ATLANTA — The arrival of Braves’ hyped prospect second baseman Ozzie Albies could come with a position change for former All-Star Brandon Phillips.
Manager Brian Snitker said Tuesday that Phillips has been asked to move to third base — though he hasn’t given an answer yet — and that was just one of the positional bombshells dropped before the Dodgers series.
All-Star Freddie Freeman, after pushing to return from his broken wrist as a third baseman (along with his first base duties) will no longer play third.
Meanwhile, Matt Adams, who Freeman was making the defensive shift for, will for now be in left field with Matt Kemp on the 10-day disabled list until at least Aug. 8 with a strained right hamstring.
“We’re a different team than we were a few weeks ago,” said Snitker of the Braves, who have dropped to fourth in the National League East at 15 games back and trail in the wild card by 11 games. “Ever-evolving, I guess.”
The plan is for the switch-hitting Albies, Atlanta’s second-ranked prospect, to play every day at second base. The 20-year-old Curacao native hit .285/.330/.440 in 97 games at Triple-A Gwinnett with 21 doubles, eight triples, nine homers and 21 stolen bases.
“In order to get him a taste of this game, this league, the speed of the game, we need to play him,” Snitker said.
That leaves Phillips, who has appeared in 88 games at second, primarily in a backup role, unless he’s willing to change positions.
He has played second and shortstop at the MLB level, but hasn’t manned third since a single game in 2001 at Double-A Harrisburg when Phillips was in the Expos system. Phillips was out Tuesday after being hit near the ankle in the series finale in Philadelphia.
“I talked to him about it,” Snitker said. “Talk to him tomorrow and see where we’re at.”
The 36-year-old Phillips has minus-4 defensive runs saved at second with a 1.5 defensive WAR. A free agent to be, he’s hitting .290/.333/.435, and there remains the possibility the Braves could move him on a waiver wire deal. He’s currently due less than $400,000 that Atlanta assumed from the Reds from his $14 million contract this season. While he has a 12-team no-trade provision, the Braves will have to pay Phillips $500,000 should it move him to a team not on his list.
Adams, 28, got the start in left field in the series opener vs. the Dodgers, an experiment the Cardinals tried for 34 1/3 innings after he lost his starting job at first to Matt Carpenter. In that limited sample size Adams had minus-2 DRS and a minus-34 UZR/150.
Freeman was showing progress after 16 games at third with two DRS, but he’s proven much more consistent at first than Adams, who has committed five errors. Although the return of Sean Rodriguez from injury, the emergence of Johan Camargo, Danny Santana and (potentially) Phillips gives the Braves a number of more viable players to put at third.
“Pretty much every day Freddie will be over at first, because I think we have other options now,” Snitker said. “The way things are, I think it’s just a better move for us overall.”
But what about when Kemp returns and assumes his spot in left? Snitker said Adams won’t be given a look at third base, potentially leaving him and his .281/.326/.567 slash line, 15 doubles and 15 HRs as a bench piece.
“We’ll just see … we’ll deal with that when it gets here,” Snitker said. “A lot of things can transpire before then.”