Without Brandon Phillips, the Braves’ infield clutter has abated

Dat Dude after one of his walk-offs. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Problem solved. Johan Camargo – and Rio Ruiz, presumably – are free to play third base this month. Brandon Phillips, a career second baseman forced to up sticks to make room for Ozzie Albies, has upped sticks in a more macro way: He’s headed to Anaheim to play for a team that might make the playoffs. (Then again, the Angels play in a league where the same could be said for almost anybody.)

The Atlanta Braves didn’t get much in return for Phillips – journeyman catcher Tony Sanchez – but they were never going to get much. He’s 36. He’s on a walkaway contract. He plays a position (meaning second base, not third) at which most good teams are fortified. The only reason he wasn’t traded in July was because nobody really wanted him.

The Angels got him now because they’re trying to maximize a surprisingly good season. Note that they also traded for Justin (Former Brave) Upton on Thursday, and he might not be a walkaway. He’s owed $88 million over the next four seasons, but could opt out after this one. There’s a good chance he won’t, though, which would leave the Angels with another massive contract to stack alongside those of Albert Pujols, who’s not worth the money, and Mike Trout, who is.

The Braves, it must be said, received good on-field value for Phillips. They paid $1 million of his $14 million salary – Cincinnati ate the rest – and got a Baseball-Reference WAR value of 1.1. (On the free-agent market, teams are routinely paying upwards of $8 million for 1.0’s worth of WAR.) He didn’t block anybody’s career path. When Albies was deemed big-league-ready, Phillips shifted to third. Now that Camargo/Ruiz/Adonis Garcia are about to be added to the roster, he’s gone altogether.

This might sound like a small thing, but it’s not. The Braves want to keep Albies and Dansby Swanson as their up-the-middle infielders in the season’s final month. They also want to see what Camargo and Ruiz can do, and there’s potential for a third-base platoon. (Ruiz is a lefty hitter. Camargo is a switch hitter who has hit better against lefties over his brief time in the bigs.) Garcia is a lesser concern; he’s apt to be non-tendered this fall.

As Brian Snitker has noted, the Braves were desperate last year for anybody who could play the infield. This year they wound up with a surplus. Phillips was acquired because Sean Rodriguez was hurt. Matt Adams arrived because Freddie Freeman was hurt. Carmargo was promoted after Garcia was hurt. Camargo became a starter because he hit and Swanson didn’t. Freeman briefly became a third baseman because Adams was making like Boog Powell. Swanson got recalled because Camargo was hurt.

It meant for a slew of moving parts and ultimately too many bodies. That is being corrected. Rodriguez was traded to Pittsburgh after playing 15 games. Phillips now works in the American League West. Garcia will be gone soon. Adams could be, too. (It’ll be tough for the Braves to go to arbitration with a player who only plays the position manned by the franchise cornerstone.)

Come opening day in 2018, the Braves stand to have three-fourths of what they’ve long envisioned – an infield of Freeman, Albies and Swanson – plus Camargo/Ruiz/somebody at third base. (Austin Riley is in Double-A, meaning he’s not yet ready.) We don’t yet know if Albies and Swanson will be as good as advertised, but the Braves hold out great hope for both. For as fitful as this season has been, infield-wise, matters have begun to stabilize.

Reader Comments 0

17 comments
_Evelyn_
_Evelyn_

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TideDawg
TideDawg

I think the Braves are better off without Phillips even though he was playing a great 3rd base. I believe Ruiz will nail down 3rd, Camargo SS, and Swanson will move to second. That leaves little Ozzie as trade bait to help get a front line starter.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

It doesn't appear it will really matter much next year how well Swanson and Albies perform, as long as It's replacement level. They need to play and mature up here while we await MLB pitching help to develop.

tmc
tmc

Only in Atlanta does praise happen for the money the team saves or doesn't pay a player because another team pays is glorified... instead of the player returning. 
It's an absolute shame that this organization has & continues to brain-wash their fans AND media into thinking that spending like a mid-market city or even less, is okay.
I don't know what is worse, the Braves organization for doing it or the media and fans buying it and not throwing it back into the pretentious Braves management's faces.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Haven't paid for a ticket since they traded Simmons.

BobDawg
BobDawg

It's September Tryouts... Let's just see how things play out... Acuna comes next Spring and we trade for a #1 Starter in the off season and things should start taking shape.....

Berserker
Berserker

Camargo has 1 error at shortstop. If you actually watch the games, Camargo is clearly the best shortstop the Braves have. The idea that he would platoon at third just shows how incompetent the Braves organization is.

Relgin
Relgin

Seems to me that the Braves GM just does not know what he is doing. They just got rid of one player that was very consistent. A player that gave you a professional approach to the game, and now he's gone. I just don't understand, they are not worried about winning now, now we got another minor league player to go with all the other minor league players. Hopefully one of these days somebody in the Braves brass wake up, and find a GM that knows what he is doing.

Relgin
Relgin

Ronelgin@aol.com

Berserker
Berserker

You must really like spam or something.

Scroach
Scroach

Why can't Camargo play everyday?    Everyone wants him to be a utility player.?   He has good range in the field, a great arm and hits the ball.   Let's give him a chance.   I think his biggest problem is his last name is not  Albies or Swanson.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

Coppy wishes it was Gary Sanchez (Yankees great young catcher) .The Braves received Journeyman Catcher Tony Sanchez. A 30 year old career minor league catcher.Does the AJC need a new copy editor in the Sports department, My granddaughter is looking for a part time job ,she is a freshman at GSU.

Stephen Phillips
Stephen Phillips

Camargo is a useful future utility player, Ruiz is a minor leaguer. We really needed to see another month of this?


Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Stephen Phillips If the Braves are looking for a current MLB 3B for next year ,call the Reds about Eugenio Suarez 26 years old 24HR 71 RBI ,but plays the same position as REDS #1 prospect UT"s Nick Senzel currently batting .340 in AA.

Berserker
Berserker

You obviously don't watch the games. Ruiz got 2 hits today. The rest of the team: 2 hits.