To give him his due, Orlando Arcia isn’t a journeyman. He’s 28. He has played for two MLB clubs. He has started 545 big-league games, 476 at shortstop. He was Milwaukee’s shortstop from 2016 through 2020. As a Brewer, he started 13 postseason games. The Braves acquired him in April 2021 for pitchers Chad Sobotka and Patrick Weigel.
Arcia was the part of the shortstop competition nobody noticed. Most of us figured the job was Vaughn Grissom’s to win. On Monday, the Braves sent Grissom – and Braden Shewmake, a rookie also in the positional mix – to the minors. Thus has an All-Star shortstop been replaced, at least for the moment, by the owner of a 2.8 career WAR.
Dansby Swanson’s WAR last season was 5.7. His contract with the Cubs is $177M over seven seasons. That’s why he’s no longer a Brave. (Not that exhibition numbers mean anything, but Swanson is 2-for-31 with his new team. Cubs manager David Ross has voiced the boilerplate “not-worried” endorsement.)
Arcia was the Braves’ fallback. If Grissom wasn’t ready, the most important defensive position would by manned by someone with big-league experience. Even after intense tutelage by the renowned coach Ron Washington, the Braves decided Grissom wasn’t ready. This wasn’t quite a shock, but it was a surprise, perhaps even to Brian Snitker.
On Saturday, the Braves’ manager said of Grissom and Shewmake: “We’re going to take one of the two, more than likely.” On Monday, the Braves demoted both.
It wasn’t a great sign that, by last week, Grissom was no longer starting at shortstop. He’d lost the job that was his to win. He’d been fine in 2022 as Ozzie Albies’ replacement at second base, but shortstop – guessing you folks know this – is different. Having a substandard shortstop isn’t fair to your pitchers, and your pitchers are of major importance.
Shewmake is considered a good defender. Why not him, then? Over three minor-league seasons, his OPS is .723. It was .652 at Double-A. A big-league shortstop needs to hit a bit, though Arcia’s big-league OPS is – whoops – .664.
Arcia’s job is to provide competence until Grissom or Shewmake becomes competent at shortstop, which could happen but might not. It’s believed the Braves believe both need to play every day, though how Gwinnett might accommodate two shortstops is unclear. It’s also thought the Braves cleared room for Ehire Adrianza on the big-league roster for utility purposes, and here we say: Ehire Adrianza?
The Braves are a smart bunch. When needs arise, and needs always do, this organization does what’s necessary. One need just arose. Arcia is a guy who can play shortstop until the Braves find a real shortstop. Maybe it’ll be Grissom or Shewmake, though you wonder if the Braves still see the former as a viable candidate. Maybe it’ll be somebody who’s not on the roster.
A while back, yours truly noted that Elvis Andrus – the long-ago Braves minor-leaguer sent to Texas in the Mark Teixeira boondoggle – was available. He has since signed with the White Sox. His deal is for one season at $3M. Had the Braves spent that little for that level of insurance, they’d feel much better today.
(Oh, and since you asked: I don’t believe this is a case of the Braves stashing rookies in the minors to keep their service clocks from starting on Opening Day. They did that with Ronald Acuna, who was a massive prospect. Shewmake is not. And didn’t Grissom’s clock start last season?)
In their heart of hearts, maybe the Braves knew they’d be eight days from their season opener with Arcia as their shortstop, and maybe they said, “We’d be OK with that.” But I imagine they’ll be scanning the final spring cuts for outside help.
Maybe the Braves are good enough to get away with Arcia as their shortstop. Maybe, I said.