The Braves announced Friday that second baseman Ozzie Albies has been reinstated from the 60-day injured list. Fellow infielder Ehire Adrianza was placed on the 10-day injured list with a strained quadriceps to open a spot on the active roster, while righty Jay Jackson was designated for assignment in order to clear a 40-man spot for Albies.
Albies, still just 25 years old, hasn’t appeared in a game since June 13 thanks to a broken left foot that ultimately required surgery. The Braves, at one point, were hopeful of a mid-August return for the two-time All-Star and Silver Slugger winner, but Albies’ recovery took a bit longer than that best-case scenario. Even without Albies’ all-around excellence, however, the Braves have been one of MLB’s hottest teams. Since his injury, Atlanta has played at a sweltering 52-28 pace, surging to just one game back of the NL East lead.
Inserting Albies back into the lineup will only make the Braves all the more dangerous. He is, after all, a .270/.321/.470 career hitter whose most recent full season, 2021, was also the first 30-homer campaign of his impressive young career.
In Albies’ absence, the Braves have cycled through several options at the keystone. None of Orlando Arcia, Phil Gosselin or the aforementioned Adrianza hit particularly well in limited action at the position, however, and the organization eventually made the decision to call top prospect Vaughn Grissom up directly from Double-A in an effort to get more production from second base. Grissom has flashed all the tools that make him such a ballyhooed prospect in his initial look at the MLB level, but his bat has also cooled after a blistering start to the his career. Grissom slashed .420/.463/.660 through his first 14 games (54 plate appearances), but he’s batting just .210/.269/.333 in 17 games since and has only one hit in his past five games.
For now, Grissom will stay on the big league roster despite the fact that Albies will step back into a full-time role at second base. There’s been talk of giving Grissom some time in left field, where neither Eddie Rosario nor Marcell Ozuna has provided much value to the lineup this season. There are also DH at-bats to go around, of course, so it’s possible for both Albies and Grissom to be in the lineup — which would come at the expense of playing time for some combination of Rosario, Ozuna and deadline acquisition Robbie Grossman.
The 34-year-old Jackson wasn’t on the active roster prior to Friday’s move but had been occupying a 40-man spot while pitching with Triple-A Gwinnett. He’s handled himself quite nicely there, to put things mildly; in 17 2/3 frames with Gwinnett, Jackson allowed just three runs on 13 hits and three walks with 20 strikeouts — good for a 1.53 ERA.
Jackson’s DFA is largely a case of poor timing and unfortunate (for him) circumstances. He missed the first several months of the season due to a lat strain and never really got much of a look in Atlanta thanks to an already loaded bullpen. The Braves are deep in quality veteran options, with Kenley Jansen, Raisel Iglesias, A.J. Minter, Tyler Matzek, Collin McHugh and Kirby Yates all under contract and pitching well. Rookie left-hander Dylan Lee has quietly been dominant for Atlanta, and the only other spot in the bullpen is currently occupied by out-of-options righty Jackson Stephens, who has pitched to a solid 3.74 ERA in a multi-inning role there.
The Braves could’ve opted to jettison Stephens and go with Jackson, but doing so would have required them to place Stephens on waivers, given his lack of minor league options. Jackson, who returned to the majors in 2021 after spending the 2020 season in Japan, can become a free agent at season’s end under the terms of the contract he inked, MLBTR has confirmed. As such, the choice effectively boils down to four more years of Stephens versus a few more weeks of Jackson.
Given that Jackson is still owed the balance of a $1.5M major league salary, wouldn’t be playoff-eligible for a new team and is a free agent after the season, there’s a good chance he’ll clear waivers even in spite of his big showing in Gwinnett. If that’s the case, he could remain on hand as a depth option who could be summoned in the event of a late injury. Either way, he’ll reach the open market again this winter on the heels of a solid 2021-22 showing in Triple-A and having posted a combined 3.52 ERA with a 30.5% strikeout rate and 12.6% walk rate in 23 big league innings between San Francisco (21 2/3) and Atlanta (1 1/3) over the past two seasons.