Atlanta Braves' Free Agent Decisions: Greg Norton

Jim CheneyCorrespondent IAugust 26, 2009

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 19:  Outfielder Greg Norton #20 of the Atlanta Braves poses for a photo during Spring Training Photo Day on February 19, 2009 at Champions Stadium at Walt Disney World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

This article is the second in a six-part series discussing the players on the Atlanta Braves' 25-man roster that will be free agents at the end of the 2009 season.

Last week we discussed Rafael Soriano in part one.

In this week's edition, we are analyzing Braves' pitch-hitter and occasional backup first baseman Greg Norton.

Certainly the 2009 season has not been good to Greg Norton. He has hit a paltry .145 in 62 at bats with no home runs and only six RBI. Considering a pitch hitter is frequently called on with runners in scoring position, that lack of RBIs is especially disturbing.

At first it seems like a very clear cut case of someone the Braves' shouldn't pursue this offseason. There are, however, several points to be considered that make the Braves' decision slightly more difficult.

First, the Braves must consider their first base options for 2010. With Freddy Freeman arriving in Atlanta in mid-2010 at the earliest and Adam LaRoche's impending free agency, the Braves' will need to be active in the first base market this offseason. That alone, though, is certainly no reason to keep Norton.

After all, the Braves do have Barbaro Canizares playing for their AAA team in Gwinnett. While Canizares only hit .190 in a short stint with the Braves this season, he is hitting .296 with 12 home runs in AAA. He seems capable of at least equaling Norton's 2009 production in 2010.

Any talk of bringing Norton back next season must at least touch on his high on-base percentage. Despite hitting only .145, Norton has an OBP of .338. He has almost double the number of walks, 17, as hits, nine. While he may not be making much contact, it's hard to complain about a pitch hitter who is reaching base in more than one-third of his at bats.

Norton also showed a glimmer of hope during his minor league rehab assignment in June and July.

In 12 games with the AAA team in Gwinnett, Norton hit .324. During his stint there he showed he has some fuel left in the tank.

So, should the Braves try to re-sign Greg Norton this offseason?

While Atlanta certainly should not be offering Norton a Major League contract this offseason, I believe that a one-year, minor league contract near the league minimum would be a prudent idea.

Norton has shown in the recent past that he can be a competent pitch hitter and had success this season during his time in Gwinnett. He could be an important insurance option for the Braves should someone require an extended period of time on the disabled list.

Up Next Week: Adam LaRoche