Posted: 12:13 pm Monday, June 16th, 2014
By Jeff Schultz
For most of this season, the Braves have had problems with their offense.
For most of this season, the problems at least partly trace back to Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton.
But is it possible that two players who combine for $26.45 million in salary this season both will be on the bench soon? Uggla already has lost his starting second base job to rookie Tommy La Stella and Upton may soon lose his as well.
Mark Bowman of MLB.com has an interesting blog in which he lays out a scenario the Braves are considering for a roster shake-up, and I wouldn’t be repeating it here except for the fact it makes sense on every level.
The dominoes fall like this:
• Move 1: The Braves call up catcher Christian Bethancourt, long one of the organization’s top prospects, from Gwinnett (AAA) and make him the starting catcher. Background: Bethancourt is better defensively than Evan Gattis and is hitting .274 this season. I was among a group of media members in the dugout before Saturday’s Braves game when manager Fredi Gonzalez praised Bethancourt and remarked how the organization had taken notice of his possible major-league readiness.
• Move 2: Gattis would move to left field to replace Justin Upton. Background: Gattis has become too valuable a player in the lineup. He leads the team in homers (15), ranks second in RBIs (36) and is hitting .297 with a .937 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage). He also could still be a backup catcher if needed.
• Move 3: Justin Upton moves to right field to replace Jason Heyward. Background: Upton often runs hot and cold offensively to extremes but he’s having a solid season with a team high 37 RBIs and a .280 average.
• Move 4: Heyward moves from right to center to replace B.J. Upton. Background: Heyward certainly has the skill set to be the regular center fielder and he remains the best leadoff hitter on the roster. Notwithstanding his rally sparking, three-run triple in the ninth inning Saturday night, B.J. Upton has been mostly awful offensively (.210 this season; .194 in 190 games as a Brave). The front office and the coaching also can’t be pleased that he already has five errors this season — he had four all of last year — and had two outfield gaffes in the weekend series against the Angels.
The only part of this equation that doesn’t make sense — or at the very least would be a significant leap — is that general manager Frank Wren would be willing to wave a white flag and concede his signing of Upton was a complete failure. Upton has three and a half years and about $53 million left on a $75 million contract.
And how would this picture play in the media: Upton ($13.45 million this season) and Uggla ($13 million) sitting side by side on the bench?
B.J. Upton likely would get more playing time than Uggla because as a fourth outfielder he could replace any of the three starters. The moves also could affect the statuses of current fourth outfielder Jordan Schafer and No. 3 catcher Ryan Doumit.
My thoughts? I’m all for it, for the reasons illustrated above. Bowman writes that these are merely moves the team is “toying” with and a decision “does not necessarily seem imminent.” But the dominoes make sense on a lot of levels.• On demand, just like Netflix: Recent blogs and columns (free links)
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About the Author
Sports blogger and columnist Jeff Schultz has been with the Atlanta-Journal-Constitution since 1989. He has been honored several times by the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE), National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association (NSSA) and several other organizations.