Braves, Anderson reach deal
Veteran left fielder agrees to one-year pact to join Atlanta
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- In the end, the Braves might feel fortunate that Ken Griffey Jr. decided to return to the Mariners.
When Griffey opted to sign with the Mariners last week, the Braves turned their attention toward Garret Anderson and then seemingly completed a swift negotiating process with the veteran outfielder.
"I like it," Braves All-Star catcher Brian McCann said. "[Anderson's] career record shows that he can hit. He's got a ton of knowledge, too, so it will be good for us to pick his brain. I've heard from a bunch of guys that he's just a great teammate."
Braves officials didn't provide confirmation that they've reached an agreement with Anderson. But it's obvious that manager Bobby Cox has long been a fan of the veteran left-handed hitter, who hit .293 with 15 homers and a .758 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) for the Angels last season.
"I've always loved this guy," Cox said. "He has one of the sweetest swings in baseball. He struck out 100 times one year. He's the guy you want up there when the game is on the line. He'll get you a hit. He uses all the fields."
With Griffey, the Braves would have gained a 39-year-old outfielder who might have occasionally proven to be a defensive liability while serving in a platoon role that would have hidden his struggles against left-handed hitters.
Griffey's offensive contributions would have likely been limited to his at-bats against right-handed pitchers. Over the past three seasons, he's batted .284 with 53 homers and an .866 OPS against them.
While Griffey would have undoubtedly been a better power source against right-handers, Anderson has shown more consistency against both left-handed and right-handed pitchers.
Anderson hit .293 with a .774 OPS against right-handed pitchers last year and .290 with a .704 OPS against left-handers.Over the past three seasons, he's hit .295 with a .799 OPS against right-handers and .272 with a .713 OPS against southpaws.
"He hits left-handers and right-handers, it doesn't matter," Cox said.
Despite the fact Anderson hasn't played more than 94 games as an outfielder during any of the previous three seasons, there's early indication that Anderson will be given the chance to play left field on primarily an everyday basis.
Anderson has committed himself to a regular offseason workout program and has told friends he believes he could play 120-130 games in the outfield this season. With his 37th birthday approaching in June, he still believes there's at least a chance that he could reach the 3,000-hit milestone. He enters this season 632 hits shy of that mark.
With this addition, the Braves could choose to bat Anderson in the cleanup role and allow Chipper Jones to remain in the third spot of the lineup. Or Cox could choose to flip-flop this order and allow McCann to provide protection for the reigning National League batting champion.
"It gives us another experienced hitter," McCann said. "However our lineup shapes up, it gives us another experienced hitter. So we're excited."
While Anderson doesn't possess the power he displayed early in his career, he has hit at least 14 homers each of the past 11 seasons. But he hasn't hit more than 17 homers since 2003, when he tallied 29 homers for a second consecutive year.
Without Anderson, the Braves might have chosen to use Brandon Jones and Matt Diaz in a platoon in left field. While Atlanta officials publicly stated that they would've been comfortable with this arrangement, it's now obvious that they felt the need to add an experienced bat to their lineup.
Anderson's ability to take advantage of run-producing opportunities is evidenced through the fact that he hit .338 with a .415 slugging percentage in 130 at-bats with runners in scoring position last year. Over the course of the past three seasons, he has hit .300 with an .800 OPS in these situations.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.