Did Griffey do the Braves a favor?
While writing the early version of the story about Garret Anderson and the Braves agreeing to the terms of his one-year, $2.5 million contract, I didn’t exactly have a firm opinion about whether or not he’d be a better fit than Griffey would’ve been.
But after talking to some of the Braves and doing some more research before updating my original story, I gained the belief that Braves general manager Frank Wren might want to send a thank you note to Griffey and his agent Brian Goldberg.
When one of my respected colleagues opined that Anderson is “the most underrated player of his generation to me," I certainly took notice.
But such a compliment wasn't going to completely sway somebody who believes Griffey was the most purely talented player of this generation. (Obviously raw stats aren't the only components I used to gain this opinion.)
So while attempting to evaluate the current talents of two former superstars who are past their primes, I have to give the nod to Anderson, who is 2 1/2 years younger, undoubtedly the better defensive option, and a player whose offensive capabilities provide the Braves the opportunity to place an experienced and proven bat in left field on a regular basis.
The fact that Griffey would have been platooning at least provides reason to wonder what kind of production Matt Diaz would have provided during those days when he was playing left field. During his first two years with the Braves, he devoured left-handed pitchers. But before he injured his knee in late May of last year, he created reason to wonder if he could rekindle the magic he experienced in 2006 an 2007, when he combined to hit .333 with 19 homers and an .856 OPS.
Looking solely at the statistics he might have produced while batting solely against right-handed pitchers, you could argue that Griffey would have provided more power. But in doing so, you have to assume that he’s regained all his strength in his surgically-repaired right knee.
Assuming Griffey was at optimal strength, you might project that he and Matt Diaz could have combined for 25-30 homers while serving in a platoon role in left. But the “if” that accompanies this argument seems to provide a greater variable than the certainty Anderson has shown through his consistent production he’s provided since ending his days as a legitimate power hitter.
Anderson hit .293 with a .774 OPS against right-handed pitchers last year and .290 with a .704 OPS against left-handers.Over the past three seasons, he’s hit .295 with a .799 OPS against right-handers and .272 with a .713 OPS against southpaws.
When the Braves are facing a tough left-hander or Anderson needs a day off, Cox may choose to play Diaz, who has hit .328 with a .508 slugging percentage against them in his career.
But for the most part I think you’ll see Anderson in left and he’s told friends he’s looking forward to the opportunity to play 120-130 games in the outfield this year. This workload would provide Diaz the opportunity to be more than simply a valuable bat off the bench.
Anderson obviously isn’t the great player that he was at the beginning of this decade. But because he still has the ability to give the Braves an experienced and proven presence in left field on a regular basis, I’ve gained the opinion that he’s better than any other options Wren has explored over the course of the past week.
– Mark Bowman