Where Do We Go From Here? 2012.2 The Post-Chipper Offense (by Sam Hutcheson)

I have started this thing like, seven times. Seven different opens. Seven different ledes. Seven different attempts to drop into a rational discussion of how the Atlanta Braves should go about replacing Chipper Jones at 3B. Each and every one of which descended, in short order, into treacle, self-pity and sentiment. Eight hundred eighty words talking about the Braves’ slow, decades-long loss of identity and purpose coming to a final, crushing end as Old Hoss gimps off down the same tunnel Bobby hobbled down in 2010? A vivid vivisection of that last, brutal playoff game in 2012 as metaphor for an entire career?

No. Just… No.

So, class, what do we do when our rational faculties are in danger of being overrun by emotional attachment, tribal loyalties and base sentiment? That’s right. We Nate the hell up and start crunching numbers instead.

The Braves have a simple problem and multiple solutions. It isn’t a small problem, but it isn’t the end of the world either. At the end of the day, they have to replace 448 plate appearances that resulted in an 832 OPS, and 895 innings of capable but unspectacular defense at third base. That’s it. 448 PAs; 832 OPS (124 OPS+)*; 895 defensive innings of “meh” at 3B; or 2.7 WAR, if you’re WARrishly inclined. Strip the name off the jersey and that’s the problem at hand. Bury the sentiment and this becomes much easier math.

The Braves have Chipper Jones’ replacement in house already. His name is Martin Prado. He dropped a .796 OPS over 690 PAs last year. He’s a better defender at the hot corner than Chipper. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Done!

<throws down microphone, walks off stage>

What? Oh, it’s you, Haunting Spirit Of Offseasons Past. Yes, you’re right. We haven’t really solved the problem. We’ve just pushed the squares of our pocket puzzle around a little and moved our hole to another location. Now we are down a left fielder. That’s no good. We’ll need a left fielder too. Let’s try this again.

The Braves have on their organizational rosters, as of right now, the players needed to replace Chipper Jones’ contributions to 2012. They are, in some combination or another, Martin Prado, Juan Francisco and Evan Gattis. Prado starts every day. Against RHP, he plays LF while Francisco mashes the baseball and tries not to get killed while faking defense at 3B. Against LHP, he plays 3B while Gattis mashes the baseball and tries not to get killed while faking defense in LF. Yahtzee!

<holds microphone; stalking back on stage>

What?! Well, sure. Okay. Right. I get it! Evan Gattis is 25 years old and has never played a game above AA. Except for a few spring training games last March. And the time he’s spent *crushing* Venezuelan League pitching this winter. And, yes, you are absolutely correct, his numbers from AA sort of sucked in 2012.

But he broke his hand or something, and that has a deleterious effect on the hitting of the baseballs, or so I’m told. Sure, sure, sure; I get what you’re saying, Spirit: “Gattis is a story, but it’s all fanboy hope and rose colored glasses half full of sentiment to project him as an effective starter at the Major League level next year.” Right. I get that. I really do. But I’m telling you, right here, right now. Evan Gattis is Josh Willingham.

Plus he has the greatest nickname on the planet.

Put the White Bear in left as the RH half of a platoon with Juan Francisco, change The Roadrunner’s nickname to the Brown Bear or something, and enjoy the Beartastic smashing of pitches all year long. Maybe go get a drink or check your email during defensive halves. Or just lean back and enjoy that show too. Hell, they can’t be worse than Lucas Duda out there, right?

<microphone held tentatively above the stage in throwing position>

We all good with this? Yeah, actually. I’m pretty sure it will work. Sure, I know there are risks, but dude, have you see the Braves radio and television deal? They’re not in the market to pick up David Wright and extend him, ya know. Plus, on the upside, having closed the hole at 3B using internal options, you no longer need to spend money there, so go buy Josh Hamilton and put him in center.

SHUT UP ABOUT THE DEFENSE! It’s more fun to watch runs score anyway.** ***

*That’s the team lead from 2012, by the way, but you do need to discount that against the fact that it was less than 500 PAs.

** Why yes, my personal ‘golden age of baseball’ was “the steroid era.” Why do you ask?

*** And you know Jordan Schafer’s going to be on the roster all year anyway — stop denying it, just punch yourself in the gut right now and accept it. Might as well have him something useful to do occasionally, and “we have a lead, go catch the ball, dummy” is as good a role as you’re like to find for the HGH kid.

102 thoughts on “Where Do We Go From Here? 2012.2 The Post-Chipper Offense (by Sam Hutcheson)”

  1. Well played Sam, well played.


    I just can’t shake my delicious, delicious, David Wright yearning. So, if it’s OK with you, I’ll just snuggle up to the Hot Stove, clasp a warm cup of cocoa in my hands, and doodle Mrs. David Wright, 3B Atl. over and over again just to see how it looks.

    Le sigh.

  2. Sam,

    Interesting presentation, in a good way.

    I also think there is a high probability that Gattis (a) is a better fielder than Willingham, (b) is less likely to be hurt than Willingham, and (c) will produce almost as much offensively as “medium or reasonably projectable” Willingham. But I will trust that the FO has a lot better read on that than I.

    But, for now, I am still Mr. “Trade Delgado and something(s) for Span and Willingham and sign a damn good starter” or Mr. TG&SFS&W&SDGS.

  3. Sam, as usual, is overly optimistic
    and foresees only the best. TIC.
    Good point about Braves not being able to pay “all the money” on two positions, CF and 3B/LF.

  4. Sam – your Gattis + Francisco platoon (Gatcisco? Frattis?) between LF and 3B is a beautiful dream, and it would be amazing if that worked. If we could fix our LF issue that way, I’d love to see the remainder of our offseason go as follows:

    1) Trade away Jurrjens for whatever we can get – I’m presuming nobody will offer anything great, but perhaps we can get a a decent prospect in the low minors. If there are no offers, non-tender him.
    2) Take offers on Venters and O’Flaherty; if you can get a good return in prospects for one of them, do it.
    3) Push hard to sign JHey, Freddie and Kimbrel to deals buying out their arb years (preferably with a couple of option years at the end). I’d also talk with Prado, as 2013 is his last arb year and he’ll get expensive soon.
    4) It pains me to say this, but… try to sign Shane Victorino to a deal if he’ll go for, say, 3 years / $36M. He’s coming off a down season, but it was courtesy of career low BABIP and a low HR/FB; I think he’ll bounce back. He also hits lefties very well – .906 OPS (2012), .881 OPS (career), which matches up with the Braves’ need for some lineup balance. Realistically, he’s a 4 WAR player, which puts him a notch below what you might expect from Bourn (roughly 5 WAR). However, he’ll come much cheaper than Bourn, and since he didn’t receive a qualifying offer from the Dodgers, he won’t cost the acquiring team a draft pick either.

  5. I just couldn’t stand to see Victorino in a Braves uniform. It’d be like Jeter signing with Boston, only worse.

  6. 1. It’s rare that I accuse of being the overly optimistic one, but I’ll take it.

    2. I’d target Angel Pagan over Victorino, but they’re essentially the same player at the end of the day.

    3. I really do think Evan Gattis is a RH Ryan Klesko, or as we call that in today’s MLB, “Josh Willingham.”

    4. GATCISCO!

  7. Sam, I have to say that you really tick me off sometime, but that was brilliant. And actually, I think you’re right. I just hope the Braves see it that way. Well done.

  8. @9 I was under the impression that Pagan would cost significantly more than Victorino – perhaps I’m wrong. If we assume they both sign for the same contract terms, I prefer Pagan as well.

  9. @11 I second that. That is a rather awesome post, Sam. Oh, and I’m all for Pagan (or Victorino), Gattis and Francisco.

  10. Very enjoyable write-up

    If going with a Gattis/Francisco platoon means the Braves can lock up Heyward and a couple of others to multi-year extensions I think it goes from being a decent LF solution to a really good one. With regards to Francisco’s defense, he played a little bit of LF in the minors according to b-reference, wonder how bad he looked out there? If Prado wasn’t such a good outfielder it would seem to be any easy decision to go with a straight bear/bear platoon in LF.

  11. 25-man (excluding BMac for time being)
    Lineup and Bench
    Freeman, Uggla, Simmons, Prado, Francisco, Gattis, BJ Upton, Heyward, Ross, Mejia, Schafer, R. Johnson, backup SS?

    Starting Pitchers
    Medlen, Minor, Hudson, Maholm, Delgado

    Kimbrel, Venters, O’Flaherty, Avilan, Gearrin, Lisp, Buchter

  12. I was rushing to the keyboard to guffaw the notion of Sam’s SpongeBobitiveness, but he beat me to it.

    Well presented, Sam. A planned, systematic platoon, ay? Hmmm …

    We’ve passed Marteen around a bit and he seems to cope well but I wonder if we’re not draining his battery some by doing so. It seems logical to me that putting a player in one spot and leaving him there is better for the player (and the team, actually). Still, gotta play the cards we’re dealt. Ryan Braun is not walking through that door.

    Certainly worth a shot. And it leaves a lot of cash for extensions and solving CF. And I do love to watch Francisco hit (against righties).

    Bring it!

  13. @18

    I think we’d need more than Hanson to get a prospect (much less three). Maybe if we added EO’F and Jurjjens we might get something worthwhile.


    Who’d backing up Ross at C? Boscan? See if Murph has solved his return throws to the pitcher and get him for a short time? (That does have the added bonus of getting him to 400 HRs).

  14. @17:

    In a perfect world, you would park Prado in one position, yes. And maybe they pull some sequence of trades and realign so that they can do that. Maybe they do some sort of deal with Minnesota and bring in the actual Josh Willingham (and Denard Span for CF) and just let Prado relax and play 3B. But with the pieces currently on the board, I make the structured platoon play.

    I’m also easy to walk back the wishcast for Josh Hamilton – no matter how badly I miss the days when the Braves had real mashers in the middle of their lineup – and cover of CF with Victorino or Pagan, because as others have mentioned, that money could be better invested in buying Jason Heyward six different homes across the southeast or something.


    I don’t know of anyone barring Kansas City who would give a “prospect” for Hanson right now.

  15. I have enough of Lenny Bruce in my soul to be willing to re-christen Heyward “The Black Bear” as well, Stu…

  16. The Panamaniac (Durango) has signed a minor league deal with the Royals….well of course he has.

  17. RE: Bears

    If we are going to go with the Bears motif, I believe it is morally incumbent upon us to officially designate Jordan Schafer “The Twink.”

  18. My older vbrother’s teddy bear was Teddy-gun and mine was cubby-gunand my younger brother’s rabbit was bunny-gun. Any of those names good enough fot Jordan Schafer?

  19. I actually think Span is a legitimate target for CF. I’d be surprised if Wren did not fill that hole through trade. My guess is that Span is far more likely than Willingham.

    Also, don’t count out Reed Johnson as the short-side of that LF-3B platoon. He can still hit lefties. As I said during the year, I’d have no problem with the Braves playing a Prado-Francisco-Johnson group to fill those two corner spots. I’d also happily accept Span for CF, just so long as there is some money spent somewhere, preferably on a new starter and Prado extension.

  20. I’m just going to do my best not to acknowledge Jordan Schafer’s presence. How about Bear-ly There?

  21. Adam, I had honestly forgotten about Reed Johnson’s very existence. I blame it on the goatee. I’ve done all I can to repress that image for a while now.

    You are correct, in that Johnson is a fine candidate to be the short half of an offensive platoon with Francisco, although “Reedcisco” doesn’t have nearly the same panache as Gatcisco. Oh well. That would free up Gattis to be David Ross to, um, well, I guess David Ross, while McCann’s rehabs his shoulder.

  22. @24 Sam, I am stunned! Well done.

    During your whole presentation, I heard Lenny Bruce’s voice.
    (Or maybe Dustin Hoffman playing Lenny.)
    I’ll never read a post of yours again without hearing it.

  23. Sickels just posted his Braves top 20, and it’s actually a lot more complimentary than I thought. Basically, it’s what you’d think: not a lot of frontline talent but an awful lot of B/B- grade guys who could turn into very helpful major league role players. Considering all of the recent graduations, that sounds about right. The biggest X factor is Teheran: will he turn into a frontline starter, a midrotation starter, a bullpen arm, or a cautionary tale?


  24. As one of the primary Gattis cheerleaders, I hate to be the one to point out that he hasn’t had an extra-base hit in a week and his OPS has fallen all the way down to .847. The past couple games he has been demoted from the cleanup spot to the 6th or 7th hole. Maybe it’s just a slump, but I suspect the scouting has caught up to him and he’s not able to make the adjustments. Hopefully he figures it out.

  25. 37- Hah! Meant to also say nice write-up Sam.

    35- I agree that a slew of B/B-/C+ prospects is not bad, especially given how many of them are still in the lower levels with plenty of upside. On the other hand Bethancourt sliding all the way down to #16 is downright distressing, especially if what Sickels’ claim is true that there is a consensus among scouts that his bat might be “hopeless”. I have a feeling this is Sickels making stuff up. Even if he we knew for certain that he would never develop as a hitter he is still a top ten prospect. On the other hand, Sickels is clearly overrating some guys like La Stella and probably also Ahmed. He may be giving short shrift to Salcedo, but have never seen any reason to get my hopes up over him anyway.

  26. I think it’s best to think of the rankings in terms of tiers, rather than in terms of the absolute ranks. Basically there are a bunch of B- prospects and a bunch of C+ prospects, and they all have upside and flaws in equal measure. Some, like Salcedo and Bethancourt, have very high ceilings and very low floors; some like Nick Ahmed may be a bit more likely just to wind up as role players.

    Bethancourt obviously has really never hit, but you could say the same for Henry Blanco, and Henry’s had a 15-year career. If Bethancourt ever figures out how to hit the ball he could be a long-term starter — after all, Carlos Ruiz really couldn’t hit till he turned 30.

    I bet that at least four of the ten position players on that list turn into real major leaguers.

  27. Sickels would call it going with his gut, but yeah, sure. He doesn’t attempt to rationalize all of the calls he makes. He’s been watching baseball for his career for a really long time. Even if it isn’t always right, I think his gut is worth listening to.

  28. It’s not “going with his gut” if he’s making up the fact that “sources” have told him something.

  29. I think one day we may look back at the talent that passed through Lynchburg this past year as a special group. Ahmed did well in Arizona. This may be one of the last times we see Salcedo referred to at all.

  30. Someone already mentioned it, but yeah…substitute Reed Johnson or whatever other platoon player for Gattis, and this makes for at least a credible, cheap fallback plan.

    Gattis is not ready to be in a Chipper-replacement platoon, nor is he Josh Willingham, yet. If he was, the Braves and their mouthpieces would be treating him differently and saying different things about him than they currently are.

    Wren is possibly bluffing right now — or maybe telling the truth — saying that Gattis is a prospect. If it’s true, then it matters, whatever his age is, whatever the cause, that he hasn’t really succeeded yet at AA. The minor leagues exist for a reason, and presumably he’s still got some learning to do. If he really is a prospect, let him take the time he needs to catch up, particularly on defense, and just get a cheap RH platoon option in the meantime.

  31. Am I the only one who doesn’t understand the hoopla surrounding B.J. Upton? His 2012 stats do not impress.

  32. I’d be very happy with Span, but I think Swisher will get/want more money than I personally think he’s worth.

  33. I’m really surprised at Sickel’s list. Particularly his rankings of Teheran, Gattis, and Bethancourt. I’d have figured the latter two would be top 5 with Teheran still the no-brainer #1. Has Teheran really fallen that far? The kid’s like 21.

    Anyway, I like the idea of this type of platoon, and it’s the sort of creative thing the Braves are going to have to do to remain competitive. The thing is, you’re essentially trusting a full-time spot to some combination of an unproven rookie and guy whose been proven inconsistent. This is the type of move you do if you sign Bourne or someone similar for CF. But if you’ve got a mediocre platoon or something similar in center, you’re looking at a lineup with a lot of potential holes.

  34. You are right, Thoms. Didn’t realize he is looking for Werth money. Forget it.

    I think sickel’s list is fair and reasonable. I am more surprised by teheran’s struggle this season than the rating itself. Top prospects in general do not suddenly struggle like that unless he is hurt. Gattis is too old to be considered as a prospect and Bethancourt has no bat. Sickel has always been a fan of the Braves’ farm system and he has historically been criticized for overrating braves’ prospects.

  35. 2 yr and 6M….not the kind of contract the Braves can afford to give to a 35 yr old backup catcher….

    ….I am heart broken too, but all I can say is I am happy for Ross…

  36. Finally, we get a backup catcher who can hit and throw. BMac is out till at least May and we wont offer two years? Oh the days of Todd Pratt and Corky Miller. Gattis starting catcher for the 2013 Braves?

  37. MLBTR…
    •The Rangers tried to acquire Andrelton Simmons from the Braves so they could flip him to the Diamondbacks in a deal for Justin Upton. Arizona wants a young shortstop, but Texas is loath to give up Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar. Atlanta wouldn’t budge, however.

    Two things. What were the Rangers offering for Simmons, not that it matters. Second, it looks like we arent getting Upton without trading Simmons.

  38. David Ross had an absolutely sensational four years for us. $6 million is a bit more than I think I would have wanted to give him. Perhaps the Braves saw him breaking down at the end of the season and thought that he was about to enter a serious decline phase. I think I still might have wanted them to pay him, but I have to withhold judgment considering that their doctors may have a better idea about his long-term durability than I do.

    But yes. I certainly am happy for him.

  39. I’m as big a Ross fan as most around here, but he certainly has more value to the Red Sox, where he can DH as well as C part time, than he does for the Braves, where he is only a part time catcher. (We’ve seen what happens when Ross is asked to be the every day catcher, and it’s not pretty.)

    The only real light here for Braves fans here is that Atlanta just managed to win 90 some odd games in 2012 with a starting catcher that was essentially Todd Pratt wearing a Brian McCann suit.

  40. So… is there any real-world chance that Bethancourt or Gattis opens 2013 as the Braves catcher? If I had to guess at their current skill levels, Bethancourt can probably catch as well as Ross and hit as well as Tommy Hanson, while Gattis can hit as well as Ross and catch as well as Tommy Hanson.

    Also – if it’s true that the Braves refused to give Ross a 2-year deal, it could very well be that they are confident that Bethancourt will be MLB ready by 2014, and wanted to ensure there was roster room for him.

  41. Outside of Teheran, Delgado, and Bethancourt…what realistic trade pieces do we have that we would consider moving? Graham and Gilmartin aren’t getting moved. Hanson, Uggla dont really have trade value.

  42. Sucks to lose Ross.

    I think the moves this off-season need to do more than just replace the offense of 40-year-old Chipper and Bourn. I’d like to see them improve on last year’s offense.

  43. #70 – Exactly. Just replacing last years production still makes this just a borderline playoff team. I would like to try and win the division. Instead that would have us hoping that all the cards fell just right so we can play in a 1 game play-in scenario again.

  44. sansho1 and I think too much alike. Doumit and Span for some group we won’t miss. Get it done, Wren.

  45. The problem with trading people we don’t like is that generally other teams won’t like them either.

    Also, apropos of nothing, here’s how Christopher Walken likes to prepare for a movie:

    I like to stand in my kitchen with the script on a counter that’s about chest high. Usually I do something else at the same time — make a chicken or slice vegetables — and all day long I just read it over and over and over.

  46. AAR, you are right, the offer of a warm bucket of spit often fails to get a deal done. I offer the alternative of Gerald Laird.

  47. The Braves think McCann will miss 2-4 weeks. What does that translate to on the McCann Injury Reality Scale?

  48. AAR,

    Walken steals the show in Seven Psychopaths. You must see it if you’re a fan.

    Belated birthday wishes!

  49. @72

    Makes sense, right? Doumit can transition midseason from starting catcher to C/OF/1B — he’s been doing that his whole career. $7 million over two years is a really good contract, too. He’s a bad defensive catcher, but he’s a legit bat at the position.

  50. If we’re going to fall back on a mediocre hitter/poor catcher for $3.5m/yr, who also costs players… I wish we’d paid the average hitter/good catcher the $3.2m/yr (and no players.)

  51. Okay so Ryan Doumit hits better than I thought he did. His about the same hitter Dave Ross is, except switch. But Ross is the better player, because of plus defense at a defense-first position.

    If we wouldn’t pay the Dave we Know and love $3.2 a year for 2 years, who won’t give away a player for the right to pay the Doumit we Don’t $3.5 a year for 2 years.

    I was on the Doumit train last year, as a third catcher and 4th OF. I like him in addition to Ross. I hate him instead of Ross.

  52. Blech. *HE’S about the same hitter… and *WE won’t give away a player..

    I miss the edit function…

  53. I’m sure it wasn’t their plan to let Ross leave in the first place — but now that he has, they have an emergency situation that may require taking on a veteran contract. I’m sure other possibilities exist, and I’m certainly not married to this one. All I know is Doumit can fill a needed role both before and after McCann returns.

  54. The problems with the Ross non contract are
    (a) you had to believe that he might get a 2 year offer in that range and (b) if you weren’t going to keep him, you didn’t need to elect the McCann option.


    1. If Ross is too close to “done” then Braves need a real catcher option because (a) we don’t know when McCann will be back or if Bad, Medium, or Good McCann will be back, and (b)if you are limited in payroll and need the catcher spot to produce, then you have to go in on that position.
    2. With what a real catcher will cost added to 12 mill for McCann and a possible slightly above Corky Miller additional catcher, you have blown through 20 mill.
    3. Why not instead decline the option, get a real catcher and a real backup for around 8, take the 6 left from McCann and Ross and add it to the 25 available on the outfield and get a real bat for both left and center.

  55. Cool stat: according to baseball reference, the career earning of David Ross is ~12m up to the end of this season. What the Red Sox gave him is essentially half of what he has made the whole career.

  56. @84 – Yeah, I’m not trying to put words in your mouth, like you think it’s a BETTER deal than bringing Ross back.

    I just doubt the club was “taken by surprise” by anything.

    A.) I have to imagine that the Braves surveyed the catching market before making an offer to Ross. That’s what Assistants to the General Manager are for: projects behind signings. This is especially true since the club had decisions to make on BOTH of their catchers in the same offseason. Someone compiled a report on all catchers, available and unavailable, and what their salaries are, combined with the needs of their current clubs, prioritized the matchups, and placed that report on Frank Wren’s desk.

    B.) Dave Ross, out of loyalty and desire to stay where he was happy, OR his Agent, out of professional duty to get his client the best deal, must have informed the Braves that he was leaning toward the Red Sox deal.

    If Ross came back to Wren and said ‘Look, I gotta take the 2 years Boston is offering,’ and if Item A, B or C on their Catcher Scenario report was “Trade for Ryan Doumit,” then Wren would have matched or beaten Boston’s offer.

  57. What I’m getting at is, get ready for Rod Barajas/Yorvit Torrealba/Miguel Oliva for $1.2m until McCann is back. Because if they had any intention of paying ANY backup catcher ANY kind of salary, they wouldn’t have let Ross walk.

    The budget for this role must be firm.

  58. I’m overwhelmed by this feeling that Chizik has managed to completely wreck our program in 4 short years, despite winning the national championship. We might have one or two quality players on each side of the ball this year and next. I like Wallace a lot. But man.

  59. Nice work, Sam. Thanks.

    Losing Ross sucks. I guess that means Salty’s available.

    Nice win, Vandy folk. Good to see them win one of those.

    Last 2 seasons: Georgia 83 Auburn 7. Bring on the Humble Bumbles.

  60. Bethany, My UVA team sucked and lost 6 in a row. GT is alive after we beat NCState and Miami. North Carolina and Vippy Sue are next and beatable.

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