Braves put an Angel in the outfield…
Atlanta Braves general manager Frank Wren can cross through that
final line on the winter shopping list. The Braves inked outfielder
Garret Anderson to a one-year $2.5 million contract on Sunday,
effectively filling the last of the glaring voids they entered the
off-season needing to address.
With the former Angel now in the Braves outfield, Wren bounced back from being slighted in pursuit of Ken Griffey Jr. Anderson,
36, clocks in nearly three full years younger than Griffey, and without
the burden of off-season knee surgery to boot.
Anderson does not bring 611 career home runs and the marketability
that Griffey will lend the Mariners in his reunion tour, but he does
bring a proven veteran bat that will add depth to the Atlanta batting
While no one will confuse Anderson with the first ballot hall of
Famer the Braves were unable come to terms with last week, his career
average of .296 is eight points north of Griffey’s. Anderson’s 84 RBI
also bested Griffey’s total of 71 from a year ago.
Signing Anderson allows Atlanta to follow the same model they were
said to be planning had they signed Griffey, utilizing a platoon that
would allow Matt Diaz to get the majority of the at-bats against
lefties. However, the younger Anderson may see more time than Griffey
was slated to receive had he signed with the Braves.
Though the majority of both men’s power production came against
right handers last season, Anderson hit .290 in his 141 at-bats versus
lefties. Griffey hit just .202 in 163 AB’s against southpaws in 2008.
Anderson could steal some of the at-bats from Diaz, given the
likelyhood that he will be taking his swings in the middle of the
This move was symbolic of Atlanta’s off-season theme, with Wren
working to eventually turn a perceived negative into positives as it
comes to player personnel moves. Missing the mark on Jake Peavy and A.J. Burnett turned into the acquisitions of Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami and Javier Vazquez.
Atlanta’s new look rotation was the major undertaking this winter.
Bringing in a veteran like Anderson will help the Braves bridge the gap
until top prospects like Jordan Schafer, Jason Heyward and Gorkys Hernandez are ready to assume full-time duties in the Atlanta outfield.
While Schafer may be given the chance to assume the starting job in
center field this spring, the veteran Anderson will be charged with
helping the Braves outfield regain some of its clout. Last season, the
Braves outfielders combined to hit a major league low 29 homers.
The Braves are also hoping that a resurgent Jeff Francoeur
will rebound from his dreadful 2008. After driving in more than 100
runs and averaging 24 homers over his first two full seasons, Francoeur
hit only .239 with just 11 homers and 71 RBI in 155 games.
A new and improved batting stance, modeled after former teammate Mark Teixeira‘s
right-handed approach, along with less emphasis on weight training and
size have Francouer convinced that 2008 was just a bad dream. His
production from the right side of the dish will be vital to an
otherwise lefty-heavy Atlanta lineup.