We’ve finally settled on it, Griffey’s out of the picture. Where do the Braves go from here? Let’s take a look at the 5 possible left field options (that we’re aware of), counting down in order of likelihood:
5 – Xavier Nady: From a performance standpoint, Nady would be the perfect answer to Atlanta’s need for right-handed power. He hit .305 last season with 25 homers and 97 RBI for the Pirates and Yankees. However, his price tag (both in terms of salary, and talent to be surrendered via trade), a contract that expires at season’s end, and his notoriously hard-driving agent (someone named Boras), make Nady the least likely candidate to fill the Braves Left Field job opening.
4 – Nick Swisher: Swisher is a switch-hitting Yankees slugger who the Braves’ believe could nicely address their outfield power deficiency. Before the Griffey rumors began to percolate, Swisher, who is under contract through 2012, appeared to be the Braves top target. However, it was rumored that they wanted the Yanks to assume 2 million dollars of his annual salary (roughly 5.5 million dollars for 2009).
The Yankees are open to Atlanta’s request, but would require “higher quality prospects” in return, which the Braves are reluctant to yield. Given Atlanta’s recently stated commitment to guarding their best young minor league talent, it doesn’t seem likely that the Braves will meet the Yankees’ asking price for Swisher.
3 – Jim Edmonds: The now 38-year-old Edmonds showed Cubs fans last year that he can still club right-handed pitching. His 19 homers and 54 RBI in 292 at-bats against RHP made his humble .250 batting average VS. righties forgivable. On the flipside, he’s a dollar short of worthless against lefties. In 48 at-bats VS. LHP, he hit .146, with 1 homer and 1 RBI. But his ability to slug against right-handed hurlers makes him a viable platoon partner for the right-handed hitting Matt Diaz. He could also serve as a quality back-up Center-fielder.
I think Edmonds makes a fair amount of sense for Atlanta, and he should fit their budget. That said, there hasn’t been so much as a whisper of Edmonds’ name in connection to the Braves, which causes me to think such a marriage is improbable, but that could change at any moment.
2 – Garret Anderson: The longtime Angels outfielder is likely to play baseball without an “A” on his cap for the first time in 15 years. Or is he?Anderson has lost much of his once considerable power, but he is still a solid big league hitter. With the exception of a modest on-base percentage, Anderson’s 2008 numbers compare very favorably to Griffey’s. He hit .293 last season with 15 homers and 84 RBI.
The left-handed hitting Anderson handles lefties well (.290 vs. lefties last season), however, all but one of his homers came at the expense of right-handed pitching, which makes him another excellent (and affordable) candidate to platoon with Matt Diaz in Left. We’ve covered more details earlier in the offseason.
1 – Let the kids play: If the Braves aren’t attracted to the remaining external outfield options, it would seem that they’re prepared to play their current hand, and reassess the outfield situation a couple of months into the season. The most likely existing candidates for the two available outfield jobs are left-hand hitting center-fielders, Josh Anderson, and Jordan Schafer.
Josh Anderson is out of minor league options, which means the Braves will either have to add him to the Major League roster, or trade him. If the Braves do not import another outfielder, Anderson will battle Jordan Schafer for the starting Center Field role this spring. The speedy Gregor Blanco may also compete for the job. If Anderson fails to win the full-time position in center, he will likely share playing time with Matt Diaz in Left Field. In 203 big league at-bats (2007/2008), Anderson has a .315 batting average, a .364 on-base percentage, and 11 steals in 13 tries.
Jordan Schafer was once considered the Braves top position prospect before a 50-game suspension for alleged “HGH” use last year, however, his star has not fallen. The Braves sill think quite well of the talented “5-tool prospect”, and reviews of his early work at the Braves Spring Training facilities have been positive.
Whether the Braves ink a free agent outfielder, such as G. Anderson or Edmonds, or let youth movement have a go, Matt Diaz is likely to see the majority of his playing time against left-handed pitching. Over the past three seasons, Diaz has hit .319, .338, and .327 against lefty hurlers.
So… if Frank Wren were to call and ask your advice, what would you tell him? Trade away? Sign an inexpensive veteran? Or let the kids play?
Tags: Braves 2009 Outfield, Garret Anderson, Jim Edmonds, Jordan Schafer, Josh Anderson, Matt Diaz, Nick Swisher, Xavier Nady
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Thanks to Grant McAuley for the article suggestion. Check out Grant’s excellent blog “A ‘Braves’ New World” when you have time.
Bobby Abreu was recently snatched up by the Angels. Dunn was signed yesterday by the Nationals. Apparently Ken Griffey Jr. is nearing a contract with Seattle, and the Braves remain looking for an outfielder. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal says that the Braves are looking into Garret Anderson, Luis Gonzalez and Jim Edmonds (Jr. was also mentioned, but best bet for him is Seattle at this point). Rosenthal also says a trade with Swisher is still a possibility, but less likely than a free agent signing.
We’ve already talked about what we think about Garret Anderson. He would knock in some runs but I don’t think he’d provide an incremental amount of power that’d set him above our current outfielder platoon options. Some people may disagree, and that’s fine.
Luis Gonzalez seems like a horrible fit. We wanted power. We need a cleanup hitter. Under 75 RBIs and an average of less than 15 home runs over the last three years? I just don’t see him as a fit. I’d rather watch Diaz/Jones. Jim Edmonds seems to be a better fit with an average of more than 15 HRs the last three years – still under 75 RBIs though – which we’ll forgive as he played with San Diego some of last year. Still not cleanup material with around a .250ish average. We could expect him to play in 110-115 games.
Xavier Nady hasn’t been mentioned much recently – I think that we’re probably shying away from the one-year-rental mentality that comes with trading for Nady. Swisher has a lot of $ attached to him and a three year commitment, but he could potentially cover first if the outfield got too crowded. I like Swisher for this year best, but long-term I’m not sure where he’d fit in.
I’d like to see us wait a little bit and see how the youngsters Schafer, Jones, Blanco, Diaz, and Anderson do in spring training before bringing in someone that’s going to bat middle of the order. If we bring someone in, Swisher sounds like the best fit if we’re willing to spend a little bit of money. Let the same comments flow that have been bouncing around the last few weeks Just had to update everyone on the potential outfield options.
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Tags: Garret Anderson, Jim Edmonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Luis Gonzalez, Nick Swisher, Xavier Nady
Posted in General | 30 Comments »