Frank Wren spent last winter rebuilding his pitching staff, and he did a superb job, but the offense fell by the wayside (necessarily, if you ask me). Holes in center field and at first base were plugged admirably in-season, but left field remained in the rapidly-declining, usually-unproductive hands of last-minute free-agent pickup Garret Anderson. Anderson is almost certainly on his way out the door, bound once again for the American League, leaving Brandon Jones as the lone left fielder on Atlanta's 40-man roster.
I was never a fan of the Anderson signing in the first place, but Wren got even less from Anderson than I expected. Garret got off to an atrocious start to the season after missing most of spring training and much of April with nagging muscle injuries. He's often had more success in the second half of the season, so a .944 OPS in July led to some cautious optimism that he might turn into an asset at the plate, but he collapsed once again as the calendar changed to August, before finishing with an OPS just a tick north of .700. A .701 OPS is unimpressive for any hitter, but it turns utterly atrocious when you add in the fact that he played left field (one of the easier defensive positions), and did so horrendously, giving back nearly 12 runs with his leaden glove. Anderson is a Type B free agent, but I think it's quite safe to say that Frank Wren won't offer him arbitration, and that there will be few if any contract negotiations between Anderson and the Braves. It was clear that he was never comfortable in Atlanta, and it's also clear that he will head back to the AL where he can be a DH instead of having to bother with playing the field. All in all, Anderson was an awful signing, but if there is a bright spot here, at least we didn't pay him much, and it's not like he took playing time away from anyone more deserving. And hey, it can't hurt to do the little things to get on Scott Boras' good side.
Anderson's play highlights the need for a real solution in left field, and after 2009, I'd say it's painfully clear that Brandon Jones is not that solution. I've never really been on the Brandon Jones bandwagon, though I do think he could probably have given us a .700 OPS and bad defense for a fifth of Anderson's price. Jones has always gotten high marks for his athleticism, but in spite of that, he's really never been known as a very good defender, even in a corner. And if you're going to be a corner outfield prospect, you can't afford to be just a decent hitter...you need to be able to mash. And it doesn't bode well that he now has two disappointing seasons under his belt since he hit .293/.368/.507 at Mississippi in 2007. His 2009 line from Gwinnett translates to .260/.342/.410 in the majors, and that definitely gets you a bench spot somewhere if you can play a little D. But what if he's stuck as a below-average left fielder? Maybe somebody would still carry him as a pinch-hitter from the left side, but given the heavy left lean of the Braves' lineup, that "somebody" likely won't be Atlanta. I can't say I see him as having a whole lot of trade value, but maybe he winds up as a throw-in in a bigger deal this winter. But with Nate McLouth, Jason Heyward and Jordan Schafer all hitting from the left side, I'd say Brandon will have to either learn to play the infield or learn to bat right-handed if he wants to earn a role with the Braves.