The unfortunate injury to Sean Rodriguez has a bigger impact on the Braves than one may think. The team was quick to make a corresponding move to fill the hole left at second base by trading for Brandon Phillips. However, with Rodriguez out for the season, the team loses a lot of versatility on the bench. Most importantly, the team no longer has a backup option at first base.
Freddie Freeman has certainly established an iron man reputation for his durability thus far in his career, but not having at least a backup first baseman handy is concerning. The team brought in Christian Walker off waivers from the Orioles organization, and though he has put up nice power output in the minors, he is far from a proven major league commodity.
The Braves have a much improved offense and rotation, and a plethora of bullpen arms at their disposal. Fans are in for a much improved team this season. However, one area that is lacking is the bench. While they will certainly enjoy being able to plug and play Jace Peterson allover the field, the team still lacks a proven bench bat. This is where Pedro Alvarez comes in.
Alvarez is far from a perfect player. He’s not a great defender, and he has a tendency to strike out. However, he would instantly become the Braves’ best bench bat while filling a team need. In the case that Freddie Freeman were to go down (knock on wood), Alvarez would be a substantially better fill-in than any internal option the team has.
The Braves are all in on Freddie Freeman, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, they have zero organization depth behind him for this very reason.
The most likely scenario is that the team turns to Kelly Johnson, who has played some spot first base for the team at times over the past two seasons. However, he may hold a grudge after the Braves have traded him twice in the past two seasons.
Alvarez is more of a designated hitter, but has seen time at first and third base in the majors. He has had two seasons in which he has hit 30 long balls, and he hit 22 in just 337 at bats last season with Baltimore.
Even if Freddie Freeman plays all 162 games, which is certainly a possibility, Alvarez could offer the team a bunch of value in late game situations. The team is already at a record high payroll, and are likely going to be frugal going forward. Alvarez has seen this story before. This time last year, he had still not been signed by a team due his deficiencies, but he ended up getting a one-year deal from the Orioles north of $5 million. If Alvarez can be had around the $4 million range, getting a former Silver Slugger Award winner who’s still in his prime is a no-brainer.