The Erick Aybar saga continued Thursday when he was removed from the lineup due to a chicken bone getting stuck in his throat. This sequence has been Erick Aybar’s 2016 in a nutshell. Ever since leaving the Los Angeles Angles, the team he had been with since being signed back in 2002, Aybar has simply not been the same player. That is an understatement. Aybar has been awful. He cannot hit, as evidenced by his .175 batting average through his first 40 games with the Braves, and what is even more disturbing is his inability to field a baseball.
It’s hard to recall a player falling off so hard. This is a guy who is just TWO years removed from being an All-Star, and right now he is statistically one of the worst players in baseball. Aybar is a career .273 hitter and has a Gold Glove under his belt as well. The Braves acquired him as part of the Andrelton Simmons trade alongside prospects Chris Ellis and Sean Newcomb. The thinking was that the 32-year old, who is on an expiring contract, would provide an offensive upgrade from Simmons while offering league-average defense. He was to serve as an effective gap player to shortstop prospects Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson, and likely to be flipped at the trade deadline for prospect(s).
Both of the talented prospects have impressed in 2016, and each have been promoted in recent weeks. However, while Albies is starting to get under his feet in Gwinnett, he is still one of the youngest players at that level and the team may be cautious with his development. There’s even a chance Swanson could get the call before him despite playing a level lower. With all this being said, it’s inevitable one will be with the big league club at some point this year. So where does that leave Aybar?
If the Braves were a competitive team and/or had other options to man the position, that would be one thing. However, Daniel Castro has not been much of an upgrade from the struggling Aybar. Basically, the Braves have zero other options at the position until one of the prospects are called up. This leaves the team in a sticky situation. While he has been horrid, the team has to hope he can regain at least some of the ability that allowed him to hold his position for a decade with the Angels to restore his trade value, which currently is negative.
Eating the money for Aybar makes no sense until there is at least a replacement level player who can take his spot. Dansby Swanson and/or Ozzie Albies could be with the big league club by July 1st. Until then, fans will have to suffer through watching Aybar’s decline.