Braves Acquire Ankiel & Farnsworth


The Braves have acquired Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth in exchange for Gregor Blanco, Jesse Chavez, and Tim Collins.

Ankiel is another left-handed bat that will cover center field for the Braves. We all know him from his first full season as a hitter in 2008, when he hit 25 home runs and posted .264/.337/.506 with a .360 wOBA and .242 ISO. Obviously that’s the best you could expect from Ankiel going forward, but I highly doubt he will ever reach it again. He dropped off to a .288 wOBA and .156 ISO in 2009 and has spent most of this season on the disabled list with quad problems.

Ankiel’s main problem is lack of plate discipline. In his great ’08 season, he posted a BB/K of 0.42, walking 9% and striking out 24% of the time. His awful ’09 season saw a major hit in both, recording a 0.26 BB/K and walking just 6% of the time. He has 7 BB to 29 K so far this season, but you can’t take much from it. In any case, he hasn’t shown the ability to return to his walk rate of ’08 and it’s causing a major hit in his OBP.

A concern with Ankiel is defense. In over 1,500 innings as a center fielder, he has a UZR/150 of -12.1. Both are positive in the corner outfield spots, but they are small sample sizes, as is his center field numbers, so take it for what it’s worth. Note I said “concern” instead of “problem,” because I can’t say for sure how he looks until I watch him play.

Perhaps my main concern with getting Ankiel is the fact that he’s another lefty, when the Braves were so desperate for a right handed bat to begin with. Ankiel is a career .248 hitter with 11 home runs, 11 walks and 78 strikeouts  in 304 plate appearances against LHP. He is a .258 hitter with 40 home runs, 78 walks and 192 strikeouts in 856 plate appearances against RHP. This doesn’t solve their hitting woes against lefties, it only adds to them. And for that, I am confused and don’t fully approve of the deal. Yes, he is an upgrade over what was out there. Yes, he adds some power. Neither was that difficult to accomplish, however. Perhaps it is worth noting Ankiel is 10-30 with a homer and six RBIs since his return.

The Braves also brought back Farnsworth. He’s striking out fewer and has a low whiff rate compared to his career numbers, but he’s also walking fewer, causing a 3.00 K/BB, which is much better than his career number of 2.31. His xFIP of 3.92 compared to his ERA of 2.42 shows he could be due for regression, but either way he’s a solid option out of the pen and is a gabillion times better than Chavez ever will be. He’s a great addition to the trade, but as a reliever I don’t consider him worthy of making or breaking it.

What I like best about the trade is what the Braves gave up. A fourth outfielder in Blanco and two relievers in Chavez and Collins. Blanco is just the type the Royals go after and I can see him playing a lot for them over the next couple years. Chavez was a lost cause and needed to leave before somebody strangled him. Collins is a solid relief prospect who strikes out a ton and is on the fast track, but he’s just a relief option.

So while I’d like to get upset about the fact that the Braves were only able to get another decent left-handed outfielder and a reliever, they didn’t give up much at all to get the two, and I can agree with that. It’s not something that will make a huge impact on the team, but they didn’t break the bank or wipe out the system at a deadline that didn’t offer much. That’s about all you can ask for right now.