On Tuesday Chase reported on the news that the Braves had acquired 26-year-old shortstop Orlando Arcia via a trade with the Brewers. Since that post hit the site, it has been revealed that Atlanta sent both Chad Sobotka and Patrick Weigel to Milwaukee in the deal, and the general consensus is that following a successful COVID screening, Arcia will join the big league club as a depth option in the infield.
— Bally Sports South (@BallySportsSO) April 6, 2021
Now if trading away Sobotka and Weigel leaves you concerned about the Braves bullpen and pitching depth… don’t worry. The two had combined for a 19.28 ERA during Spring Training, and though there’s a world where the former’s potential upside makes holding onto him a better option, the latter has been on his way out for a while now. All-in-all, this deal makes perfect sense: cash in on an area of surplus (pitching depth) in order to improve an area of weakness (the bench).
Although many will claim Arcia has ultimately been a bust as player… and that’s perhaps correct. This is a guy that started his pro career in 2011 as a 16-year-old in the Brewers system and by 2016 was the top-ranked prospect in the organization. Hell, just skim through this piece published by FanGraphs back in August of 2016, the day after Arcia made his MLB debut as a 21-year-old. The author of that post was name-dropping Dustin Pedroia and Melvin Upton as comparable players to Arcia, and, if you like numbers, gave him a 68% chance to log 4 fWAR over his first six major league seasons.
Yeah, that didn’t happen…
Instead, Arcia’s ability to hit for a high average and steal bases at will — something he did consistently in the minors — just didn’t translate to the big league level. And through five MLB seasons his career fWAR total stands at just 0.9 (0.7 if you exclude the -0.2 WAR he’s logged so far in 2021, thanks to a current -53 wRC+ in 11 PA).
Now 26, Arcia is currently a below-average hitter, and despite slugging 15 home runs in each of 2017 and ’19, he doesn’t usually hit for much power, nor does he steal many bases (at least relative to his prospect days in the minors). With an MLB leading 10 double-play balls hit in 2020, and a career wRC+ of just 71, Arcia is much closer to the likes of Ender Inciarte than a player like Pedroia, and that’s quite an underwhelming career for a former no. 1 prospect expected to be a star.
But the Braves, who, other than Tuesday’s power surge against Max Scherzer (an offensive breakout I called, by the way), don’t necessarily need Arcia of his prospect days. Atlanta simply needs someone competent to occasionally play shortstop. And that is something Arcia can certainly do.
At the moment, the Braves bench options in the infield consist of Johan Camargo and Pablo Sandoval — two players the team would rather not run out to play shortstop (of course not the latter), and probably not run out much in general (I know, the Panda’s home run on Opening Day was pretty cool, though). Ever since Camargo’s special 2018 campaign, he’s hit just .222 with a 62 OPS+ and defensively his range has declined as well. Sandoval, while he did show he’s still capable of getting knocks this spring, really isn’t a long-term option off the bench, and he would have to absolutely rake at the plate to be a viable back-up due to his limitations on defense.
And then there’s Ehire Adrianza, a player fully capable of manning shortstop and who came out of nowhere hitting .400 during camp this spring. He’s currently unavailable after being placed on MLB’s restricted list on Tuesday due to “personal reasons” (per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman). The running rumor is that Adrianza is or was in the process of earning American citizenship, but no official source has verified whether that’s true. Fortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any type of injury for Adrianza to recover from, although just like Arcia, he’ll have to go through the league’s COVID intake protocols, making him absent at least for the next few days.
#Braves expect to have utility player Ehire Adrianza back for their home opener Friday. He's going through COVID-19 protocols after leaving team's virtual-bubble environment for a personal matter on off day last Friday.
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) April 6, 2021
And I know a .400 AVG and eight XBH in just 24 games is quite the performance, but we must remember that was SPRING TRAINING… not when it counts. This is a guy that, in eight big league seasons so far, has never been much of an offensive player. Still, though, Adrianza has earned a role with the Braves, and until proven otherwise, deserves some playing-time.
But no one can blame GM Alex Anthopoulos for wanting a little more oomph off the bench. It’s not realistic to depend on someone like Adrianza — a 31-year-old with 16 career homers in over 1,200 plate appearances — as the team’s primary backup infielder for a full season. With Sandoval a tweak away from retirement and Camargo seemingly on a permanent decline, the Braves bench is on the verge (and perhaps still is with guys like Inciarte on the roster) of becoming completely barren of competent big league hitters. Adding Arcia doesn’t magically solve that problem, but if you’re given the opportunity to move two pitchers unlikely to contribute for a chance to reinforce such a weakness, you have to at least try. And that’s exactly what Anthopoulos did on Tuesday.
Now, if some wins would follow, that would be great.