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.