Matt Adams Joins the Braves… For Now

The season opened with a curious experiment that saw the Cardinals playing Matt Adams in left field. Adams is a large human being who, till this year, had been a first baseman — and, well, the whole left-field experiment didn’t go particularly well. Due to Matt Carpenter’s presence at first, Adams entered the weekend with just 53 plate appearances to his name — plate appearances in which he’d hit fairly well, but without his usual power.

It’s possible that some regular playing time could get Adams back to his old ways. The Atlanta Braves will be the ones to find out, as they traded for him on Saturday to fill in for the injured Freddie Freeman. Freeman had been playing like a superstar before being hit by a pitch and fracturing his wrist.

It’s a devastating blow to a Braves team that already wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry, but you can do a lot worse for a replacement than Adams.

Before this year, Adams had been a solidly average to above-average hitter. He wasn’t going to win you any championships, and his career 59 wRC+ against southpaws leaves a lot to be desired. When he’s right, though, Adams won’t embarrass you at the plate and can hit you some homers. That’s a fine get for an emergency first baseman this early in the season, and he’s markedly better than the other in-house option. James Loney’s days of being a suitable starting first baseman have long since passed, as his stint last year with the Mets showed. Now Adams will be Atlanta’s primary option at first base for about 10 weeks while Freeman recuperates. If he plays well, he may be headed to a third team.

When Freeman comes back, Adams will be relegated to the bench once more. He’s obviously not supplanting Freeman, and we know that he can’t play the outfield. Adams has a 10-week audition to prove that he can still hit for power and play well at first, and the conclusion of those 10 weeks takes us to right before the trade deadline. Someone always needs a left-handed power bat, and he could be a nice option for whichever club finishes second in the Yonder Alonso sweepstakes (assuming Alonso keeps up his torrid pace).

This all assumes that Freeman comes back on time, of course, but Adams could inadvertently find himself in a playoff race because of this trade. That’s not a bad outcome for a guy who started the season falling over himself in left field.





Nick is a columnist at FanGraphs, and has written previously for Baseball Prospectus and Beyond the Box Score. Yes, he hates your favorite team, just like Joe Buck. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets, and can contact him at stellinin1 at gmail.

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TKDC
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TKDC

If Adams is playing well and the Braves get a decent offer for him, they should trade him even if Freeman is not ready to come back.

This move just doesn’t make a lot of sense. Is Adams really going to move the needle in fan expectations? Does acquiring him really make fans think the Braves are trying to win so you should come out to the ballpark? Even granting all of that, if you can trade Adams and you have to play Markakis or Jace Peterson at first base for a few weeks, you just do that. Braves aren’t sniffing the playoffs anyway.

Doorknob11
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Doorknob11

What it does is, giving you more upside potential than Loney. As the article expressed, if he does well they can trade him. Adams doing well is a lot more probable than Loney doing well. The A’s do this every year.

Dave T
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Dave T

I agree with you in wondering about this move by the Braves. Trading an A-ball lottery ticket for Adams is still giving up an A-ball lottery ticket, for a team that should be thinking long-term.

I’m also skeptical how much of a market the Braves will find to trade Adams later this year. Adams was reportedly shopped during the off-season without much of a market. That would make sense considering the free agency outcomes for some players who, like Adams, have a demonstrated ability to hit around or a bit above league average but can’t play anywhere but 1B or DH. Chris Carter got only 1 year / $3.5 million in free agency after being non-tendered. Pedro Alvarez got only a minor league contract for $2 million in free agency.

In a vacuum, these players seem like they should be decent enough bench players (1 or so WAR per 600 PA’s). The problem, however, is that it’s tough to fit a 1B-only player on modern, short MLB benches. The Cardinals had that issue with Carpenter now starting at 1B, and the Braves will have that issue once Freeman returns.

Adams’ track record is such that a team really isn’t going to be excited to start him at 1B, but he also doesn’t have the positional versatility to fit well on a bench.

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

If it’s a pitcher, sure I get it. Pitchers are unpredictable. But a 1B in A-ball who the author literally cannot be bothered to mention in the piece, and he’s traded for a guy they can probably flip later for an equivalent piece…why not?

kseg22
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kseg22

Let’s not forget the Braves top bat off the bench was Emilio Bonifacio… maybe Adams is a long term bench solution considering he’s under control in 2018 when the Braves have a shot at contending

Dave T
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Dave T

Adams is an odd bench bat solution for the Braves in 2018, though.

Adams is a LH hitting 1B backing up the Braves LH hitting star 1B. If Freeman is healthy, Adams how much does Adams play? There are maybe 50 or 60 PA’s on Freeman’s rest days. There are ten interleague games in AL parks where Adams can DH, or play 1B with Freeman at DH. And Adams isn’t really a great option in those interleague games if there’s a LH starting pitcher. So call that maybe 30-35 PA’s. Adams can PH, but he’s not always a great solution for that role because he’s very LOOGY-able. Adams isn’t that useful for double-switches off the bench, because that implies double-switching Freeman out of the game.

It looks to be very similar to the roster construction problem that the Cardinals had after moving Carpenter to 1B this year and putting Adams on the bench. With a 7 man bullpen and 5 man bench, carrying Adams as a bench player means either not carrying a 5th OF or not carrying a 2nd backup IF who can play a position besides 1B.