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Braves sign Sean Rodriguez to two-year deal

The erstwhile Pirate is now an Atlanta Brave, courtesy of a Thanksgiving signing.

Washington Nationals v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Braves fans can now be thankful for a little more roster clarity this Thanksgiving, as John Coppolella and the rest of the Atlanta Front Office has signed former Pirates utilityman Sean Rodriguez to a two-year deal worth approximately $11 million.

Jon Heyman reports that he will receive a $1.5M signing bonus, and a $5M salary in both 2017 and 2018.

The 31-year-old Rodriguez has had a very variegated career to date, and the Braves will be his fourth team. He was a third-round pick by the Angels, and was traded twice involving deals with a PTBNL (player to be named later). The first time, he was traded to the Rays as a PTBNL in exchange for Scott Kazmir; the second time, five years later, he was the one traded to Pittsburgh for a PTBNL. After his team control years expired last offseason, he re-signed with the Pirates on a one-year deal worth $2.5 million, but appears to have gotten a meaningful raise in his second free agency go-around.

Rodriguez has had a lot of variation on the field as well. He hit .270/.349/.510 last season, good for a stellar 129 wRC+ in 342 PAs, but it was his first season with an above-average batting line. Previously, always as a part-time player, he had clocked in four seasons where he was roughly average with the stick (90-100 wRC+) and another four where he was below average to awful (between 58 and 82 wRC+).

Defensively, Rodriguez is also very versatile. He’s logged over 200 innings at every position except catcher and center field, though has primarily been used as a second baseman and shortstop. By UZR, he rates above-average everywhere but shortstop, though he’ll probably be too stretched to factor in meaningfully at center field at any point while a Brave. Still, this means he provides some nice flexibility: he can platoon with:

  • Jace Peterson (and/or Ozzie Albies) at second base;
  • Rio Ruiz at third base; and
  • Nick Markakis in right field (or Mallex Smith, if necessary).

The platooning is especially key here, because Rodriguez has been an above-average hitter against lefties in his career (112 wRC+) while struggling mightily when facing righties (78 wRC+).

Still, Braves fans probably shouldn’t expect the same level of offensive performance from him as he put up in 2016, as he posted a very high (for him) walk rate near 10%, when he previously only walked about 7% of the time. More critically, he put up a 25% HR/FB% in 2016, when he was previously hovering around the league average of 10% to 11%. With some expected regression in those numbers, he probably goes back to being the generic bench player he was before 2016. On the flip side, judiciously platooning him can make a very valuable member of any team, given his positional flexibility.

And, if nothing else works out, at least he has a wicked hook to fall back on:

Amusingly, the TC community team signed Sean Rodriguez to a two-year, $10M deal in the SB Nation GM simulation a few weeks ago, inclusive of a $1M buyout on a $6M team option for 2019. This deal appears pretty close to that. (Now let’s trade Nick Markakis and sign Matt Joyce!)

So, one more thing to be thankful for this holiday!

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