ATLANTA -- Over the past couple of weeks, Daniel Castro has proven that Atlanta did not necessarily need to get a shortstop in return when it traded Andrelton Simmons. But before completely giving up on Erick Aybar -- the shortstop who was acquired in the Simmons deal -- the Braves
ATLANTA -- Over the past couple of weeks, Daniel Castro has proven that Atlanta did not necessarily need to get a shortstop in return when it traded Andrelton Simmons. But before completely giving up on Erick Aybar -- the shortstop who was acquired in the Simmons deal -- the Braves will continue to give him a chance to prove he can be much better than he has been during this season's first three weeks.
After not starting on Sunday and Monday, Aybar returned to the Braves' lineup in Tuesday's 11-4 loss to the Red Sox and found himself positioned at shortstop while Castro was positioned at second base. Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez acknowledged that he will eventually flip-flop the two middle infielders when they are in the lineup together. But he is not ready to make a permanent change.
"We've talked about it internally and we've talked about it with Erick, I don't know exactly when we're going to do it. But it's not anything that will be for a week or a month. My conversation with Erick was, 'I want Castro to develop as a young shortstop,' and I may run him in there for a game or two, but I still want your bat in the lineup against certain pitchers."
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Though Aybar still has time to show he has simply struggled during his first three weeks within a new environment, he has made it hard to justify getting any regular playing time. The 32-year-old veteran entered Tuesday with the lowest fWAR among all of Major League Baseball's 194 qualified players. He ranked last in OPS (.336) and owned the second-worst Defensive Runs Saved (-4) mark among all shortstops.
Aybar has not been as much of a defensive liability since Turner Field groundskeepers began watering the infield dirt more heavily during this current homestand. But he has not come close to showing the kind of range or arm possessed by Castro, who has earned himself an everyday role while combining his defensive reliability with the .308 (12-for-39) batting average he's compiled since being promoted from Triple-A Gwinnett on April 13.
Aybar was acquired along with pitching prospects Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis in the November trade that sent Simmons to the Angels. While Newcomb and Ellis were obviously the primary targets in this deal, the Braves were hopeful that Aybar would prove serviceable at shortstop and provide an offensive upgrade in relation to Simmons.
But Aybar has extended the downward trend that began last year, when Simmons owned a better OPS.
The Braves might continue to play Aybar at shortstop with the hope that he might rebound and eventually gain some trade value. But if their patience wears thin during this already frustrating season, they at least know Castro can bridge the gap until Ozzie Albies or Dansby Swanson are deemed ready to serve as Atlanta's shortstop.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.