Did the Braves mishandle their shortstop situation?

Vaughn Grissom

The Braves shocked most of their fans earlier this week by optioning both Braden Shewmake and Vaughn Grissom to AAA Gwinnett, leaving Orlando Arcia as the starter with Ehire Adrianza as his backup. Like most of you, I have a lot of questions, but to this point, we haven’t gotten much more than coach speak. The Braves didn’t think Grissom was ready defensively, and apparently, they wanted to hold onto Ehire Adrianza, who is quality organizational depth.

I highly doubt the decision had much to do with losing Adrianza — a 33-year-old AAAA player that they signed to a minor-league contract this offseason. He has had a nice Spring, but the Braves aren’t fooling themselves. They are well aware of what he brings to the table. He’s a well-below-average bat that can fill in nicely defensively when called upon. That’s not the kind of talent teams go out of their way to risk losing games for in order to keep.

This decision had very little to do with Adrianza, and everything to do with their belief that neither Shewmake nor Grissom is ready to be everyday major-league players, which isn’t a ridiculous thing to admit, by any means.

Nobody actually believed Shewmake was going to make the Opening Day roster coming into Spring Training. While he’s proven to be much better defensively than originally anticipated on draft day, his offense has severely disappointed since he reached the upper levels of the minors, recording a combined OPS below .700 over the last two seasons in AA and AAA. Shewmake has had a promising Spring, but thinking he’s ready to be the starting shortstop for the major-league club after 30 at-bats would have been a wildly unexpected turn of events.

Grissom, on the other hand, was viewed as the favorite to win the job as the starting shortstop, and from what we’ve seen in the games, he’s done nothing to lose the job. His bat has come as advertised, hitting a remarkable .371 in the Grapefruit League, but that’s never been the issue.

The Braves have always been concerned with Grissom’s ability to man the position defensively. Many scouts thought he would eventually change positions once he reached the majors. However, Ron Washington gave Alex Anthopoulos his vote of confidence during the offseason, and the Braves decided against adding a stopgap shortstop as insurance. That is where my issue begins.

From the onset, I’ve been clamoring for the Braves to bring in a veteran on a short-term deal that could handle the position until Grissom was deemed ready. Now, we are eight days away from Opening Day, and the team is caught with their pants down.

Orlando Arcia is a nice option to have… off the bench. For as great as he is defensively, he hasn’t been a starting shortstop since 2020, and offensively, he’s bad — plain and simple. 2022 was the first time in his career he posted a positive offensive WAR, and he owns a career wRC+ of 74, which is 26% below league average. This isn’t a small sample size, either. Arcia has been in the majors for seven years. The Braves know exactly what he is, and it isn’t a starting caliber big-league shortstop.

When Alex Anthopoulos decided not to add another shortstop this offseason, the plan was for Grissom to fill the shoes of Dansby Swanson. I didn’t necessarily agree with the decision because I wasn’t quite sure Grissom was ready for that kind of responsibility, but the Braves were confident enough that he would be ready. Apparently, he’s not, and it’s not because of what they’ve seen from him at the plate. They don’t trust his defense, which might not be something that changes overnight.

Perhaps the Braves still have a trick up their sleeve and attempt to swing a trade in the coming weeks, but I’m not so confident in that taking place. It’s very difficult to make significant additions this close to Opening Day, and even harder to swing a trade in April and May. The Braves are likely stuck with Arcia until Grissom is deemed ready, and if that doesn’t happen soon, we’ll look back at Anthopoulos’ decision against adding a stopgap shortstop option as one of his few missteps as general manager of the Braves.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire


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