With the Braves prepared to turn over the shortstop position to a rookie with no major league experience in Tyler Pastornicky, they wanted a veteran to back him up. They filled that need Friday when they signed Jack Wilson to a one-year $1 million deal, with an additional $500,000 in incentives.
Wilson, 34, returns to the Braves after coming to them in a trade from Seattle last August 31. He said he’s glad to have a chance to make a few amends, both team-wise and personally after hitting .220 (9-for-41) with one double and one RBI in 17 games in September.
“It’s always nice, especially when a team trades for you, and they call back,” Wilson said Friday. “I really didn’t perform like I wanted, so this gives me a chance to come back and have a better year for the team and to be the guy they envisioned when they traded for me.”
Wilson was acquired last year to give the Braves a better option than Julio Lugo to back up Alex Gonzalez down the stretch. Now that Gonzalez is gone (he was non-tendered and signed with the Brewers), the Braves wanted a veteran influence to help Pastornicky.
Long before the Braves called, Wilson was already providing that. After the Braves lost to the Phillies to end the season – the one and only night of Pastornicky’s call-up – Wilson and Pastornicky got to talking about defense. Wilson invited Pastornicky to come to his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif. to work out in his backyard infield, which they plan to do early next month.
“When I first came up, I had Pat Meares who took me under his wing,” said Wilson, who broke in with the Pirates. “He’d been a major league shortstop for nine or 10 years. Now you have an opportunity to do what somebody did for you. Tyler seems like a great kid, and I’m looking forward to helping him out any way I can.”
Wilson made a name for himself as a standout defensive shortstop over his eight years with the Pirates. In more of a utility role in recent years with Seattle, he played second base, some shortstop and occasionally third. Wilson made 61 starts last year in Seattle and Atlanta: 38 at second base, 21 at shortstop and two at third base.
He’s a career .266 hitter with 61 home runs and 422 RBIs.
Braves general manager Frank Wren said Wilson had the best skill set of any of the veteran shortstops they considered.
“He still can play the position very well and has range and arm and the ability to make big plays as we saw in September,” Wren said.
The Braves took their time in signing Wilson because they wanted to explore the trade market first before ultimately deciding to go with Pastornicky as their starter.
“We had a number of trade discussion that potentially involved shortstops coming back to us,” Wren said. “In some cases it was players that could be starting shortstops and in other cases it was backups. So we wanted to take our time and evaluate how we best put our team together.”