Adding Garret Anderson has Braves primed to compete

Grant McAuleyContributor IIFebruary 23, 2009

Atlanta Braves General Manager Frank Wren can cross through that final line on the winter shopping list. The Braves inked outfielder Garret Anderson to a one-year, $2.5 million contract on Sunday, effectively filling the last of the glaring voids they needed to address entering the offseason.

With the former Angel now in the Braves outfield, Wren bounced back from being slighted in pursuit of Ken Griffey, Jr. Anderson, 36, clocks in nearly three full years younger than Griffey, and without the burden of offseason knee surgery to boot.

Anderson does not bring 611 career home runs and the marketability that Griffey will lend the Mariners in his reunion tour, but he does bring a proven veteran bat that will add depth to the Atlanta batting order.

While no one will confuse Anderson with the first-ballot Hall of Famer the Braves were unable come to terms with last week, his career average of .296 is eight points north of Griffey's. Anderson's 84 RBI also bested Griffey's total of 71 from a year ago.

Signing Anderson allows Atlanta to follow the same model they were said to be planning had they signed Griffey, utilizing a platoon that would allow Matt Diaz to get the majority of the at-bats against lefties. However, the younger Anderson may see more time than Griffey was slated to receive had he signed with the Braves.

Though the majority of both men's power production came against right-handers last season, Anderson hit .290 in his 141 at-bats versus lefties. Griffey hit just .202 in 163 ABs against southpaws in 2008.

Anderson could steal some of the at-bats from Diaz, given the likelihood that he will be taking his swings in the middle of the Braves order.

This move was symbolic of Atlanta's offseason theme, with Wren working to eventually turn a perceived negative into positives as it comes to player personnel moves. Missing the mark on Jake Peavy and A.J. Burnett turned into the eventual acquisitions of Derek Lowe, Kenshin Kawakami, and Javier Vazquez.

Atlanta's new-look rotation was the major undertaking this winter. The idea behind bringing in a veteran like Anderson on a short term pact is to help the Braves bridge the gap until top prospects like Jordan Schafer, Jason Heyward, and Gorkys Hernandez are ready to assume full-time duties in the Atlanta outfield.

While Schafer may be given the chance to win the starting job in center field this spring, the veteran Anderson will be charged with helping the Braves outfield regain some of its clout. Last season, a plethora of Atlanta outfielders combined to hit a major league-low 29 homers.

The Braves are also hoping that a resurgent Jeff Francoeur will rebound from his dreadful 2008. After driving in more than 100 runs and averaging 24 homers over his first two full seasons, Francoeur hit only .239 with just 11 homers and 71 RBI in 155 games.

A new and improved batting stance, modeled after former teammate Mark Teixeira's right-handed approach, along with less emphasis on weight training and size, have Francoeur convinced that 2008 was just a bad dream. His production from the right side of the dish will be vital to an otherwise lefty-heavy Atlanta lineup.