Low-Hanging Fruit: Ryan Church

After Frank Wren went on his used-to-be great closer binge, Rafael Soriano threw a big fat monkey wrench in the Braves’ plans by accepting salary arbitration. Ryan Church is now the scapegoat, as the Braves designated him assignment to make room for Soriano on the 40-man roster.

Ryan Church doesn’t really deserve this, as he’s not a bad ballplayer. Church is your Joe Average outfielder, and I don’t mean that as a knock. The average player, or a player that is good for around two wins is worth about $8-9 million on the free agent market. That’s Ryan Church, at least when he has been able to stay on the field. Church’s trouble is that he has either been blocked by other players or hurt, problems that are no real fault of his own. He suffered through concussions in 2008 and a bad back in 2009.

Assuming he’s healthy, you can bank on Church getting on base at a .340 clip, hit for some moderate power and play excellent defense in the corners. With an unusual paucity for corner outfielders in this free agent market outside of Matt Holliday and a couple of overrated and soon to be overpaid players such as Jason Bay and Johnny Damon, Church could be a decent patch job for a club, and is at worst a first-rate 4th outfielder, all at the price of virtually nothing.

The irony is that Church and Soriano are probably more valuable to the Braves than Wagner and Takashi Saito. It’s not the end of the world for Atlanta; Wren could easily redeem himself with a nice package of prospects for Soriano, but so far this has been one poorly managed start to an offseason for the Braves’ front office.

How do you think Ryan Church will do in 2010? Enter your projection for him here.




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Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.

20 Responses to “Low-Hanging Fruit: Ryan Church”

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  1. Devon says:

    It would be irony if there were any proof that the Braves front office had any sort of clue about more advanced metrics. They are surviving on the strength of their drafting. You look at some of the ridiculous moves they make and the moves they’ll continue to make and you just have to shake your head. If they got a GM who was willing to meld their scouting brilliance with modern metrics they would be a force again.

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    • PWH says:

      Devon:

      It would be irony if there were any proof that the Braves front office had any sort of clue about more advanced metrics. They are surviving on the strength of their drafting. You look at some of the ridiculous moves they make and the moves they’ll continue to make and you just have to shake your head. If they got a GM who was willing to meld their scouting brilliance with modern metrics they would be a force again.

      This is simply wrong. The Braves:

      a) Employ multiple people for the singular purpose of research and statistical analysis.

      b) Use advanced statistical analysis in making all of their transaction decisions.

      c) Have their own set of metrics that they’ve created.

      d) Employ John Coppolella as their Director of Baseball Administration (essentially the dream job for anyone who frequents this site), who is as good of a saberist as anyone. His input is considered in every decision.

      It’s easy to say, “oh, stupid Braves, they should be more like me and read Fangraphs”, but it’s also lazy and wrong. You’re not smarter than the Braves and you don’t know more about sabermetrics than the Braves.

      As an aside, I thought the Church situation was handled badly as well. But the Braves probably know something we don’t.

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      • Devon says:

        Well fine, you are obviously smarter than I am. Tell me this though, why do they still continue to make stupid, stupid decisions like Garrett Anderson? I don’t think there is a sabermetrician alive who would have signed off on that disaster. So either their office isn’t actually listening to their sabermetrics folk or it’s getting lost in the churn. I’ve seen no evidence from the bulk of their moves that they are on the right side of decisions based on those advanced metrics, whether they are using them or not.

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  2. Sean says:

    I’m not sure that Church’s inability to stay healthy is his fault, but I would think at this point it’s a bit of a concern. Although for me, more of a concern is the way his offensive numbers have been going down since 2006:

    2006: 230 PA, 891 OPS
    2007: 530 PA, 813 OPS
    2008: 359 PA, 785 OPS
    2009: 399 PA, 749 OPS

    Also keep in mind that Church got a late start to his career, and is on the wrong side of 30. To me, he seems like the definition of a replacement player, and I’d much rather take my chances w/ someone younger and less playing time (and thus less expensive).

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  3. FlimtotheFlam says:

    If Church can regain his platoon splits vs RHP at a clip of around .815 OPS than I think he can be a valuable player. If he pair him up with a guy that can crush LHP. You could probably get a .800 OPS from an OF spot for nearly nothing.

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  4. NS says:

    I believe it’s still good that they offered him Arb because if they hadn’t they would have received nothing as Wren said.

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  5. Alex says:

    The Braves were going to non-tender Church either way. Soriano’s acceptance just meant they needed to clear his roster spot sooner.

    I like Church, but he’s redundant when the Braves have Diaz, and he was set to make 3-4 million even though coming off a couple of mediocre seasons.

    If you are using a metric that says Ryan Church is worth $9 million, then you should probably re-evaluate that metric.

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    • Erik Manning says:

      “If you are using a metric that says Ryan Church is worth $9 million, then you should probably re-evaluate that metric.”

      1. I said when healthy, Church is average, or would expected to be worth 2 WAR. He hasn’t been, and obviously would not get paid that on the FA market. I’m saying if healthy, his production could be equal to that what an average team pays $9M for on the free agent market.

      2. We’ve already explained the whole $4.5M on FA market = 1win here over and over again.

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      • Alex says:

        There is no reason to expect Church to return to his pre-injury form, or to expect him to suddenly stop becoming injury prone. Health is a skill.

        Those are important considerations to make before lambasting a roster decision.

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  6. neuter_your_dogma says:

    If the Phillies could have owned Church for what Gload cost, then the Phillies should ahve gone after Church.

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  7. Quinn says:

    Ryan Church in my opinion is a very solid player. Enjoyed watching him when he was with the Mets and always played as hard as anyone ive seen. In my opinion church is getting a bad deal-he got a bad deal with the mets to because manuel didnt like him. If not for the two concussions he experienced with the Mets and the loss of playing time that cost him i believe church would have been an offensive force given a chance(which he showed during the early months he spent with the Mets organization).

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  8. Quinn says:

    People need to stop bad mouthing a guy that suffered injuries for playing the game the way it was meant to be played. ( No one is more guilty of this then the Mets, so im not just some met fan giving a bs opinion about a player.-i know the mets made terrible mistakes with church among many other players)

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  9. Hess says:

    There was no chance of the braves even keeping church. Why does it matter when he’s dropped?

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  10. R M says:

    Great title.

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  11. Kampfer says:

    I agree that health is a skill, but it is not just a skill of a player, but also of an organization. Mets is at the very worst in this department, and I believe Church is not the one to blame for his injury woes. I always think of Beltran a great player with good health skill and great skillset that can age slower than anyone, but yet he goes into the DL and doesn’t look too good under the Mets’ watch. I expect Church to be a 1~1.5 win player, and serously this is great value.

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  12. Franco says:

    As a Mets fan, he’s a good platoon type. He mashes righties and plays good to great corner outfield defense.

    I’d say his OPS dropoff had more to do with playing at Shea/Citi and playing hurt. The second half of 08 he looked like a pitcher the way he swung with his post concussion syndrome.

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  13. Brian Cartwright says:

    I’d be happy for the Pirtaes to play Church ahead of Moss or especially Milledge.

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  14. mqt says:

    Heh, the Braves just got a good middle reliever and don’t have to pay any of Soriano’s contract, and you’re condemning them over Ryan Church?

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