Atlanta Braves Add a Thanksgiving Treat in Rodriguez

Sep 25, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Sean Rodriguez (LC) attempts to fight with Washington Nationals shortstop Danny Espinosa (8) and outfielder Jayson Werth (28) during the third inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Proving that John Coppolella neither sleeps, rests, or takes days off:  the Braves have made a move to bolster their bench on Thanksgiving Day.

Seems that Ken Rosenthal and Jon Heyman don’t get holidays, either, as they both were all over this Atlanta Braves‘ news today.

Jon Heyman has the specific financials:

Introductions are in Order

Sean Rodriguez will be 32 next April, but profiles as a ‘poor man’s Ben Zobrist/Martin Prado‘  – a role that he seemed to blossom into with the Pirates in 2016.

In 2016, he saw action in 140 games, playing at literally every position on the field other than pitcher and catcher.  He hit .270/.349/.510 for a robust .859 OPS with 18 homers and a 129 wRC+.

And as shown above, he’ll even get in the midst of a dust-up when necessary… and who doesn’t like somebody who doesn’t like the Nationals, right?

These numbers from 2016 actually haven’t been his usual production and constitutes career highs in average, homers (aside from a 31 HR outburst in 2009… most of those coming at AAA), OBP, slugging, plate appearance, and RBI.

So is he due for a regression?  Yeah, probably… but at $5 million per season, I’d take a flier on that, and it appears the Braves have done so.

Sean-Rod is a product of Braddock High school in Miami and was drafted in 2003 by the Angels in the 3rd round.  He broke into the majors with them in 2008, but moved on to the Rays in 2010, sticking around with them through 2014 before going to Pittsburgh.

Though a free agent, it’s perhaps a bit surprising that the Pirates let him walk since he had been used so often by them (269 games in 2 years).  But that’s often the pattern in Pittsburgh.

Sep 28, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop baseman Sean Rodriguez (3) turns a double play over Chicago Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) during the fourth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 28, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop baseman Sean Rodriguez (3) turns a double play over Chicago Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) during the fourth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

What Might the Braves Have in Mind?

There are actually multiple possibilities raised here.  First let’s start with this outside thought:

2B PLATOON

If Rodriguez has a ‘natural’ position, it’s probably second base.  Yes, Jace Peterson is the incumbent there, but as Buster suggests, there’s a lefty/righty platoon possibility available here.  Though Rodriguez is probably the better hitter overall, he sported a .934 OPS vs. left-hand pitching last season (and .831 otherwise).

Jace had a .740 OPS vs. right-handers and .571 vs. Southpaws, so this is likely the biggest reason for acquiring Rodriguez right there.

2B UPGRADE

As hinted, Rodruiguez was the better hitter regardless (at least in 2016), so putting him at the position full time isn’t out of the question.  Jace himself is qualified to be an uber-utility guy, and it could therefore be him that ends up as the bench bat and hole-filler.

TRADE BAIT

With John Coppolella, we always have to throw this in as a possibility, though it should be said that the team likes Peterson, and there’s no hints that his name has been dangled in any discussions whatsoever.  But see below, too.

As it is setting up though, Atlanta could actually consider other positional platoon situations for 2017:  a lefty-hitting catcher – if we can find one – could complement Tyler Flowers.  A call-up of LHH Rio Ruiz could spell Adonis Garcia at third base… if there’s roster room for Ruiz.

Roster Wrangling

Once the Rodriguez deal becomes official, somebody is going to have to be removed from the (currently full) 40-man roster.

A lot of twitter speculation points to Chase d’Arnaud.  If either of the multi-platoon scenarios suggested above happen, that would leave little-to-no room on the 25-man list for the guitar man… and also mean a lot of redundancy in the role with only d’Arnaud’s speed asset being lost.

Atlanta could seek a minor trade for him, but it does appear that it would be tough for d’Arnaud to remain in the majors… unless something else is going on.

Rodriguez’ arrival probably means that the bench is now full:  making Mallex Smith the 4th outfielder and no room for a 5th one (Peterson filling that role).  In other words, a return of Jeff Francoeur might not happen now.

One more point

Noting that the Rodriguez deal is for 2 years, that means we should address the 155 lbs. gorilla in the room:  Ozzie Albies.  While yes, he’s going to be on the shelf for some time yet given his elbow injury, he should be available to play again by around late May/early June.

It’s likely that he will be started in AAA to insure that he’s ready for the majors… but then what?  And why get Rodriguez for two years?

The short answer is that players like Rodriguez (and Peterson, for that matter) are natively useful to teams almost regardless of their personnel situations.  The flexibility they will provide to Brian Snitker is invaluable, especially in late inning, pinch hit/double-switch scenarios.

So I’m not intending to read anything into this deal more than “it’s a good pickup for the Braves to bolster their offense and their bench”.  Once Albies is ready to hit the majors, then we’ll see how things are going at that point and re-assess.

But that’s a ways off for now.

In the meantime:  thanks for stopping by… we here at TomahawkTake are thankful year ’round for your participation with our work.  We sincerely appreciate you!

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