The Atlanta Braves announced on Monday that they have signed veteran first baseman Lyle Overbay to a minor league contract. He will report to the triple-A Gwinnett Braves on Wednesday, and begin playing on Thursday. The plan will be for him to play a week of games, then get added to the Atlanta roster on September 1st, when rosters expand.
Overbay was designated for assignment by the Arizona Diamondbacks in late July. Though he was hitting .292/.367/.448 at the time, he had been in a month-long slump, while playing as a backup and pinch-hitter. The D-Backs were also transitioning to a youth movement, going with younger players, including the recently acquired Chris Johnson.
The best way to describe Overbay to fans who are not familiar with him, is as an Adam LaRoche lite -- more of Overbay's hard hit balls turn into doubles than home runs. He is a decent fielder, though at 35 years old his range is nothing special.
This is clearly a move the Braves have been wanting to make for some time; as Frank Wren alluded to, they have been talking with Overbay since he was released. The Braves have been trying to find a veteran pinch hitter to possibly replace Eric Hinske, who is also 35 years old. Hinske hasn't started a game since July 14th, pinch hitting 17 times since then with just three hits and a walk. This season as a pinch hitter, "Ske" is hitting just .152/.220/.196; only 7 for 46 in the pinch.
September will likely be audition time for both Overbay and Hinske to see which one would make the presumptive postseason roster. The Braves have one of the worst pinch hitting corps in the league, just 29 for 146 as a team, but have made moves over the past month to tighten up that group, beginning with the acquisition of Reed Johnson from the Cubs, and concluding with the signing of Overbay. This will likely conclude the moves the team will make to strengthen the bench before the August 31st waiver-trade deadline, though we may still see them make a move for a reliever.
This is another good move by the Braves front office. They bring in a veteran guy without giving anything up, and should shore up a weak spot on the team. If he is still in baseball form, then he should give Fredi Gonzalez another valuable option off the bench in September.