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.
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!