December 30, 2010 at 1:26 am by Kevin Orris under Atlanta Braves, Defense, Front Office, Transactions
Right now, there is a big misunderstanding among fans about the current Braves outfield situation. There are in fact, two major league outfielders currently on the team. Then there’s Eric Hinske and Jordan Schafer, each with his own issues.
Hinske came into the big leagues as a third baseman, and until Chipper Jones decides to retire, he’s not going to return to the hot corner. His other fit would be at first base, but Freddie Freeman is clearly going to have every opportunity to succeed this season. Therefore, he falls into the outfield by default, regardless of his limited range.
Although Schafer’s issues have been fairly well documented between suspensions and off-the-field issues, I would like to share something that I learned from a anonymous and extremely reliable source earlier this month: At one time, he was juggling four or five agents, telling each of them that they were representing him. In reality they all liked him for the potential that he had on the field, but he was too much to handle. In summary, the time that it would require to babysit him, isn’t worth what will come from him.
Even if he were an angel in the clubhouse and outside of baseball, the skill set hasn’t been there since his first Major League at-bat in 2009. Bobby Cox is known for sticking with players through thick and thin, and Schafer managed to play so poorly, that he was ultimately demoted on May 31, 2009 and has yet to return.
I would like to believe that Nate McLouth will rebound, and same goes for the front office and a majority of the fanbase. For those who would like to see someone else, well too bad!
Truth is the Braves are going to have to live with their current outfield, with Hinske receiving most of the reserve time behind Martin Prado while allowing Joe Mather and Matt Young to audition in the spring.
I understand that it’s not the best outfield, but it’s hard for Frank Wren to do much of anything at this point. While Scott Hairston is a free agent, it’s unlikely that he will out produce McLouth in 2011. McLouth posted WAR of 3.7 in 2008, 3.4 in 2009, and -1.3 last season (obviously terrible). Hairston’s WAR in 2008 was a 2.2, followed by a 1.9 in 2009 and a 0.4 last season.
I don’t view this as much of an upgrade, especially considering McLouth is 18 months younger. All that this move would do is add to the payroll in a poor attempt to patchwork the outfield.
Regardless, the issue isn’t that the Braves need a center fielder; it’s that they need a fourth outfielder. They need someone with plenty of range and a decent arm that can serve as a reliable bat off of the bench and an occasional pinch runner. If I had my pick, it would be Matt Angle, a center fielder in the Baltimore Orioles organization.
Angle was drafted in the 7th round in the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft, and has had a fairly productive minor league career. Odds are low that he’ll ever appear in an All-Star Game or make a run for the triple crown, but he’s a guy that can play all there outfield spots and can contribute in a variety of ways.
Even if the Braves did acquire Angle, the issue of attempting to patchwork the outfield still remains with just one guy who started on a regular basis last season (Heyward).
Frank Wren has a theory of waiting 40 games into the season and at that point evaluating the team. This way, players have a chance to prove themselves and the front office will have a general idea of the contenders and pretenders.
I’m all for the Braves making a move to bring in that fourth outfielder, but I say let’s wait until that 40 game mark and view our options from there. In all reality, the difference between the six outfielders currently on the 40-man roster and the gentlemen listed here, isn’t going to make a big enough difference to stress about by that point in the season.
Important Note: It was announced on Twitter today that Jason Heyward has flown to Southern California to hang out with Freddie Freeman for the week. (Side note: This is the only tweet that I have ever “favorited” on Twitter and shall remain so for the rest of time.) I would give a lot to find out exactly what these two guys do when they “hang out.” Do they go to bars? The beach? Play catch?
Please, help me solve this mystery by leaving your thoughts in the comments below.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter (@kevinorris) or e-mail me at KevinOrris@CapitolAvenueClub.com.