Last spring as the Braves were trying to shape their roster there were rumors the team was close to sending starting pitcher John Thomson to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Craig Wilson, an outfielder and first baseman. At the last minute Thomson had elbow soreness, killing any chance at a deal.
But now ten months later the Braves finally got their man, signing Wilson to a one-year contract Thursday for $2 million dollars plus incentives.
With Adam LaRoche heading to Pittsburgh, the Braves were looking for a veteran right-handed hitter to compliment Scott Thorman, who as a lefty hitter will get the majority of at bats this season. Wilson has primarily been a first baseman throughout his career, and he can also play the outfield and even catch in an emergency.
Wilson played for the Pirates for five and a half seasons before they traded him to the Yankees last summer for starter Shawn Chacon. Overall last season Wilson hit 251 with 17 home runs and 49 RBI in 359 at bats.
He made his big league debut in 2001 and his best season was in 2004, when he hit .264 with 29 home runs and 82 RBI, a .499 SLG% and a .354 OBP. Wilson split time this season between first base and the outfield.
Wilson has shown great power off the bench, hitting 12 home runs in 103 career at bats. His average as a pinch-hitter is only .214, but his power has been impressive. Also, against lefties Wilson has hit .293 in his career.
With Thorman having only a half season in the big leagues under his belt, the Braves believe Wilson is the perfect compliment for him at first base. Plus, Wilson's ability to play the outfield could put him into a rotation with Matt Diaz and Ryan Langerhans.
Wilson and Chris Woodward, signed last month as a free agent, will definitely strengthen the Braves bench, which should also include infielder Willy Aybar and catcher Brayan Pena.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can also be heard regularly on the Braves Radio Network. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.