winter, including retirement when his current contract ended. But he liked the moves made by the Braves, who rebuilt their rotation with Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez and Japanese star Kenshin Kawakami, and tried to bolster their lineup by signing Garret Anderson.
The Braves won the World Series when Jones was a rookie in 1995 -- early on in a stretch of 14 straight division titles -- and he'd like to lead the team back to the top. Atlanta finished fourth in the NL East last season with a 72-90 record, its worst since 1990.
"I was part of the beginning and the great years," he said. "I want to be part of the comeback now. I like what we've done. I would have been extremely disappointed if I went somewhere else and they came back without me."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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