Braves opt for shortstop insurance

By Jim Callis

July 31, 2001

After the Royals acquired one slick-fielding shortstop (Neifi Perez) in a trade last Wednesday, it figured to be just a matter of time before they traded the one they already had. And after the Braves lost speedster Rafael Furcal for the season when he dislocated his shoulder earlier this month, it figured to be just a matter of time before they dealt for a shortstop. Kansas City and Atlanta found each other Tuesday, with the Royals giving up Rey Sanchez for minor leaguers Brad Voyles and Alejandro Machado.

Sanchez, 33, doesn’t get much attention but he is one of baseball’s best defensive shortstops. Though he’s hitting .303-0-28 in 100 games, following up on .294 and .273 seasons, he’s not much of an offensive player. His current on-base (.322) and slugging percentages (.364) are mediocre at best, even for a shortstop, and are above his career marks (.313 and .340, respectively). Kansas City had tried to sign Sanchez, a pending free agent, to a long-term deal, but was unsuccessful. His contract calls for a $500,000 raise on top of his $2.3 million salary in the event of a trade, and it’s unclear as to which team will be responsible for the sum.

With Furcal out, the Braves have used Mark DeRosa at shortstop. DeRosa is hitting .342-1-14 in 114 at-bats, but he hasn’t been steady with the glove and is nowhere near Sanchez’ class in that regard. Braves GM John Schuerholz said after the trade that his club wanted to get stronger defensively up the middle, which likely means that DeRosa will share time at second base with rookie Marcus Giles. Atlanta’s second baseman entering the year, Quilvio Veras, has been hurt for much of 2001 and was designated for assignment after the trade.

Voyles, a 24-year-old righthander, is the more advanced of the two prospects heading to Kansas City. Drafted in the 45th round in 1998 out of Lincoln Memorial (Tenn.), he broke his right ankle just before spring training and missed the first two months of this season. He has seven saves in 17 games between high Class A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Greenville, posting a 0.98 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 18 innings. Opponents are batting just .177 against him, having trouble catching up to his darting fastball and sharp curveball.

Machado, 19, signed out of Venezuela in 1998. A second baseman, he’s hitting .272-1-23 with 20 steals in 81 games at low Class A Macon, his first taste of full-season ball. He doesn’t have much power, but he could become a leadoff man if he makes more contact and improves his basestealing technique. His arm and instincts are assets at second base.