Almost a week ago, the Braves seemed to be closing in on signing Ken Griffey Jr to a one year contract worth just over $2.5 million. However, Griffey decided to sign with the Mariners instead of the Braves, which left Braves GM Frank Wren in an interesting position. Should he let young guys compete for left field or sign one of the many veteran corner outfielders to a team friendly contract?
Well, today we got our answer. The Braves signed Garret Anderson, formerly of the Los Angeles Angels, to a one year/$2.5 million dollar contract. Anderson, 37, will become the Braves starting left fielder and gives their lineup some needed pop and credibility.
For the Braves, I love this move. While they have a number of good, young talents that might be able to play left field full time, the Braves have lots of questions in the outfield already. Will Jeff Francoeur recover from his lost 2008 season? Who will be the Braves starting center fielder? Anderson offers stability to the Braves outfield and guarantees a certain level of production as long as he's healthy. While he will no longer hit 30+ home runs, Anderson should be able to hit .280 with 15+ HR, 80 RBI. Those are some solid numbers, especially for $2.5 million bucks.
Surprisingly, Anderson still hits lefties (.290 in '08) and righties (.293 in '08) extremely well. Because of this, he should serve as a more than capable everyday left fielder and a solid #6 or #7 hitter in the Braves lineup.
On the down side, Anderson's defense is nothing to write home about and it will be interesting to see how he holds up playing the outfield everyday. Anderson was the Angels designated hitter 60 times in 2008, a luxury that he will not have with the Braves.
Furthermore, Anderson is by no means an on base machine. In 2008, Anderson only walked 29 times resulting in a meager .325 OBP. Those numbers have to be a concern for the Braves, especially if the plan on hitting Anderson, Casey Kotchman (.328 OBP in '08) Jeff Francoeur (.294 OBP in '08) back to back to back. The Braves will need those guys to produce higher OBPs in 2009 if they are going to seriously compete in the NL East.
Nevertheless, this move makes the Braves a better team than they were before. Anderson is an upgrade over anyone else the Braves had, so that alone makes the Braves a better team on paper. Their lineup still leaves much to be desired, but if Anderson, Francoeur, and Kotchman can produce, than this team can go places.