After being one of the Braves’ strengths the past couple years, this year’s bench has been poor. David Ross has been the only member to avoid the sub-replacement level category. Amazingly, Juan Francisco has been the second “best” of the group, so he’s unlikely to go anywhere. It is hard to find dependable bench players, especially ones on teams willing to sell. I will go through the three remaining positions, trying to find some possible hidden value.
Matt Diaz has posted a .229/.286/.344 line along with his poor defense. I found a couple right-handed options that could be available. Casper Wells is currently a part-time player for the Mariners, hitting .253/.333/.385. The 27-year-old has over 400 career PA in the majors with above average results, and he’s been a bit above average defensively. Wells’ playing time has increased lately, which may make it tougher to pry him away, but I doubt a player of his age is too valuable to them. Conor Jackson looks to have finally recovered from illness and injuries, hitting .274/.384/.466 on the White Sox AAA club. If the White Sox are willing to stick by Dayan Viciedo, Jackson should be available, and a player with prior major league success would look good.
It would be really hard to find someone hitting worse than Jack Wilson right now. His .179/.200/.224 line is atrocious, and he’s not playing his standard great defense. Paul Janish is basically what we thought Wilson would be, a poor bat and good defense. He would be a welcome addition as a backup middle infielder. At worst, the Braves could just call up Josh Wilson, who at least has some ML experience.
Eric Hinske has lost the thunder in his bat, posting a sub-.100 ISO so far. Considering that has been his lone skill the past few years, he has not done his job this year. I do not see the Braves giving up on him, but there are a couple possible replacements for him. One would be Jackson’s teammate in Charlotte, Dan Johnson. While he did have a horrific 2011 with the Rays, Johnson has shown pop in the majors, and he’s hitting .281/.429/.555 so far this year. Another left-handed bat that could help is a castoff in Seattle’s long search for a franchise catcher. Jeff Clement is hitting .297/.370/.528 in the Pirates organization, now playing first base. He’s had plate discipline issues in his brief ML career, but he’s shown power, something the Braves need on the bench. The other option is to keep Jose Constanza up, though Francisco is probably not a good option against good relievers late in games. Where is Matt Stairs when we need him?
These minor league players are not supposed to be able to change the entire atmosphere, and they may end up doing just as poorly as the current bench. However, it is tough for Fredi Gonzalez to give a player a day off when there isn’t anyone on the bench able to provide something positive. A quality starting pitcher may be the biggest trade target for Atlanta, but a bench upgrade may end up being more important on an everyday basis. Are there any other under-the-radar players you think the Braves should pursue?