Braves Should Focus on Improving Defense

When the Braves acquired Dan Uggla, they finally found their right-handed power bat they've been desperate for since 2008. Make no mistake about it, Uggla is one of the premiere offensive players in the NL and will drastically improve the Braves' lineup. No one can argue that.

While our offense will be improved, there is one big downside to bringing Uggla to Atlanta: his defense. He posted a UZR rating of -7.6 and UZR/150 rating of -7.4 in 2010. For those of you who aren't in touch with UZR and the advanced defensive metrics, these numbers basically means Uggla is a really bad defensive second baseman. As a matter of fact, he's one of the worst in baseball. To his credit, he did improve last season in the field, but only slightly.

This should be concerning to Braves fans, but at least there's a pretty simple solution: acquire a veteran, defensively talented infielder to replace Uggla in the latter innings. One could make an argument Brandon Hicks or Diory Hernandez could fill in this bench slot, but neither is very proven with the bat. We don't necessarily need the defensive replacement to be talented with the bat, but it would be nice if he could handle his own at the plate incase he would see an at-bat or occasional start.

Besides the afore mentioned Hicks and Hernandez, a veteran free agent like Adam Everett, Jerry Hairston Jr. or Nick Punto could be a perfect fit. Each guy has playoff experience and are very talented with the glove. They're also versatile and could fill in at each infield position, with the exception of first base.

While adding a defensively talented infielder shouldn't be all that hard for Frank Wren to accomplish, the Braves should also look into adding an everyday outfielder who's both offensively and (more importantly) defensively talented. We've all heard the rumors of a superstar like Justin Upton or Ryan Braun coming to Atlanta, but the reality is that's not happening.

There are two guys who would fit perfectly in center field, and their current teams match up well with the Braves in regards to being trade partners. 

Franklin Gutierrez

#21 / Center Field / Seattle Mariners

6-2

190

R

R

Feb 21, 1983

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Franklin Gutierrez 152 568 61 139 25 3 12 64 50 137 25 3 .245 .303 .363

While Gutierrez didn't perform very well in 2010, it was a down year from what he posted in 2009 and he's still young enough to improve. But despite the sub-par numbers, where Gutierrez's true value lays is in his defense. The Gold Glove winner posted a UZR of 7.3 and UZR/150 of 6.8 in 2010 and a ridiculous UZR and UZR/150 of 31.0 and 28.9, respectively. With Prado being an unknown defensively in left field, the Braves would more than make up for it with Gutierrez's and Heyward's defense.

Gutierrez wouldn't come cheap and the Mariners would likely require multiple pitching prospects, but I feel like it would be more than worth it, especially with Dan Uggla coming so cheaply. Sometimes you have to deal your young prospects in order to improve, and as long as the cost isn't ridiculous, it's a move the Braves should make.

Brett Gardner

#11 / Left Field / New York Yankees

5-10

185

L

L

Aug 24, 1983

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Brett Gardner 150 477 97 132 20 7 5 47 79 101 47 9 .277 .383 .379


Brett Gardner experienced a breakout season offensively in 2010 and he's an absolute stud in the field. At the moment the speedy outfielder (probably) isn't available, but if the Yankees miss out on Cliff Lee and/or sign Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth, they would be looking for a starting pitcher to fill the middle of their rotation or an extra outfielder to trade away. Gardner would be a perfect fit for the Braves as he posted an insane UZR of 22.3 and UZR/150 of 39.7 in his first season. He also gives Atlanta a huge stolen base threat at the top of the order, which is something we have been desperate for since Rafael Furcal left.

As mentioned above, Gardner only becomes available if the Yankees miss out on Lee or sign Crawford or Werth. If one of these scenarios would happen, a deal of Gardner for Jair Jurrjens seems pretty darn fair to me. Gardner will make the minimum in 2011 and is then eligible for three years of arbiration, while Jurrjens' arbitration will begin next season. Both teams' needs would be satisfied and neither team would be affected too much by the loss of their player.

To conclude, the whole purpose of this post is to make one point: the Braves are currently a good team. They can become a great team if they improve defensively both in the infield and outfield. Even if they don't get a guy like Gutierrez or Gardner, they still need to acquire someone. Anyone, for that matter.

Make it happen Frank. We trust you.

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