Atlanta Braves need backup plans to create clarity and certainty at third

The Atlanta Braves lost Josh Donaldson to free-agency, Who will play third base for the Braves next year? (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The Atlanta Braves lost Josh Donaldson to free-agency, Who will play third base for the Braves next year? (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
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PHOENIX, ARIZONA: Jedd Gyorko #26 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a RBI double on August 31, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, ARIZONA: Jedd Gyorko #26 of the Los Angeles Dodgers hits a RBI double on August 31, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Let me tell you a story about a man named Jedd

Jedd Gyorko arrived for San Diego in 2013, batted .249/.301/.444/.746,  posted a .325 wOBA, and 110 wRC+ in 125 games.  Defensively he looked roughly league average everywhere the Padres played him, and where they played him made a difference.

In 2014, the Padres stepped out and signed him to a 5-year contract extension (2015 through 2019)  with a 1-year option for 2020 value at $31M). A good deed never goes unpunished, and an early contract extension may bring the same kind of karma.

Gyorko played only 111 games, and his offense sank; he batted only .210/.280/.333/.612 with a .275 wOBA and a puny 77 wRC+.

His downturn likely stemmed from plantar fasciitis in his left foot, which cost him nearly two months of the season. However, Gyorko continued to struggle in 2015, batting .247/.297/.397/.694 in 128 games.  In December, the Padres dumped him to the Cardinals for the ubiquitous cash considerations.

The Padres tried to turn Gyorko into a second baseman even though he’d played mostly on the left side of the diamond, The Cardinals liked Gyorko’s positional flexibility, but played him primarily at third base and shortstop. At third-base, Gyorko had one season with a significant DRS (6), but at third, he turned solid into super DRS.

  • 2016 – 272 innings, +2 DRS
  • 2017 – 900 Innings, +16 DRS
  • 2018 – 665 innings, +6 DRS

In 2017 Gyorko earned nine errors at third, five from throwing. In 2018 he earned ten errors at third six from throwing. That sounds awful until I say the Matt Carpenter played first base in both seasons, and Carpenter isn’t a defensive star at any position.

Gyroko responded to regular left-side play with better offense – 30 homers in 2016, 20 in 2017 and 11 in 2018 -  a below-average K rate and an above-average walk rate,

Season BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
2016 8.4% 21.9% .253 .244 .243 .306 .495 .339 112 2.2
2017 9.8% 21.8% .200 .312 .272 .341 .472 .344 113 2.6
2018 10.9% 19.2% .154 .303 .262 .346 .416 .333 111 1.5

Gyorko suffered a series of injuries in 2019, most notable a back injury that ruined any chance of making a case for a contract after his trade to LA.  His history of above-average defense at third and solid production worthy of a look in 2019 as Owen Poindexter points out.

"Gyorko is 31 . . . but if he is recovered from his various injuries, there is no need to think that Gyorko’s 2019 represents (the future) . . .  Unless he’s broken beyond repair  . . . Jedd Gyorko ought to represent a great potential value for any team that isn’t overflowing with infield depth."

Gyorko represents the type of bounce-back candidate Alex Anthopoulos watches for and offers an opportunity. A minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training and Major League incentives could shore up or eliminate any offensive shortcomings from a Riley/Camargo shootout to earn the starter’s job.

That’s a wrap

Seager and Shaw both swing from the left side, only Gyorko bats right-handed.  At their best, Seager and Shaw offer 30 homer power, and Seager’s bat looked that good at the end of last year.

None of these players is a four-hole hitter, making the hunt for a right-handed power bat to hit behind Freeman – someone like Starling Marte or Trey Mancini – more important.

Next. No 'Big D' for JD?. dark

I expect Donaldson to decide before Christmas and the Atlanta Braves to react soon after the start of the year. If Donaldson goes elsewhere, then a deal with Seattle for Seager that allows us to add a righty bat must follow.  I don’t want to see Travis d’Arnaud hitting cleanup.