02/24/09 5:17 PM EST
Anderson, Braves complete deal
Outfielder passes physical, set to join team in spring camp
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
But when you've spent nearly two full decades with the Angels, like Anderson did, you learn to adapt to change. Such is the case when at different times of a 14-season span, you've found your team linked to entire state of California, the city of Anaheim and the metropolis of Los Angeles.
"I've put on three different uniforms there and gone through three different name changes," Anderson said. "Today when I put the [Braves] uniform on and looked down, it looked different. I'm used to seeing a different script across the front and a different color. But that chapter in my life is closed, and I'm looking forward."
Closing the book on a sometimes-trying roster reconstruction process, the Braves officially landed the outfielder they've been seeking on Tuesday, when Anderson signed his one-year, $2.5 million contract.
"This is probably the final piece to fit the 25-man roster," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "It's a piece that we needed. We have a lot of young outfielders in camp that could actually use another year down in the Minors. I think this helps in many ways, but especially in our lineup, Garret fits."
While not saying exactly where Anderson will fit into his lineup, Cox provided nothing but praise when asked about the 36-year-old outfielder, who hit .293 with 15 homers and a .758 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) in 145 games with the Angels last year.
The addition of Anderson likely relegates Matt Diaz to a backup role and signals that top prospect Jordan Schafer, Brandon Jones and Gregor Blanco will all likely begin this season in the Minors.
"I can't say enough about [Anderson]," Cox said. "I've always tried to catch games when he was playing just to watch his swing. I was a big favorite of guys like George Brett, who could put up a good at-bat every time they were up and get the run in. Garret is that type of guy."
Anderson, who has batted .308 with runners in scoring position over the past four seasons, became a target of the Braves last week, after Ken Griffey Jr. decided to return to the Mariners.
While the 39-year-old Griffey might have produced more attention and potentially more power while solely facing right-handed pitchers, the Braves believe Anderson provides more certainty from both an offensive and defensive standpoint.
Because he hit .293 with a .774 OPS against right-handed pitchers and .290 with a .704 OPS against left-handers, Anderson can provide a productive veteran presence to Atlanta's lineup on a daily basis. Such couldn't have been said for Griffey, who would have been used in a platoon role.
"This is a tremendous pickup," Cox said. "This guy can practically play every day. ... It doesn't matter where he hits. He's got a knack for getting guys in. He puts the ball in play."
Anderson is widely considered to be a better defensive option than Griffey, and because of his ability to consistently hit both right-handed and left-handed pitchers, he allows the Braves to erase some of the uncertainty they might have had while using Diaz as part of a platoon role in left field.
Having combined to hit .333 while platooning during the 2006 and '07 seasons, Diaz has shown signs that he can serve as a productive offensive asset. But Anderson has displayed even greater consistent value over the course of a long career that has included three American League All-Star team appearances and two AL Silver Slugger Awards.
"He'll make a difference," Chipper Jones said. "We're a little left-handed for my taste. But Garret is going to help this team win ballgames, and that's all I care about."
With the addition of Anderson, the Braves now possess a projected starting lineup that includes five left-handed hitters and just two true right-handed hitters -- Jeff Francoeur and Yunel Escobar.
While this is somewhat concerning to the switch-hitting Jones, Cox and Braves general manager Frank Wren don't seem too concerned. Their concerns are minimized by the fact that Anderson, Casey Kotchman, Brian McCann and Kelly Johnson have all hit at least .280 during their careers against left-handed pitchers.
In addition, the left-handed lineup could prove beneficial more often than not. The Braves recorded 2,360 more plate appearances against right-handed pitchers than left-handed pitchers last year.
"If our guys were deficient against lefties, I think there would be more reason for concern," Wren said. "But they're not. They all handle it very well."
Because Anderson hasn't played more than 94 games as an outfielder over the course of the past three seasons, there might be reason to wonder about his ability to play 120-130 games in left field this year. But the fact that he's spent so much time over this span serving as a designated hitter was primarily a product of the surplus of outfielders his team possessed.
Utilizing a training program arranged by his agent, Scott Boras, Anderson spent the past three months strengthening his legs, and he feels he's reporting to camp stronger now than at any other point of his career.
"Strength-wise, I'd say I'm probably in better shape, because there was a more specific type of weight training that I did," Anderson said. "Plus, I spent more time on my feet running than I usually do. So my legs are where they need to be now, as opposed to working my way through Spring Training to get ready for the season."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.