Atlanta Braves Offseason Speculation: So You Wanna Grab an Outfielder, eh?

After the Atlanta Braves missed out on Josh Donaldson, the beatwriters were quick to speak about how Alex Anthopoulos could pivot to fill the massive hole that is the cleanup spot in the lineup. Here’s Peanut to fill us in on the Atlanta Braves Offseason Speculation:

From a logistical perspective, it makes sense. There aren’t any 3rd baseman worth a toot left in free agency, and the players rumored available on the trade market are going to cost a mighty haul. However, there’s an elephant as large as Alex Bregman‘s ego in this room and that is this: Who goes?

Current Atlanta Braves Outfield Situation

We likely all know this, but the Braves have what looks to be penciled in, an outfield of Ronald Acuna in RF, Ender Inciarte in CF, and a platoon situation of Nick Markakis and Adam Duvall in LF. It’s a possibility that the Braves could trade Ender Inciarte to make room in the OF for the potential cleanup hitter, but I think that’ll prove too big of a defensive liability to pull off.

Free Agent Outfielders to Consider

For discussion purposes, let’s pretend there are 3 free agents Braves could be considering in the role of OF cleanup hitter: Nicholas Castellanos, Marcell Ozuna, and Yasiel Puig. Castellanos’s numbers, both offensively and defensively, saw improvement once out of the cavernous Comerica Park, but he was still a below average defender. Ozuna’s bad defensive reputation isn’t wholly fair, but Statcast rates him as a below average defender and I’ll take the most advanced defensive study when all the others seem contradictory at times. Puig has a great arm and takes fairly good routes, but gets brutal jumps and that makes him an average fielder, at best.

So why are so focused on defense, Ryan?

Well, I’ll get to the point, BJers. Anthopoulos has already stated that Acuna will be the primary RFer in 2020, and that is the right call because all defensive metrics agree: he was an outstanding defensive RFer. With Acuna in RF, Duvy/Kakes will platoon in LF, and Ender in CF, that’s a good, above average defensive outfield.

However, If Ender is traded, Acuna moves back to CF, right? While he’s capable of defending the position at an average rate, he’s no Ender (well…the 2018 Ender), and placing one of the 3 players discussed in RF weakens 2 OF positions defensively from well above average to merely average. With Anthopoulos’s focus on defense, this doesn’t seem like a plan he’d create.

Final Thought

While I’d like to believe that Anthopoulos wants to improve this team, I’m having a hard time believing that he’d weaken 2 defensive positions to add the bat. There’s likely no perfect solution, but I’d still be down for Kyle Seager and Mitch Haniger with Ender plus returning back to the Mariners. Haniger has proven to be at least average in the OF and Seager is a stud defensively. More to the point, I think a trade is more palatable than a free agent signing to fill the need of a cleanup hitter.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this piece on “Atlanta Braves Offseason Speculation”, check out this piece on potential free agent and trade targets by Matt P!

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20 thoughts on “Atlanta Braves Offseason Speculation: So You Wanna Grab an Outfielder, eh?”

  1. I wrote this from what I feel would be Anthopoulos’s perspective, but personally, I’d be ok with these moves but not over the moon about any of them. Trading Ender makes way too much sense.

  2. Trevor Story was mentioned as a trade target earlier. Here are his career home/road splits.

    Home: 0.301 BA, 0.998 OPS, 79 HR, 651 TB, 305 K, 101 BB

    Away: 0.250 BA, 0.756 OPS, 44 HR, 455 TB, 358 K, 88 BB

    A very different player away from Denver…

  3. @2
    I have a simple blanketed formula that seems to be worst case scenario for players leaving Coors and I think Story would be an .830-.860ish OPS player when not calling Coors home. And interestingly enough, the source that I’m not very sure about told me Braves have very little interest in Arenado but are in touch with Rockies on Story.

  4. Before we get too far away from it, kudos to Karl for the excellent recap of the excruciating 2015 season. What an abysmal roster! How in the hell did that team manage to play .500 ball for a full half season? I know they got even worse after the midseason trade, but even the pre-trade team had no business winning half its first 84 games.
    This may be further evidence of JonathanF’s point about the crapshootness of the playoffs. Small sample sizes in baseball can actually get pretty large before they even out. It often takes a good many games for true talent to finally win out.

  5. Remember AA’s comments at that breakfast, when he said he thought Waters and Pache would be ready midyear. I don’t think that’s necessarily actually what’s going to happen, but I do think that the team is trying to tell us that they believe that anything they’d do in the outfield is a very temporary bridge. I do think it’s very possible we’ll see Pache log a nontrivial number of CF innings this year, particularly if Inciarte gets hurt again or gets traded over the summer. I think Waters is going to have to force the issue by hitting his way onto the team the way Riley did in 2019. We’ll see.

  6. Like the idea of Haniger and Seager coming over in exchange for Ender plus some other. How about for Ender, Drew and one of the pitching prospects other than Anderson (maybe Muller)? Especially if Seattle throws in some cash. Hate to lose Drew but if you have Haniger at 3 years service time, you would have to pick between Pache and Waters for CF.

    Then sign Billy Hamilton for 1 year/$3-4 million in 2020.

    2020 Outfield
    LF – Haniger
    CF – Acuna (with Hamilton coming in late shifting Ronnie to right)
    RF – Markakis/Duvall

    2021 Outfield
    LF- Haniger
    CF – Pache
    RF – Acuna

    Plus Seager is your 4th place hitter for this year with Haniger 5th place hitter. If Austin gets it together, Seager would be an expensive bench bat..or might have to figure out another trade. Really soured on Carmago this past year so think have to do something.

  7. Yeah, if they don’t make any moves, then I suspect if Pache/Waters get off to a hot start then they are in the outfield mix by June.

  8. I see an ender trade as similar to pillar, but a little more value. The blue jays got 2 guys already DFAd and one decent prospect. To me, that makes him more of a throw in on a bigger deal because he would be more valuable to the Braves. But if Pache comes up mid season, it’s either because Ender is having an awful season or Pache is killing it in AAA. One of those is bad, one would be very good.

  9. @11 Right. Suppose Ender is the same this year as last including the fact that he gets off to awful starts. What’s the downside of putting Pache in CF no matter how he hits. Let him bat 8th until he starts coming up big.

    I also think that both Haniger and Seager are bad bets. Haniger has had only one healthy productive season and Seager is on the downside at a high cost. Too much risk for so little value.

    With regards to possibly moving Acuna back to CF, I’d think the move at that point would be to install Riley in RF. He has a cannon arm and played very well there when he was put out there. Ultimately, the only hope for a true cleanup hitter is Riley. Neither Marte nor Ozuna are cleanup hitters. Marte should be at #2 based upon his profile.

    The Braves were never going to bring back JD unless he was real cheap and took 3 years. I’m sure the hope is that Riley fills that hole. And that’s the name of that tune.

    On the other hand, Story is still young, cheap, and controllable. His trade value is quite a bit higher than Arenado’s. He is a really good defender. If we traded Dansby for him, I would miss Dansby but that would allow Story to be the cleanup hitter and also allow Pache to be brought in with no degradation. If the Braves could trade Dansby, Ender, plus a couple of pitching prospects for Story the team would be a lot better. That would give Camargo a chance to establish himself at 3B and Riley a chance to take it from him.

  10. 12 — “What is the downside of putting Pache 8th”

    We’ve had this discussion. Don’t want to stunt his development. Plus if you want to trade Ender anyway then you need to try to boost his value if he’s still on the team.

  11. @8 – Why would Atlanta even consider bringing Hamilton back? I guess he was better than expected in Atlanta, but the guy just can’t hit. His defense isn’t great either. From a hitting perspective he is right up there with Rafael Belliard.

  12. @12 – Certainly risk with these 2 although Haniger would have to deal with injuries last year. He’d likely be fine. Seager is more of a concern though had a better 2nd half last year. I think Riley could adjust, but do we take that chance he does where we are in the competing cycle?

    @14 – On Hamilton, agree on the hit but not on defense. His defensive statistics have been excellent to elite. They wouldn’t be looking at him to start much, just in for defensive purposes. And 1 year is not much of a block for Pache if he comes out guns blazing. I feel Ender would sulk if he’s on the bench.

  13. Recording a @3FlagsFlying pod tonight with @Kris_Willis and @brentblackwell. Anyone with a last minute mailbag question?

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