Braves announce deal with Jake Lamb

February 23rd, 2021

introduced himself to his new Braves teammates as the defending National League East champions staged their first full-squad workout at CoolToday Park in North Port, Fla., on Tuesday.

Over the next few weeks and months, Lamb will attempt to prove the Braves were wise to take a chance on his attempt to re-establish himself as a valuable power hitter.

“I think that is why we signed him, the damage he has done,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s had success. Hopefully we get him in here, and he has an opportunity to have another big year.”

Looking to fill one of the holes on their bench, the Braves signed Lamb to a one-year, $1 million non-guaranteed Major League contract. The agreement was reported on Sunday, but the deal didn’t become official until Tuesday, when the club received the COVID-19 intake testing results.

With the non-guaranteed deal, the Braves would be responsible for just a percentage (either 30 days’ worth or 45 days’ worth) of Lamb’s salary if he were released before Opening Day. This insurance is understandable given that injuries have limited the 30-year-old corner infielder to just 165 games over the past three seasons.

But at the same time, there’s good reason for the Braves to take a chance on a guy who totaled 59 home runs for the D-backs from 2016-17.

“He looks great,” Snitker said. “I hadn’t seen him in a while, but he’s a lot bigger kid than I remembered. I’ve liked him since the first time I saw him.”

After hitting 30 homers during his 2017 All-Star season, Lamb had a left rotator cuff issue that limited him to 56 games in '18. He underwent season-ending surgery in August that year, then strained his left quadriceps muscle less than two weeks into the 2019 season.

Lamb was unsuccessful in his attempt to rebound last year. He hit .116 with a .380 OPS over 18 games before he was designated for assignment and released by the D-backs. After signing with the A’s, he batted .267 with three homers and an .882 OPS over 49 plate appearances.

While Lamb didn’t get the results he was seeking, his average exit velocity (90.2 mph vs. 88.2 mph) and hard-hit rate (50.8% vs. 36.2%) were both higher than they were during his productive 2017 season. If nothing else, this seemed to suggest he has regained his health.

“He looks really healthy,” Snitker said. “He looked good doing all the drills and hitting and all of that. I’m excited about getting Jake in camp and getting a good look at him.”

With Lamb, the Braves potentially have a solid left-handed pinch-hit option. They also could opt to use the left-handed slugger at either of their corner infield positions. His ability to occasionally spell Freddie Freeman could help the reigning National League MVP over the course of the long season. But he would likely see more time at third base, where Austin Riley is looking to prove he belongs in an everyday role.

“He’s a really good left-handed bat,” Snitker said. “If you get late in the game and you need a double switch, he can be a very valuable asset, much like Matt Joyce was a couple years ago.”