The Braves shortstop search continues, modified yesterday by GM Frank Wren’s interview on MLB Radio with Jim Bowden and Casey Stern. A GM of course has the right to change his mind every time he blinks so I have no idea how long this option will last. I do see an advantage in it however as I explain later.
First a recap. These are the free agents (not including potential nontendered players) as I write this.
As I said before I like free agent Clint Barmes at short but now that the trade route is open the field narrows to only a few real choices.
Narrowing the field.
Assuming that the Braves want someone who played shortstop regularly I looked at the 36 players who had at least 50 games there last year. The list contains quite a few who aren’t going anywhere or aren’t coming to Atlanta. Click here for the complete list with statistics. Here’s that list without free agents.
The first six rows (18 players) are those I know or have a reasonable doubt aren’t available. For example:
- Stephen Drew: Drew is expensive and while the D’Backs have resigned John McDonald and (today) Willie Bloomquist I doubt they see either as a replacement for Drew.
- Erick Aybar was the Angel’s starting shortstop in 2011 won’t be so he expensive that he becomes expendable. I just don’t believe the Halos see Maicer Izturis as a starting shortstop. I don’t see him as that anywhere.
- Oakland might trade anyone and I like Cliff Pennington but I don’t see a replacement in their system that’s close to ready for the big club.
So now we’re down to nine options.
- The Cardinals will want to keep the arbitration eligible Ryan Theriot in case they don’t sign Furcal or he breaks down during the year.
- Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Trevor Plouffe between them couldn’t handle shortstop for the Twins, why would we want them?
- The same could be said for Elliot Johnson and Reid Brignac at Tampa bay who fielded well enough but couldn’t hit their way out of a wet paper bag.
- Paul Janish was given the job at Cincinnati two years in a row and couldn’t hold it because he couldn’t hit consistently.
Then There Were Three
Jed Lowrie (28 next April) was the Red Sox heir to the shortstop position but he hasn’t been healthy long enough to take ownership of it and now Jose Iglesias may be their man. Lowrie is an above average fielder and he has shown he can hit a bit but he has yet to play 100 games in a season for Boston. He is arbitration eligible but is unlikely to be nontendered because he would earn only about $1.5 million. He would be a cheap addition if the Red Sox decided to trade him. He’s a nice fit if he stays healthy and if we can match up somehow with the Red Sox. They obviously need pitching but Jair Jurrjens is worth a lot more than Lowrie and unless they throw in Will Middlebrooks (not happening) I doubt going it’s a viable deal. We might have pieces that fit, it depends on the Sox new GM Ben Cherrington’s desire to move him.
Brendan Ryan turns 30 next March and plays is what I consider hitter purgatory; Seattle. Originally a Cardinal, he seems to be on an every other year is a good year at the plate schedule.
He rates fifth among everyday shortstops in 2011 base on the advanced ratings on Fangraphs. The actual usefulness of UZR to the average guy is a subject for another day. The numbers do provide an idea of relative performance each year however.
Ryan missed the last couple of weeks of the season due to continuing disk problem in his neck.
The Mariners will trade almost anyone and almost need everything. I‘d hate to send a player I liked there however and would consider Prado over paying significantly if traded for him. Ryan is very inexpensive making a $1.75 million this year and so he fits into a tight budget. If you believe that Pastornicky is going to be ready next year Ryan might be your guy..
"There may not be a more consistently mediocre hitter than Ramirez. . . . His plate discipline and batted ball numbers have been steady as well. He’s not a star and really doesn’t have the potential to be one. What is he? He’s an average shortstop who benefits from playing in a hitter friendly park. . ."
I’ll be a little kinder than that. Ramirez was considered a rising star when the White Sox brought him up and he hasn’t disappointed since settling in at shortstop permanently. The 30 year old shortstop is however a movable piece for the Sox as they have Eduardo Escobar waiting in the wings and moving Ramirez would allow their youth movement to continue.
Unlike Lowrie and Ryan, Ramirez isn’t cheap. He is however under team control through 2016. His contract calls for $5 million in 2012, $7 million in 2013, $9.5 million in 2014 and $10 million in 2015 and his option year of 2016 with a buyout of one million. Money aside however I think we match up best with the White Sox overall.
IF (you’ll note that’s a big if) the money can be worked out a package deal of Carlos Quentin who I wrote about a couple of weeks ago as being a great fit for us in left and Ramirez with Gordon Beckham for Jurrjens, Martin Prado and either Brandon Hicks or Matt Lipka or perhaps a minor league B level pitcher would fit our needs. We would be younger, have more right handed pop and be more versatile at the same time. Beckham was originally a third baseman with the White Sox and so could spell Chipper at third or Uggla at second. He could also back up Ramirez at short; he played there in the minors as recently as 2009.
What Will We See?
While I see advantages for both sides in this deal I doubt we see anything as comprehensive and large take place. I would like to see the GM make a bold and well constructed move however as I see many of his past trades as putting band-aids on a bleeding artery. Trades with lots of moving parts and players are hard to pull together. I sincerely hope it is a quality bat with long term potential. I like Matt Diaz but he’s not an everyday player and neither is Eric Hinske. Some of the names I’ve been hearing lately from writers and online – Austin Kearns, Jonny Gomes and Cody Ross for example – don’t thrill me at all.