Do Braves Need More Insurance?

Freeman has emerged as a star this season

Freeman has emerged as a star this season

The Atlanta Braves and Frank Wren have recently acquired starter Freddy Garcia and utility man Elliot Johnson to give roster depth and insurance.  Do the Braves need more insurance, or are they all set heading into September and the October playoffs?  In other words, is Trader Frank done, or does he have another deal or two up his sleeve?

In analyzing the Braves roster, I think they have enough depth at starting pitching, bullpen, the outfield and catcher to cover an injury.  I don’t see Wren adding anymore bodies to those positions.  Some other positions are a different story, however.

At shortstop and second base I’d prefer better insurance than Paul Janish or Elliot Johnson. But at least they are both solid defensively and you can get away with good field/light hit at the middle infield positions.  The Braves won a lot of games with Janish at shortstop last season, so I think Braves fans can at least get some sleep when thinking about the middle infield insurance, albeit fitful.

At first base, the Braves have an excellent starter in Freddie Freeman.  But who would play the position if Freddie goes down for an extended period? Evan Gattis and Joey Terdoslavich have played a few games at first this season, and both provide enough hitting, but could you trust them to field well enough that you don’t get an ulcer worrying about them not doing something silly?  Not to mention digging throws out of the dirt like a good first baseman does.  Chris Johnson filled in at first when Freddie was on the DL, but if Chris moves to first, who would play third?

I think Gattis and Terdoslavich could hold down first through the regular season, but in the playoffs defense is critical and first base is a key position.  You can’t afford to give away a game or two due to marginal fielding.  Personally I wouldn’t feel comfortable with Gattis or Terdo at first base in the playoffs. The tavern and liquor store owners in Atlanta would probably like Terdo and Gattis at first, as fans would probably need a few extra belts to steady their nerves, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Wren brought in some insurance for first base.

Third base is the opposite of first base.  With Paul Janish and Elliott Johnson you have solid fielding, but you could make a good argument to bat them ninth behind a couple of the Braves better hitting pitchers.  While their light hitting is okay in the middle infield, I don’t think you can give away at bats at the corner infield positions.  I don’t see how you could go into the playoffs with Paul Janish or Elliott Johnson as your starting third baseman if you are serious about winning. Braves fans, an extra prayer on Sunday that Chris Johnson and Freddie Freeman stay healthy through the playoffs wouldn’t hurt.

The guy the Braves are really missing is Ramiro Pena.  Very good fielder at third, short and second, switch-hitter who hits well from both sides, sneaky power and good speed.  Ramiro was the perfect guy to have on the bench for the Braves this season.  If Freddie Freeman went down, you could have moved Chris Johnson to first and had Ramiro play third. Also, before he got hurt, I think it was becoming harder and harder for Fredi Gonzalez to write Dan Uggla‘s name in the line-up.  He may have ended up starting at second this season.

If there is a veteran player out there who could play respectable defense at the corner infield positions and has some pop in his bat, I wouldn’t be surprised if Wren makes a move to bring in that type player.  Otherwise, if Freeman or Chris Johnson go down, I think it could be the death-blow.

  • Jim Hart

    Any suggestions as to a player in the league who can play both corner field positions, field reasonably well and hit with some pop, who may be available at a reasonable salary?

    • rogerheld

      Ernesto Mejia?
      Edward Salcedo?
      Sometimes you gotta just throw the kids in. Manny Machado’s hitting record was not all that impressive at AA, but he found another gear in the majors. Salcedo could do something similar. Mejia may not have the average but he has the pop.
      I’m not convinced that Eliot Johnson doesn’t have something to contribute. He seems to like playing for the Braves so far. And his moving from the AL to NL means the league hasn’t gotten used to him yet. He could be a .260 bat control low strikeout high SB% kind of #2 hitter. Ramiro was playing above his head this year.There is absolutely no way Janish will contribute with the bat.

  • ML

    We need Martin Prado back….

    • Jim Hart

      Be great having Prado back, but I wouldn’t trade him straight up for Chris Johnson right now. Never thought I’d say that back when the trade was made, but Chris has sure taken his job seriously.

    • Mike Crowe

      I heard that with both ears ML. Sorry Jim, I think I would trade Chris Johnson straight up for Prado. I really like Chris right now but Prado can play all eight positions on the field and my money would be on him to be the better player over the next few years. Anyway, I agree with your article mostly. I think the Braves are as well off as can be under the circumstances but a good corner infield man would be a nice pickup, and I can’t think of any at the moment. Not crazy about the last two pickups but that’s what leftovers look like. And with all the pop the Braves have in the rest of the lineup I actually find Janish at second a preferable option Uggla. Having his glove available going into the playoffs is a plus, as we saw last year.

  • rogerheld

    Just because Jason Heyward worked miracles in the leadoff spot doesn’t mean JUpt should be in the 2-hole. The lineup that beat St. Louis would sure look good right about now. With either E Johnson or Simmons (after Uggla returns) in the 2-hole and JUpt at cleanup.