Posted by Lance Burson on July 14th, 2010
So I did not get my Cliff Lee doll for for Independence Day. Good for you Ranger fan, your team just secured a slot in the American League playoffs and the Braves do not have to face Cliff Lee. Time for plan B.
The Braves need power in the lineup and another outfielder that can provide offense and defense in left field or centerfield. As we have seen in recent games, Eric Hinske and Matt Diaz are fine situational hitters, but their defensive liabilities can cost runs that can lose games. Centerfield remains an enigma. Melky Cabrera has been hot (his average has climbed 45 points in seven seeks) and Melky had played all three outfield positions ok. Just ok. He’s a fourth outfielder. Nate McLouth’s nightmare season contunes in rehab starts at Gwinnett. He is tearing up minor league pitching while getting over a concussion. The problem with nate is, as we have seen when he was healthy, his speed and power combination is not working in a Braves uniform. I have heard him referred to as the new Reggie Sanders, the former Braves outfielder who after several successful season with the Reds and Padres was traded to Atlanta and fell flat on his face with a .232 avg 11 hr 37 rbi. The season was so awful for Reggie, he spent time on the DL and was a bench player in the playoffs. Nate faces the same fate. I don’t see things working for McLouth in Atlanta.
The Braves need consistent play froma legitimate major league outfielder who can play every day, with a high fielding percentage and provide homeruns and rbi in either the 4th, 5th or 6th spot in the lineup. He would take pressure off an aging Chipper, ailing Troy Glaus, and beat up Brian McCann. I nominate three guys.
Corey Hart is the most talked about candidate. The pros for Corey are obvious. The Brewer is an all star. His 2010 numbers are terrific at .288 21 65. His 2009 scared me because he was hurt and ended with .260 12 48. He hit 20 and 24 homers in 2008 and 2007 respectively. That con along with Hart natural position being right field, which he plays with recklessness is a turn off. Jason Heyward is the Braves right fielder and the corner stone of the franchise. Do you really want him or Hart to meet to a new position during the most important part of the season. Hart will be eligible for free agence and looking for at least 12million a year. It’s unlikely, even with Chipper retiring, they’d pay that. So you are probably renting a 28 year old player.
Cody Ross has been on the Braves radar for 3 seasons. he’s versatile, slick fielding, and durable outfielder. he can play all three positions and currently switches between center and right for the Marlins. he is a patient, contact hitter that can provide twenty plus homeruns and about 80 or so rbi a year. Ross is 30 years old and only 5’10″. he plays hard, but with his average size and average numbers, this season he’s .282 7 46, you aren’t upgrading much over what you have. Ross does play every day, avoids injury, and can play all 3 outfield positions. His 2009 was good; .270 24 90. He may have peaked as a player. So what you see is what you get.
The final nomination is my favorite one. Josh Willingham is the left fielder for the Washington Nationals. He should have made the All Star team but a small slump before the break and so much attention being paid to teammates Stephen Strasburg and Adam Dunn (who will be traded soon) took scrutiny away from Willingham. I’ve liked Josh since his Marlins days. He’s a consistent 25 homer 90 rni guy. His numbers this year are .281 15 46. He’s the best fielder of these three. Josh is 31 years old and would not command as much money as Corey Hart or Josh’s teammate Adam Dunn. Willingham is consistent, plays the position the Braves need an upgrade, and he’s signable.
Depending on which baseball “insider” you believe, any of these three outfielders can be had for one or two top minor league prospects. Lefty pitcher Mike Minor and outfielder Cody Johnson could land any of them. I would like to se Josh Willingham holding down left field very soon. Let’s hope the Braves feel the same way.