If you’ve been clicking Braves Journal regularly since 2019, when I took the reins from Rob, you’ll know that I’m a pretty positive person when discussing the works of Alex Anthopoulos. I do think he’s the best GM in baseball and utilizes the power of persuasion through the good ol’ fashioned dollar to lock up core players. As a fan, I admire the desire to keep players around. No one wants to buy a jersey of a dude that could be traded midseason and AA has made it easy for fans to see their favorites yearly and invest in several jerseys knowing said player will be around.
Replacing Freddie Freeman‘s Fanbase
When the Braves traded for Matt Olson, signifying the end of Freddie Freeman, my heart went out to those kids (including my own Murphy Jo) who invested in his jersey thinking he was a Braves lifer. Admittedly, I wasn’t upset. I liked the move for Matt Olson. I figured we’d see an immediate drop in overall production and Olson would be able to produce about 80% of what Freddie could in 2022. And while my guess failed miserably (FF put up 7.1 fWAR and Olson, 3.1), the fact remains that AA let Freddie walk but replaced him with a player that will be around for a decade and should produce enough to endear himself to the fanbase to invest in his jersey. However, let’s be transparent, unless Olson has an MVP season, he’ll always live in the shadow of Freeman for fans that were around for both.
Replacing Dansby Swanson‘s Fanbase
That brings us to Vaughn Grissom. While his smile, hot start in the bigs, and the monstrous dinger that flew out of Fenway made him an immediate fan favorite, his 1.123 peak OPS after 14 games was followed by a league adjustment and a .613 OPS in his last 103 PAs. Like 2022, in 2023 it’s likely that Grissom takes some lumps both offensively and defensively with hopes of quick adjustments and no demotions. This scenario seems the most probable.
And let’s not deny that a significant portion of the fanbase, like Olson with Freddie, will want Grissom to be Dansby. Do Dansby things. Field like Dansby. Lead like Dansby. The expectation for him to supplant Dansby Swanson, mirror Dansby’s career year, and become a force at shortstop out the gate isn’t fair or realistic. Grissom might be able to handle the pressure, but can he adjust to the game? I think so (but I’m not expecting him to be Dansby), but there has to be a backup plan.
If Grissom struggles in ST and doesn’t break camp with the team, or if he breaks with the team, struggles, and gets sent back to AAA, Orlando Arcia is next in line. What if that doesn’t work? Who’s next? Braden Shewmake? A panic move like the Robinson Cano trade of 2022? They’re going to need someone else, and for me personally, I’d like to see that person in a Braves uni before Opening Day.
What went down in 2022, with 2B and LF becoming total dumpster fires due to the Ozzie Albies injury, the pure turd that was/is Marcell Ozuna, and Eddie Rosario‘s sight, is surely something that AA would like to avoid in 2023. Right now, there are scenarios that could play out with those 2 positions that won’t need assistance from an injury to become dumpster fires. By grabbing someone that can handle the SS position, at least defensively, in case Grissom needs seasoning. is vital. My personal opinion is Arcia is capable, but I’d rather see another addition.
I’ve talked about it here and on Twitter, and Mark Bowman has discussed it several times, but Elvis Andrus seems like the one guy that makes the most sense. However, if AA signs Andrus, I’m sure the expectation would be that Andrus would start (and receive a starting SS salary) so what happens to Grissom?
This is the dilemma, because AA can’t have it both ways.
*ALSO, this is one of the reasons why having a good super-utility, capable of handling a bat, on a team is sooo important and the Braves have a chance to develop one in Vaughn Grissom, but it doesn’t seem likely at the moment.
If Grissom starts at SS and it doesn’t work out, the Braves will turn to Orlando Arcia. What if Arcia doesn’t work out? 2023 will NOT be 2022 because there isnâ€™t a Grissom or a Michael Harris to save the day. If the Braves want a good backup plan, theyâ€™ll have to buy it, not promote it, and buying rarely works midseason. If Grissom falters, Arcia is THE guy, and the people below him in the org are the leftovers of the leftovers and would likely be worse than the mostly horrid list of free agent shortstops.
Speaking of the list…
Scouring the Scraps of the Shortstop Market
I won’t lie to you. This is beyond ugly. I’ll utilize my Baseball Rotten Tomatoes Ratings:
- Elvis Andrus (34): 54% on Baseball Tomatoes: “Every bit as confident and slick as its predecessor; but it is hard to ignore a distinct feeling of deflation.“
- Alcides Escobar (36): 4% on Baseball Tomatoes: “Alcides is looking a bit long in the tooth these days.”
- Didi Gregorius (33): 0% on Baseball Tomatoes: “A lot of the time, the people on the field just stand around looking very sad, as if remembering happier days.”
- Jose Iglesias (33): 52% on Baseball Tomatoes: “It’s fine. That’s all I got.”
- Andrelton Simmons (33): 14% on Baseball Tomatoes: “In the considerable wake of the superb original Andrelton, one dreadful concoction after another has come our way.”
- Dee Strange-Gordon (35): 12% on Baseball Tomatoes: “Gordon tries to capture the magic of the original Dee, but though the cast around him remains the same, it feels Strange to see Dee on a diamond.”
- Jonathan Villar (32) 16% on Rotten Tomatoes: “It didnâ€™t have to be this way. It shouldnâ€™t be this way.”
Of this group, the only 2 that are attractive options are the 2 that will cost an actual MLB salary and I don’t expect AA to give another SS an MLB salary. Out of the other 5, Andrelton can field, but he just doesn’t look like a healthy human right now.
If AA wants a REAL shortstop, he’ll have to pay real money or make a trade and there’s really not much left to trade…
It’s a hard choice and I don’t envy AA’s position.
Thanks, Ryan. I appreciate your work here, especially your positive approach. My default attitude about the team, especially in the AA era, has always been positive until the results on the field prove otherwise. And for the past five years, the results couldn’t be a lot better. So although I share the concerns about Grissom as a shortstop, I’ve decided to believe that he will hit well and field adequately. You’re right that there doesn’t seem to be a backup plan. But signing Andrus or Iglesias hardly seems worth it. I’d rather gamble on Grissom than go with those known commodities. FWIW, I really don’t like grooming him as a super-utility. He has a chance to be a front-line starter; make sure that’s never going to happen before you start moving him around the field. (Johan Camargo would probably agree with me.)
From the last thread re Andruw: He may or not have been the greatest defensive center fielder of all time. Bill James and the others are right that we don’t have the data or tools to judge that. But we do know that he was the greatest center fielder of his generation, and that by a long shot. My college roommate’s grandfather insisted that Tris Speaker was the greatest of all time because he played so shallow that he took away many shallow would-be singles, and yet never seemed to let one get over his head (he had seen him play many times). Sound familiar? When I first started watching Andruw, it was obvious what that meant. I had never seen a CF play so shallow. He had so many more putouts than his contemporaries.
The article ububba linked to (thanks!) argues at one point that the Braves HOF starters allowed a lot more soft contact than other pitchers, so Andruw had it easier than other center fielders. Now that’s a speculative stretch that doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. Much of Andruw’s value was in diving for those weak contact soft liners in front of him.
Also, I agree with others that a significant number of his no votes come from people who want to punish him for not staying in shape after age 30. Andruw from the start unfairly had to deal with folks who complained that he wasn’t Willie Mays. Speaking of the Say Hey Kid, he also played a several years at the end of his career after he had become a lousy center fielder. Of course there is no shame in being over the hill at 42, while many do see Andruw’s decline as a character defect.
The dregs of the FA market for shortstops are a big part of why Swanson seemed like such an important player to re-sign.
That said, even more than Andrus, I think the guy who makes the most sense is Amed Rosario. I’m not sure what he’d cost in a trade, but I’d be surprised if he’s a lot more than Arcia cost.
The joy of watching Andruw was like the joy of watching Maddux, or Andrelton. They were playing a different game. You had complete faith that they would do something transcendent. They made the impossible easy, and then they did the unfathomable. The sheer giddy exuberance of being a fan and watching them on the field is, simply, what makes baseball baseball. No better way to spend an afternoon.
Another thing to consider about shortstop is that the options aren’t going to be any better next year. The year after, it’s Willy Adames or Tim Anderson, and both of them will be in their 30s by then. It would be really helpful if Grissom could grab hold of the position, or else we’re going to be reheating this post every year until the Braves can acquire an amateur shortstop and develop him into a starting-caliber player.
Andruw Jones was the best defensive center fielder I have ever seen, and I’m almost 49 years old. Ozzie Smith would have been HOF- worthy even if he’d never hit a lick, because he was a generational talent at a key position.
Andruw was also a generational talent at a key defensive position, AND he could hit. Ridiculous that he’s not in.
There’s a comment on teh piece ububba linked to that is exactly right. There is absolutely no question, none at all, that Andruw Jones was both the best defensive and the best offensive player at his position for a decade. For reasons that are not at all clear to me, his defensive prowess is acknowledged, but his offensive prowess is being downplayed for the era he played in. Really? Who are the centerfielders who hit better in his era? Even if you want to make the case that he barely better defensively than Torii Hunter (a position I disagree with, but whatevs) he was head and shoulders a better hitter than Hunter. Historically, was he a worse hitter than Willie Mays? Yes. Was he conceivably not as good a fielder? Let’s say yes. But Willie Mays is the top centerfielder in the Hall of Fame. It’s OK to be worse than both Willie Mays and Tris Speaker.
No one expects catchers to hit like first basemen, or shortstops to hit like third basemen. So Ivan Rodriguez’s and Ozzie Smith’s cases for the HoF puts their offensive contributions in context. Why are centerfielder’s offensive contributions immune to being put into context?
If you want to deny Andruw because he’s not Mays or DiMaggio or Speaker, fine. But then exile Kirby Puckett from Cooperstown and just about every other centerfielder.
[Can anyone tell I’ve had a few without any dinner?]
With regards to SS, if AA is playing the long game and Dansby specifically had a career year which he is not likely to match, wouldn’t it make sense to roll with Grissom and Arcia (and Shewmake or other makeshift) even in failure to see if they get a keeper in Tavarez or Benitez? I think that’s not taking a risk but making a plan. For the foreseeable future, there’s not many paths to the majors for anyone on the farm except SS, corner OF, and pitchers – and the SP is pretty deep…..still. I think it’s not coincidental that our biggest international draft picks have been SS and OF.
The Braves draft pitchers in the amateur draft and SS and OF in the international draft.
Absolutely not. Neither one is a sure thing and if either makes the majors, it will probably be four years away. Short-season ball lottery tickets cannot influence major league roster choices. The Dansby contract would be almost up by the time one of them was ready, and you have to assume at least one of them will bust, given general prospect attrition.
All credible predictions will be that shortstop will be a two WAR position in 2023. And if we get that for almost nothing while Grissom also is developing, then you take all day. I’m just as big of an AA fan, Ryan, and I also think he’s the best GM in baseball. I love listening to his interviews too just to hear his thought processes, which he communicates so well. It’s so easy to like the guy because he lets you into his decision-making in such an eloquent way. Very analytic yet very down to earth.
Make that 8 arrests by Georgia football players since April 2022. Let a Florida fan tell ya that first it’s the championships, then it’s the arrests. Well, and then your tight end starts shooting people and all hell’s broke loose, but hopefully it doesn’t get that bad.
No team in the majors needs to worry about keeping a slot open for a seventeen-year-old, no matter how good he is. By the time he’s ready, assuming he ever is, the situation at the major league level could have shifted drastically, and in the meantime the major league team still needs to be winning games. Nor should a major league team ever assume that because they’ve got a couple of prospects at a position in rookie ball, that position is officially Covered.
On the other hand, AA has the luxury of waiting until the deadline to see how much of the plan plays out. If Grissom plays as predicted (2 WAR) and someone steps up in LF then AA will look like a genius for how he played this. If not, he’ll adjust at the deadline like he has for the last 2-3 years. I’m not sure how much of a coincidence it is that the Braves now have a pattern of slow starts and fast finishes. Regardless of SS, LF, and DH (and 5th starter), this team is set better than previous teams for a good start.
When you have 7 field positions locked up for at least another 4 years, it certainly is reasonable to plan for having additions from the farm 4-5 years from now. If any one of the prospects pulls an “Acuna” or a “Harris”, they may show up in less time than that. If you can get Andrus or Iglesias on a MiLB deal then that would be the best scenario. Maybe Simmons would take a MiLB deal now.
We have a year of Rosario and two of Ozuna. When those contracts end, assuming neither rebounds, there will be more money for a FA or Fried signing. This is probably Morton’s last year, too, (and D’Arnaud) and that money can be funneled into Fried. Two of Soroka, Anderson, Elder, Shuster should be able to cheaply fill the Morton void.
I think we need to have patience and watch the plan unfold.
One of the things that immediately comes to mind with Andruw Jones, is that 2005 season. Man, he put the Braves on his back that year – and between CF play and his clutch hits at the plate (time and time again), I thought for sure he’d win the MVP. That’s one of the best seasons that any Brave has had, IMO, since I’ve been watching in the last 30+ years.
I mean, you can plan all you want for four years from now, but prospects have a high failure rate, so if none of them actually shows up (or one of them does, but as a utility infielder), you need a new plan. It’s incredibly dumb to put all your eggs in a basket that hasn’t even been woven yet. Three years ago the Braves thought either Shea Langeliers or William Contreras was going to be their catcher of the future; now neither is in the organization and their catchers are both veteran imports. Things change.
I don’t know if Baseball America still does those “projected lineup in five years” lists anymore, but they used to, and they were pretty hilarious if you looked at them even a single year after the fact.
As for the deadline, the Braves will probably be able to improve LF and DH if it comes down to that — it’s not all that difficult to swing a deal for an average-ish corner bat — but championship-caliber shortstops don’t tend to change hands at the deadline.
And again, the Braves let Freeman leave, they let Swanson leave… I just can’t bring myself to believe that Fried is going to be the guy they pull out all the stops to keep around. They’ll sign you to an extension, sure, if you’re willing to leave some money on the table, but they’re not going to bid against other teams for you. I don’t see that changing even once Rosario, Morton, and Ozuna’s money is gone. It’s just a complete philosophical shift.
@13 I think AA is pretty good at philosophical shifts. The Olson and Murphy trades were both philosophical shifts. That’s some tunnel vision to think that AA has put all his eggs in one basket when we’re talking about SS and 7 positions have been locked up long term. Seems more like 8 or 9 baskets if you include pitching. I am beginning to be amused at the amount of attention being paid to SS only because it’s the one weakness left. This team is far ahead of most in the league with room to grow.
What a farm system is for is to replenish your team when it needs some help. With the restrictions removed from international prospects, it seems reasonable to think we may have more luck in the future getting the farm back up to snuff and finding players to fill the holes. Considering how many we’ve successfully graduated in the last few years, I’d think graduating one in the next four is not such a big ask.
Does there always have to be something to gripe about? I’m not sure it’s such a big thing to ask one of Grissom, Rosario, or Ozuna to have a good year.
The “will they extend Fried” question is interesting to me because at first glance he’ll probably get more money than Freeman and Swanson and the Braves will just say no.
But the difference is there were backup plans for losing Freeman and Swanson. There was a trade lined up to get Olson for 4 meh prospects (check the swinging strike and contact % for Langeliers….not good). The team believes Grissom will be good enough to start and he makes nothing.
What’s the backup for losing Fried? There’s no top 20 pitching prospect coming soon and we don’t have the farm system to trade for a top pitcher. Between d’Arnaud/Morton/Rosario/Ozuna when those contracts expire I think there will be money for Fried.
I have a feeling that this won’t be the last discussion about SS. Hopefully, Grissom can field the position at an acceptable level.
Like I said, the Andruw story raised some interesting points to go with its infuriating arguments.
Regrettable, but we gotta lotta catching up to do before we meet the conference “standard.”
@16 31 arrests in 5 years for Florida 2005-2010. 6 per year. How many Dawgs have been in the slammer in the last year? Big number.
Plus, that’s not a standard you want to get anywhere close to. Even the comparison is an acknowledge there’s a problem.
Darren O’Day retired.
Heck of a career.
I hope O’Day sticks around the org.