Sunday, March 20, 2022
While the Braves play its third spring training game, today versus the Phillies, a few recent transactions have come to light. Today, Atlanta signed both pitcher R.J Alaniz and infielder Brock Holt each to minor league deals. This comes after the team signed righty Brad Brach on Saturday, infielder Pat Valaika on Friday, and of course Nick Vincent back last Wednesday.
Here’s a look at each player…
Nick Vincent (RHP)
Vincent, 35-years-old, was outrighted by the Twins last October, after managing just 12 2/3 major league innings during the 2021 season. He was already set to become a free agent anyways, so the move last year was essentially just a formality. I know many probably haven’t heard of Vincent, and he’s moved around quite a bit while playing for six different organizations during his ten-year career, but his overall career numbers are pretty solid. In 411 2/3 big league innings, the righty reliever has pitched to a 3.30 ERA to go with 8.9 K/9 and just 2.3 BB/9. Vincent’s career-year came back in 2017 while with the Mariners, in which he made a career-high 69 appearances. Seattle depended on him plenty as he posted a 3.20 ERA that season. Bullpen depth never hurts, so this is an signing that’s easy to understand.
Pat Valaika (UTIL)
The Braves signed Valaika this weekend, and if he manages to make the team this spring, his one-year deal will pay him $775K. The 29-year-old will join both Orlando Arcia and Phil Gosselin in what looks like a four-man competition for the primary utility-infielder spot this year (the fourth player is covered below). Valaika is a rather versatile player as he played five different positions in 2021, serving mainly as the Orioles back-up infielder (though he did play left field three times). Last year his bat wasn’t anything special (shown by a 46 wRC+ in 281 PA with Baltimore), but he’s managed to remain a fairly average defender throughout his career, which is pretty impressive considering how many spots he can play. The Braves needed some more competition in the infield, so even if Valaika doesn’t earn a spot on the roster, perhaps he’ll push the other guys.
Brad Brach (RHP)
Like Vincent above, Brach was signed to a minor league deal this weekend, and at 36-years-old, he’s simply bullpen depth at this point. However, it wasn’t that long ago that the righty was one of the better relievers in the sport. While with the Orioles (and partly with the Braves at the end) from 2014-18, Brach accumulated 351 1/3 innings of relief while sporting a solid 2.89 ERA. During that span he (while in his late-20s and early 30s), he was a consistent arm out of the bullpen, managing to tally at least 62 innings in each of those five seasons. Brach is coming off back-to-back poor campaigns in both 2020 and 2021, in which he compiled a bloated 6.07 ERA in 42 1/3 innings combined with both the Mets and Reds, respectively. Hopefully he can provide some innings for Atlanta in 2022.
R.J. Alaniz (RHP)
I haven’t been able to find the exact details of Alaniz contract with the Braves, but it does show that he was acquired today. Like all the other arms on this list, Alaniz will compete for a bullpen spot this spring, though given his recent track record he has quite a lot he needs to show. The 30-year-old dealt with an injury last season, only managing 41 2/3 innings across both the majors and Triple-A (of which all but 2 2/3 came in the minors). Alaniz didn’t pitch at all in 2020, and then in 2019 it was again mostly spend in the minors. In fact, the righty has only totaled 18 1/3 career innings in the big leagues, spanning between five different organizations. Maybe he can catch some fire, but this is likely just a depth piece in Gwinnett.
Brock Holt (INF)
A few years ago I was really wanting the Braves to acquire Holt. During his Red Sox days he was a rather valuable utility player, and during his prime years (2014-19) he averaged 1 WAR per season as Boston’s Mr. Do It All off the bench. So I was pleased to see the Braves grab him on a minor league deal today. However, at nearly 34-years-old (his birthday is in June), Holt isn’t the same versatile guy he once was. In fact, last year (with the Rangers) every game he played the field featured just one position (third base), and with the bat, he managed only a .209 AVG, ending the season with a 62 wRC+ in 77 games overall. There is a reason to feel at least a little optimistic about him, though. It was as recent as 2019 that he posted an above-replacement level season (1.3 fWAR), when he hit .297 with 19 XBH in 87 games in his final season with the Red Sox. That was only a few years ago, so perhaps Holt can string together a solid performance this spring.