Posted by Connor Tapp on 8th October 2009
Yesterday, as a supplement to advocating that Chipper Jones be moved to first base, I suggested that the Braves should make an effort to sign free-agent-to-be Adrian Beltre as their third baseman for 2010. I say “should make an effort to sign” rather than “should sign” for a number of reasons.
First, Beltre is represented by Scott Boras. Second, Beltre has suffered myriad injuries (mostly to the shoulder) over the past two seasons. Third, Beltre will be 31 at the beginning of next season, so any long-term contract would involve a significant investment in the decline phase of his career. A one-year, “show me” contract would be ideal.
But an investment in Beltre would also involve a great deal of upside. First, let’s talk about what we know Adrian Beltre is – namely, one of the best defensive third baseman in the major leagues. Despite missing 51 games in 2009, he prevented 21 fielding runs above average, fourth-best in MLB.
Naturally, pitching staffs that force opposing batters to hit ground balls and line drives are going to benefit most from having superb infield defense. As it turns out, the Braves induce more ground balls than most – 47% of all balls put in play, 4th most in MLB. (It might be worth noting that this percentage will likely rise in 2010 if Tim Hudson is in the rotation for the entire year.)
It’s with Beltre’s bat where you’re taking a big risk. A few shoulder surgeries have sapped Adrian’s power over the past two seasons, and it’s starting to look less and less like he will recapture any semblance of his 2004 form. But it’s also likely that Safeco Field is masking Beltre’s true offensive ability (see: Ibanez, Raul).
On balance, I think Beltre’s consecutive disappointing seasons in 2008 and 2009 might make him a nice bargain this offseason. You certainly shouldn’t expect ’04 Beltre, but anything near ’06-’07 Beltre would do just fine.
(Pedro Feliz would be a plausible alternative but offers much less offensive upside.)
Tags: Adrian Beltre
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Posted by Connor Tapp on 7th October 2009
Most of the Braves’ struggles on offense in 2009 stemmed from their inability to obtain offensive production from the positions on the field where you typically expect the most production: the infield and outfield corners.
In right field, Jeff Francoeur was, well, Jeff Francoeur. Ryan Church didn’t provide the relief from Frenchy’s awfulness for which the Braves had hoped. Matt Diaz provided some late-season spark, but thinking of him as anything more than the short end of a platoon would be a mistake on par with, say, signing Garret Anderson to be your every day left fielder.
The failures of the corner infield positions were a little more unexpected. Not even those dimmest on Casey Kotchman’s prospects expected him to be as bad as he was during his brief tenure with the Braves. But the Atlanta finally found their guy at first base in Adam LaRoche only to see him become a free agent at the season’s close. While it would be nice to be able to re-sign LaRoche, doing so will be costly and will likely keep Adam in Atlanta a good bit beyond Freddie Freeman’s ETA in the big leagues.
On the other side of the diamond, Chipper Jones’ inability to remain healthy presents problems of its own. Enduring Chipper’s frailty in order to enjoy his effective-when-healthy schtick is now a deeply ingrained part of Braves tradition. But the novelty has begun to wear thin, especially when he’s not delivering a 1.000+ OPS as he did in 2008 and 2007 and Martin Prado is the guy filling in for him a couple times a week. Don’t get me wrong, Prado is a serviceable second baseman with room yet to improve, but his bat doesn’t play at third base.
There’s a potential solution here that might allow Frank Wren to solve two problems at once: move Chipper to first base. Jones wouldn’t be the first player to move across the diamond to keep his body healthy and his bat in play. Third base is one of the most physically demanding positions on the field, and moving him to first might prove to be less strain on his body. Furthermore, Chipper’s defense at third these days is either average or awful, depending on which metric you use.
As I’ve mentioned, this solution could potentially solve two problems: 1) the void at first base 2) Chipper Jones’ health.
It does, however, create another problem: the void at third base. Fortunately, I have an answer which, I think, solves that problem quite well: sign Adrian Beltre.
But more on that tomorrow.
Tags: Adam LaRoche, Adrian Beltre, Chipper Jones, Garret Anderson, Jeff Francoeur, Martin Prado, Matt Diaz, Ryan Church
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