Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Will The Braves Glaus Over First Base?

A day after acquiring Melky Cabrera from the New York Yankees, the Atlanta Braves are on the verge of adding power hitting veteran Troy Glaus to their lineup pending a physical. If he passes the physical, the Braves will pay Glaus $2 million in 2010.

The Braves are taking a gamble on two fronts. First, Glaus missed nearly the entire 2009 season with a shoulder injury. He played in only 14 games with the St. Louis Cardinals and struggled at the plate. In 29 at bats, he collected only five hits for a .172 batting average. Second, the Braves are looking to him to play first base where he has limited experience. Glaus is a third baseman but the presence of Chipper Jones makes that move out of the question unless Jones gets hurt (which at this stage of his career is quite likely.)

I do understand why the Braves signed Glaus. Their lineup is stacked with lefthanded hitters. Jones and the newly acquired Cabrera are switch hitters but generally generate most of their power on the left hand side of the plate. Glaus is a bonafide right handed power hitter who has 30 or more home runs in a season five times in his MLB career. It has a career that has featured with the Anaheim Angels (where he was the 2002 World Series MVP), Arizona Diamondbacks and the Toronto Blue Jays before coming to the Cardinals in a trade for Scott Rolen prior to the 2008 season.

The Braves need a big bopper. Catcher Brian McCann was the only Brave who hit more than 20 home runs in 2009. However, this is a little deceptive. Glaus is replacing Adam LaRoche who spent 2009 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and a week with the Boston Red Sox before rejoining the Braves on July 31st. If you compile LaRoche's numbers from 2009 he hit .277 with 25 home runs and 83 RBI. LaRoche has hit 20 or more home runs each of the last five seasons. His career high of 32 came in 2006 during his first stint with the Braves. It is reasonable to assume that if LaRoche were to play a full season with the Braves he would put up those kind of numbers again. Unlike Glaus, LaRoche is a known quantity at first base.

But the Braves didn't want to meet LaRoche's contractual demands so he is a free agent. The San Francisco Giants have not made any significant offseason moves. Given their weak offense they sorely need to if they expect to make a bid for the NL West or Wildcard in 2010. Adding LaRoche would be a big first step in providing protection for Pablo Sandoval in the middle of the lineup.

Of course, if the Giants were to sign LaRoche that would mean keep Sandoval at third base. If the Giants are keen to move Sandoval to first then Adrian Beltre would be an ideal fit for the Giants. If the San Diego Padres end up moving Adrian Gonzalez then LaRoche could be an option for them. However, he would have some very big shoes to fill both on and off the field.

Getting back to the Braves they are a team I am following with great curiosity in 2010. This coming season will be Bobby Cox's last as manager. I'm sure the Braves (especially Chipper Jones who has played his entire career with Cox as his only manager) want him to go out on a high note. Their strong starting rotation (even without Javier Vazquez) does make them a viable NL Wild Card contender and could give the Philadelphia Phillies a run for their money in the NL East. I like the additions of Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito to the bullpen but I think the jury is out on both Cabrera and Glaus for the time being.

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