Saturday, August 3, 2013

Trade Target: Placido Polanco

According to the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo, a few of the first players to be placed on waivers with a trade in mind were reported.  One of the most interesting players so far, at least for Atlanta, is Placido Polanco.  As a Braves fan, I hated him as a Cardinal, despised him as a Phillie, and forgot that he played in Detroit at some point.  He signed a one year, $2.75M contract before the season with the Marlins.  That says to me that no team was willing to offer him a starting spot coming into this season except for the Jeffrey Loria's.

Ever since Ramiro Pena went down, the Braves have not had an option to caddy the defensively challenged Chris Johnson with that was also capable of hitting a pitch, any pitch.  I'm looking at you, Paul Janish.  Love your defense, but you should try to come to the plate without your typical Louisville Invisible Slugger.

Polanco's best days are well in his past.  At his highest, he was a superb fielder who could hit well enough with his top-notch bat control for a solid WAR, including a pair of 5 WAR seasons earlier in his career.  Now 37, Polanco has been limited to third base the past two seasons and his pop, which was never great, is all but gone.  He really shouldn't be starting at this point of his career, but the Marlins are pathetic desperate.  His splits tend toward a guy who hits LHP very well and struggles badly against LHP (.347 AVG vs. .220 this season).  In two of the last three years, that split difference has shown up so there is a degree of value in saying that he can hit left-handers fairly well at this point.

Owed around $880K for the rest of the year, Polanco would be a cheap investment for the Braves, but is he is a good one?  Defensively, Polanco would become Johnson's caddy.  I'll give Johnson some credit here and say he has played better defense of late, but I still struggle to have confidence in him in the late innings with a lead.  Polanco has been a tremendous defender at third throughout his career.  For example, in his first two seasons as an everyday third baseman for the Phillies 2010-11, he posted UZR's of 11.7 and 13.9.  In about 400 fewer innings in 2012, he still posted a 4.4 UZR.  However, his UZR is a career-worst -2.2 this year.  Sometimes, a fluky year can show up in UZR so I tend to value a three-year sample vs. one-year.  The only problem with that is aging players tend to become worse defensively so age might be an issue here.  I'd have to lean on my scouts, of which I have none.  However, Atlanta has more disposable income to put into scouting, of which I have, again, none.

Even if they come back saying he's lost a step, but is still a decent third baseman, do the Braves have a spot for him?  Let's look at the usual bench since the injury to Reed Johnson.

Bench: Gerald Laird, Janish, Joey Terdoslavich, Jose Constanza, and Todd Cunningham.  Recently, Laird was DL'd, but he should be back soon.

B.J. Upton is supposed to return today so that would eliminate one outfielder.  Also, Jordan Schafer is expected to begin his rehab assignment with Gwinnett so he would likely replace the other outfielder.  Grabbing Polanco was supposed to replace Janish, who is limited to pinch running and defensive replacement duties, however Polanco would actually replace Terdo.  Janish would need to remain with the team to back-up shortstop and second.  Polanco was once a super second baseman, but he hasn't played the position since 2011 and he only logged an inning that year.  The previous season, he played 82 innings at second, but that's three years ago.  He last played shortstop in 2005.

Acquiring Polanco seem like it would be, at best, a lateral move, but more likely a move that hurts the Braves because I have more confidence in Terdo's bat than Polanco's at this point.  Not to say I wouldn't make the deal, but this is a deal I am only interested in come the end of August when I could do some fancy roster-work to keep Polanco around for the playoffs.  If Polanco goes unclaimed, he is not the guy right now for the Braves to acquire, even if he would be super cheap.

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