Fits for Atlanta Braves? 2020 Free Agents: 3B and OF

With Josh Donaldson heading to Free Agency, the Braves could very well have an opening at 3B. With the Braves heavily relying on platoons in the OF, there’s a need to also add there. Some of the guys listed are an absolute no for me, and then there are guys that could work if used properly, like Matt Joyce and Adam Duvall of 2019. Let’s look at the list and choose our dudes in the comments.

Starting Third Base Candidates

Josh Donaldson (34)- Let’s be real…he’s numero uno on this entire list. Braves need his production, but maybe just as important, they need his mentality in 2020. He’s absolutely fearless and the Braves, with the way 2019 ended, need a player to ignite the fire in the entire team. I fear though that some team will give him 4 years and I don’t think the Braves will go there.

Todd Frazier (34)- No…I don’t want this. However, if the Braves go hard after an OFer or a SP, they might want a little added security (and pop) from a fill-in and the Toddfather could provide that.

Anthony Rendon (30)- Anthony Rendon won’t be a Brave. Let’s get that thought process out of our minds. Love, Ryan.

Pablo Sandoval (33)- For some reason, Sandoval is only good when he plays in San Fran, but he’s shown that he’s capable of hitting baseballs. Gosh…I don’t want him at all.

Mike Moustakas (31)- Everyone wants Donaldson back, and rightfully so, but the Braves could do worse than putting Moose at the hot corner for 2 years and watching him mash. I’m coming around to Moose if Braves get outbid in years for Donaldson.

Outfield Candidates

Howie Kendrick (36)- Kendrick had a remarkable 2019 with an eye-popping 45.5% hard hit rate. He can log innings all around the infield and proved that he can still swing it. BABIP has a pattern of being consistently high and that’s a good thing.

Corey Dickerson (31)- Matt Joyce leaves the Pirates at the end of 2016 and it only took until 2018 to clone him and change his name to Corey Dickerson. These guys that are below average corner OFers defensively, but can still mash and are getting cheaper by the year and if the Braves can’t re-up Joyce, Dickerson would be nice.

Brett Gardner (36)- Put up good numbers in 2019 including a career high in HR and SLG. Feels like there should be some sort of warning label attached here.

Alex Gordon (36)- I wanted Gordon desperately (not…sexually) 3 years back and I’m glad GMs are smarter than me because he fell off a cliff. Started off hot in 2019, ended dreadfully. He is to the Royals what Nick Markakis is to the Braves…the good and the bad.

Marcell Ozuna (29)- I don’t want to talk about Ozuna…but for this piece, I will. Let’s start out by saying this: He is not that good. Truly. He’s been slightly above average (or even below) every single year of his career…except one. He’ll be 29 in a few days. Someone is going to pay him for what they think he is, not what he has been, and I hope it isn’t the Braves.

Gerardo Parra (33)- Has been a good role player for years, but legs are going which means the defense is going as well.

Hunter Pence (37)- This would be the kind of pickup that would TERRIFY me. Hasn’t had an OPS over .900 ever and has been, on average, a .760ish OPS guy for the last 7 years, then he goes to a hitters park with a juiced ball and BOOM! Career rejuvenated. Nope. NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE.

Jarrod Dyson (35)- If Braves go with defensive replacement/pinch runner for their 26th man, I’d take Dyson at 2MM.

Billy Hamilton (29)- see Dyson.

Cameron Maybin (33)- Maybe? For me, Maybin not. His 2019 feels a whole lot like Pence’s 2019. I like Maybin, but I don’t trust him in the field anymore and his bat just isn’t there from year to year.

Nicholas Castellanos (28)- Castellanos gets a lot of crap about his defense, and it’s true, it’s bad. But let’s cut the guy some slack. This is only his 2nd full year in an MLB OF after playing 3B for 4 with Detroit. His DRS in 2018 in the OF? -19. 2019? -9. If the pattern continues, he’ll be Mookie Betts before you know it. Seriously though…give the guy some credit on improving. I’d like to see him move to LF next year, but not sure if I want that place to be Atlanta.

Avisail Garcia (29)- Bounced back from a bad 2018 and actually played some pretty decent OF defense in 2019. Still only 28 and can likely be had for 7-8MM.

Yasiel Puig (29)- Puig was destined to come with a QO, but won’t now as he was traded midseason. Like Ozuna, Puig has seemingly lived off of 1 spectacular year, then has been pretty okay ever since (.808 OPS since 2014). Some TV analysts still boast about his defense even though he’s had 1 year of good defense.

Matt Joyce– (35) I like him and I’d totally take him back.

Edit: Kole Calhoun- I forgot Calhoun because of his option. Had a pretty good 2019, hitting a lot of dingers but still managed to keep his OPS under .800 which tells a bit about his on-base skills. Truth be told, he’s a more expensive Matt Joyce…or maybe he isn’t anymore.

Who ya got? Let’s hear from the peanut gallery!

Thanks for reading.

Long live Braves Journal

Author: Ryan Cothran

Ryan is the site editor and manager of Braves Journal. Follow him on Twitter.

42 thoughts on “Fits for Atlanta Braves? 2020 Free Agents: 3B and OF”

  1. I haven’t watched Castellanos play in the outfield, but I have seen Acuna. Because of RAJ, I know what it looks like when a guy lacks feel and instinct for an outfield position. Can anyone weigh in on just how bad Castellanos actually is out there? Is it a case of just not reading fly balls well or is he just a bit stiff out there?

    Also, how is Detroit at defensive positioning?

  2. RAJ had a hard time coming in on the ball in CF last year and, to my eyes, that was all he struggled with in the outfield. His gap to gap range was great and ability to go back on the ball looked at least average. Advanced metrics seem to agree.

    What were you seeing, Donny?

    Castellanos kind of looks wonky in the OF. He’s a Matt Diaz of sorts. He improved a lot with regular play (and also lost some weight). He could have a future as an average LFer.

  3. I’m completely on the “pay JD all the money” wagon

    But only for 3 years

    So my question is, would 3 years plus a year 4 option/buyout move the needle against a 4 year deal elsewhere, hypothetically?

  4. Ryan,

    You may have discovered something on Castellanos. If he really is a – 10 true talent left or right fielder, then his bat carries him.

    Kiley and FG project 14 x 4. KLaw also says 15 per.

    If he were to get an offer of 16, 16, 13, vest 13 if 1500 PA in 3 years, then you can deal him out to the AL in the back end if the NL doesn’t get the DH or if too many of our guys develop (Waters, Pache, and Riley, maybe).

  5. Mike @ 3,

    Everybody other than the Braves has to look at the value of the pick. That is around 6 million, as I remember (slot lost plus value of picking there). AT JD’s age and having lost most of 2 seasons to “old man” injuries, I don’t see anybody going over 3, unless they down rate the AAV in the first 3 years. Like 22 x 4 compared to 25 x 3. And if they do, you add a cheap year with an opt out and offer 25, 25, 25, 10 with pure player opt out after 3rd year.

  6. @2 I recall him taking some bad angles on the ball in left field. And wasn’t there some discussion about how the ball slices differently to left than it does to center and right? That’s what conjured up my memories of RAJ when you mentioned Castellanos to LF.

  7. When I look at that list of available 3B, knowing Rendon doesn’t really count as an option; and I pair it with the thought of Camargo as a FT 3B… I’m fully prepared to go 10 years on Donaldson.

    I joke. Well, partially.

    Man, I’d go 3 years without blinking on the Bringer of Rain, though. Want a 4th yr option, Josh? Sure! Here! The Braves can creatively structure it to where it makes sense. Go 3yr and 78 million guaranteed, with a mutual option for 14 million in the 4th. Set the buyout at 2 million.

    The OF landscape is also just full of landmines. Yuck. Castellanos is the only player I like there, but I wouldn’t push for him. Just re-up Josh, push for Grandal and patchwork the OF until Pache and Waters are ready, or Riley finds something.

  8. What do you guys think? With lack of picks at the top, is this the year Braves should grab someone with the QO taint at a discount?

  9. @9 I wouldn’t even hesitate to give up the pick if you can sign a difference making QO free agent. The team should be in “win” mode, and late 20s picks will take years to develop, if they do at all. I hate when competitive teams use the QO as a reason not to make a run at a guy. The only time I buy that logic is if a team is bad, and they’re building.

  10. @10 The way I look at it, this team is going to be good and young at many of the fielding positions for a long while. They can afford to lose a pick if it fortifies a position of weakness for multiple seasons.

  11. @10, 11
    I agree…Two years ago we weren’t technically “close enough” to make a move for a QO free agent but things are different and like you said the pick is so low who knows what we get? It isn’t like we are giving up a top 10

  12. Not saying we should go after him, but shouldn’t write off Pence, he made wholesale changes to his approach and swing last offseason.

  13. Say they resign Donaldson. The lineup still needs another above-average hitter, right? You’d still be looking at Dansby, Catcher, RF, LF all with sub-100 RC+ as the roster currently stands. That is a stars & scrubs lineup that won’t get it done.

    So they can go two routes:
    1) Acquire another star or two to pencil in above-average hitters 1-5/6 everyday to make the lineup formidable.

    2) Commit to platoons at Catcher, LF & RF and fill out the roster with some higher-quality depth.

    I’d of course prefer option #1 – hello Mr.’s Donaldson, Betts & Grandal – but if they go option #2 I just don’t see how Ender stays on the 25-man roster. His bat isn’t good enough to carry a side of a platoon. He belongs at the bottom of a deep AL-roster as a glove-first guy.

  14. Braves outfield is set as they have two who will be knocking on the door late 2020 or sooner. Braves need a starter, 2 guys for the pen at least, catcher and 3rd baseman for 40 million (maybe 50) or less. Grandal usually has a good obp, switch hits and has some pop. Moose won’t get on base a ton but has loads of pop and can play 2nd or 3rd fairly well. Problem is everyone wants grandal so someone will overpay and braves under AA don’t like giving more than a year or two it seems for free agents. That makes moose a def possibility and someone who I wish braves could sign along with grandal. Moose and Grandal would replace Mac and donaldsons offense and maybe then some. But doubt it happens. Moose is a fall back if Donaldson doesn’t come back hopefully but if the braves don’t get either, the pickings are slim and the Braves offense will get worse unfortunately (esp if grandal signs somewhere else too).

  15. @15 I’m in favor of the first route as well. If they bring back Donaldson and sign Grandal, 1-5 looks great. If they’re really and truly going to platoon Nick with, say, Duvall… That’s not the worst thing in the 6th spot, even if it’s not the best. Swanson gets warm sometimes, which is enough in the 7 hole. Then you just throw Ender 8th, or another CF if you can trade Ender. Roger has me somewhat keen on giving Pache an opening day nod there.

    Duvall/Nick can’t hit 5th, or (gulp!) 4th though. Nick’s still going to see 70% of the ABs, if not more knowing Snit. That’s another fear of mine with route 2: Snit finds his guy in a platoon, and it ends up less of a platoon.

    Hopefully they spend money on one plan or the other though. My fear is it’s going to be Madbum, and just let the kids play.

  16. @15 I don’t see option 3.

    3) Commit to platoons with the plethora of OF options we have until Pache/Waters is ready, and fill out the rotation with a higher-quality signing.

  17. @16 Here’s my issue with Moose- he’s not as good as Donaldson, and worth less WAR. If they sign Moose you need to find 2 WAR somewhere else on the diamond just to equal last season. Really though, they need to be shooting for improvement. The division is going to potentially be better. Even if you get Grandal, he and Moose together put up 5.7 WAR to Josh’s 6.1. Assuming Josh drops back a hair, you’re in essence still spreading talent instead of working more onto the roster.

  18. @18 I got kinda steam-rolled elsewhere for showing concern about the offense. Provided they resign Donaldson, they basically retain what was one of the better offenses in all of baseball. They have Markakis, Duvall, Camargo, and Riley (plus others) to fill out the corner outfield spots.

    I can’t deny that my hope is that they will land a significant upgrade for the rotation while the outfield solves itself.

  19. @20
    Those WAR numbers are strictly bWAR, which lacks any secondary catching skills added into their equations. While I think fWAR has went overboard on their framing metrics, not having any in place is a travesty. Yasmani, alone, was worth 5.2 fWAR last year compared to 2.5 bWAR, which is just a ridiculous difference in the value of a player.

  20. @16
    Nice to see you on here, Wesley! Hope you stick around.

    I don’t think the Braves outfield is set by any means, especially if they have to settle for less at 3B (meaning if they miss out on Donaldson).

    Bowman mentioned Marte as a possibility, but I firmly believe that they’ll not hesitate to trade Waters or Pache (honestly don’t know which one they’d rather keep but my gut says Pache), if they can find a pitcher that slots at the top of the rotation.

    If that’s the case, and Pache and Acuna are roaming CF and RF for the next 6-7 years, then it’s at least feasible to think that they could grab a thumper for LF and absorb the negative defense.

  21. Make it rain on the Bringer. 3/80 ish.

    Resign Joyce on the cheap.

    Sign Castellanos for 3/45.

    Sign one of the lower tier catchers, like the dude from Tampa who used to be a Met. Gah, blanking on the name.

    Then your offense looks like:

    RAJ
    Ozzie
    FabFive Freddie
    RainMan
    St. Nick (the Greater)
    St. Nick (the Lesser)/Duvall (Who needs a nickname)
    Lt.Dans
    TFlo/Mets Guy d’Arnaud! That’s him.

    That’s a pretty badass 1-5 and a decent 6th and 8th if Dansby can stay healthy.

    Bench gives you:

    Ender
    Joyce
    Duvall/Markakis
    Flowers/d’Arnaud
    ????

    Ender can give you late inning defense for Castellanos. Joyce and Duvall get the pinch hitting duties, and the 26th spot can go to a Hechavarria/Carmago utility infielder type.

    Don’t know if that leaves a lot of cash to address the pitching issue(s).

  22. @22 Legit question here though: where would you rank pitch framing if you’re evaluating a catcher?

    I want a catcher that calls a good game, hits, and handles the run game; and in that order. I’m not too high on pitch framing. Flowers was supposed to be excellent at it. Lots of balls got by him though because he’s more focused on stealing strikes than catching, or so it appeared. I don’t know how to measure the true value of the skill. I mean it’s a great bonus if a guy can do it, but it’s bottom of the list on things I’d really look for I think.

  23. @24 It wouldn’t maybe be my plan A just based on personal preference, but that’s pretty good. I could get onboard with it.

  24. @Seat Painter

    I think you’re going to have to recreate that plan as the Braves are going to need another starter and it’s not going to be a cheap one, whether it be via trade or free agency. If Braves are spending 43MM on 2 guys, one has to be a SP.

  25. I like Travis d’Arnaud as well, Seat Painter. He’s the Ray that used to be a Met. But I would like to see a left-handed hitting member of a catcher platoon if we went there, like we did with McCann. Short of getting Grandal, I’d just say find a left-handed hitting catcher who can give us league average hitting for 350-400 PAs against RHP and not die mid-season like McCann did.

  26. @Rob
    My budget catcher would be Mike Zunino. Was just bloody awful at the plate last year, but could really benefit from Kevin Seitzer (like Flowers did, right around the same age.

  27. @32 Wow! I’m stunned he both took less money, and so quickly; with a club option on the 2nd year to boot. That’s a really great signing for the Braves, though. Happy he’s back!

    Congrats on nailing the call there too, Ryan.

  28. I think the aging veterans coming off injuries like O’Day are probably going to want to sign very early in the offseason. To a lesser extent, Donaldson and McCann both signed reasonably early last offseason. Wasn’t it November 22nd?

    Give it to Ryan; he got it. I’m ecstatic we got him back for that little. But after all, he’s coming off injury, he’s a Jacksonville guy, he’s a UF guy, he’s been playing in the southeast every time he’s had a choice, he probably wants a shot at a ring. Makes sense.

  29. Melancon, Greene, O’Day, Jackson, Webb, Newcomb, and maybe Minter so far penciled into the pen. Keep going!

  30. In all seriousness, if the Braves could snag Pomeranz, they’d have a solid core of guys built for late innings. They might not all have eye-popping K-rates, but there’s 5 guys that most managers would be comfortable running out there in the 9th.

    And Payroll Update:

    #Braves Payroll Update:
    (Guaranteed)
    FF5-22.5
    Melancon-14
    Ender-7.7
    Ozzie-1
    RAJ-1
    O’Day-2.25
    Kakes-4
    Flowers-4

    (Arb-estimates)
    Greene-6.5
    Folty-7.5
    Culby-1.8
    Duvy-3.8
    Dans-3.3
    Luke-1.9
    Dayton-.8
    Camargo-1.6

    (Pre-arb)
    Roughly 5@.57

    Total: ~87 Million

    If #Braves push OD payroll to 135MM (which I think they will), that’s 48MM to spend.

    If #Braves trade Ender (which I think they should), that figure rises to 55MM.

    Dream big, folks. The window is here.

  31. @37 @38 Include Dayton in that vein. And don’t forget about Walker. Weigel and Ynoa are also more likely to be spending time in the pen, too. I doubt the Braves will spend any more seven figure amounts on any reliever. I have been cheering for an O’Day return, too. That all makes so much sense for O’Day. A lot like BMac. This is his last contract and it’s more important to him where he plays than for how much – especially as he just came off his “big” career contract. That’s all the more obvious if there’s really no escalators involved.

    With Dayton and Minter (and Burrows and Clouse), the Braves have all the lefties they need.

    I’m also guessing that Martin is not coming back, either.

    With regards to Donaldson, what’s more important than years or dollars is what Donaldson really wants – the non-monetary factors. At FG, Kiley has him at 3/71, MLBTR has him at 3/75. Is the 4th year a big enough deal? I dunno. At those numbers, though, he should be a cinch for the Braves to sign. Everyone on this website would be willing to go 3/81 or even 3/84. If we sign him for 3/75 with an option and a buyout, not one person here would think that wasn’t a bargain. Heck, you could even give him an annual opt-out, if he’s not satisfied with the Braves’ direction. This really should be a no-brainer.

    Oh, and I have to say it, trading for Contreras would be just as good as trading for Realmuto. Hahaha…… I wonder what a Contreras/Contreras battery would be like. Ultimately, Grandal would be better since he’s a switch hitter.

    Calhoun would be a better signing than Joyce because he is younger, a better fielder, and can reasonably play CF. You make a big mistake thinking Joyce will be what he was last year going forward. A smart player knows when to take his chips off the table. Joyce may actually be a better choice than Markakis, but Markakis is already signed. Although, I am perfectly happy to take Joyce back if Calhoun signs where he can play full time as opposed to platooning. Neither Markakis nor Joyce are plus defenders, but Calhoun is. And so is Duvall. A Calhoun/Duvall platoon and an Ender/Pache platoon with Ronald in RF would look really good out there. With Culby and Camargo as the Util IFs, the lineup would be set. If or when Pache goes down, Riley comes up.

    Signing Donaldson, Grandal, and one of Calhoun/Joyce (or even Dickerson) would make our lineup top to bottom invulnerable to handedness of pitchers and equally as dangerous if not more so than the Dodgers.

    If all of the above comes to pass, I bet the Braves fill the rotation with a cheap Teheran replacement on a make good contract, Thinking Alex Wood, Rich Hill, Michael Wacha, Gio Gonzalez, or some surprise candidate – maybe Josh Tomlin or Julio himself. The fifth spot will certainly rotate among the prospects until someone gets hot.

  32. To me, saying Calhoun can play CF is a hyperbolic speech. He’s played 15 total innings in CF. With that being said, Braves could do worse than signing him to a 1 year/8MM deal.

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