Nick Punto is entering his age-37 season and his coming off an abysmal season at the plate, so it was really no surprise the Oakland Athletics released him today.
Shane Peterson claimed off waivers by the Chicago Cubs; Nick Punto released to clear a 40-man spot following yesterday’s trade. #Athletics
— Oakland Athletics (@Athletics) December 19, 2014
But one team’s trash is another team’s treasure, and that’s what Punto could be for the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers greatly need to improve their bench, with the departures of Rickie Weeks and Lyle Overbay devastating it, and incumbents Elian Herrera and Logan Schafer providing little value.
Punto and Herrera are similar in that they both are utility men who can play any infield position (with the exception of first base). Punto, however, is the superior defender and has the better bat despite being on the brink of retirement. Steamer is projecting Punto to be worth 0.3 WAR in 2015, while Herrera is projected at -0.1. Even at 37, Punto has more upside than the soon-to-be 30 Herrera. That’s got to tell you something.
Furthermore, both of the players are switch hitters, but while Herrera is best from the left side of the plate, Punto’s advantage comes from the opposite side. And with Scooter Gennett in need of a platoon partner, Punto has the upper hand over Herrera.
Punto isn’t going to hit much, and we should all be aware of that by now. He’s only accumulated four seasons in which he posted a wOBA higher than .300, and has only been above league average in terms of runs created once. But Milwaukee doesn’t need him to be an offensive superstar. They need a sound defender who can start during the rare times the team faces a lefty and who can maybe draw a couple of walks (11.2 BB% in ’14). Punto would also serve as a reliable fill-in if Gennett or Jean Segura would go down with injury.
The most important thing to remember is that Punto will surely be better than Herrera next season. For that reason alone, the Brewers should have interest.