Orlando Arcia may be falling out of favor with the Milwaukee Brewers. The young shortstop could finally be making the offensive adjustment that fans have been hoping for since his debut in 2016; he has improved his discipline, slashing his chase rate on pitches outside the zone while nearly doubling his walk rate from 2018. He is putting the ball in play more often than ever before and his career-high rate of hard contact has helped him bash 11 home runs already. But even with those improvements, Arcia is still the owner of a mere .235/.296/.396 slash line, equaling out to a 76 wRC+ that is both 24% below the league-average hitter as well as 25% worse than the typical shortstop (101 wRC+) in 2019. In fact, only one qualified shortstop — Brandon Crawford of the Giants — has a lower wRC+ (67) than Arcia this year.
Normally, Arcia’s current level of offensive output would be acceptable so long as he plays his typical brand of Gold Glove-caliber defense. Unfortunately, Orlando’s glovework at the six has not been up to par with his performance on the dirt during previous seasons. Advanced metrics like Defensive Runs Saved (0), Ultimate Zone Rating (-2.9), and Fielding Runs Above Average (-2.4) all view him as a neutral or even negative defensive player this year. Fangraphs (0.1), Baseball-Reference (0.4), and Baseball Prospectus (0.5) see Arcia ‘s value as only slightly better than replacement-level so far this season, and the front office seems to agree with those valuations, with manager Craig Counsell stating recently that Arcia needs to improve in the field. Orlando has recently entered into a “timeshare” with minor league call-up Tyler Saladino, who has started at shortstop in four of eight games since being recalled on June 28th.
Saladino has been a stout defensive player during his time in the big leagues and the org believes in his glove at short, but his previous offensive work doesn’t inspire confidence that he’ll be much of an upgrade over Arcia. With the offense struggling to score runs of late, inserting a more potent bat at shortstop is arguably the clearest path towards sparking some more life into the lineup. With that said, one player that David Stearns could opt to pursue is switch-hitter Freddy Galvis of the Toronto Blue Jays.
The 29 year old is in the midst of his finest hitting performance at the big league level. In 83 games and 338 plate appearances for the Jays, Galvis is batting .273/.311/.470 with 15 home runs for a 104 wRC+. A veteran now playing in his eighth season at the big league level, Galvis has long carried the reputation of quality defense to go with a little bit pop in his bat. He has hit a dozen or more home runs in each of the last four seasons but his profile has shifted since 2018 as he’s traded some bat-to-ball in exchange for more regular hard contact. The swinging-strike rates that Galvis has posted in the last two seasons (12.1% and 14.2%) have been the highest of his career, but perhaps not coincidentally, his last two years worth of hard contact rates (40.3% and 35.1%) as well as his overall offensive performance by wRC+ (85 and 104) have been his best ever.
Galvis has handled both lefties and righties with aplomb this year, hitting for a little more power against right-handed pitchers while posting a higher average against southpaws. His home/road splits are basically even, so this isn’t simply the product of moving from the ballpark in San Diego to the one in Toronto (which favors pitchers according to three-year park factors, anyway). And while Galvis isn’t having his greatest season on defense at the turf inside of Rogers Centre, his work at shortstop is at least comparable to Arcia’s according to the metrics. DRS (-2), UZR (-2.2), and FRAA (0.0) all see Freddy as roughly equal to Orlando on defense this year. In terms of overall production, Galvis has been worth about one win more than Arcia this year by all three of the common WAR calculations.
Galvis signed a one-year deal with Toronto for 2019 that will pay him a base salary of $4 mil, with a $1 mil buyout on a $5.5 mil club option for 2020. So he won’t break the bank in terms of his remaining salary obligations for this season and could be an inexpensive and controllable piece for next year as well. Galvis shouldn’t cost much in terms of prospect capital going back to Toronto, either. Even the weakened farm system possessed by Slingin’ Stearns should have one or two players that would interest Toronto enough to facilitate a trade for a player of Galvis’ caliber.
With Milwaukee receiving the worst production in baseball from their group of shortstops in terms of both fWAR (-0.2) and wRC+ (68) this season, there is not a more obvious spot in the lineup that needs improvement. Freddy Galvis is not a star-caliber player, but he figures to come at a modest cost and would be solid offensive upgrade at a weak spot in the order for the Cream City Nine.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference, and Baseball Prospectus