All off-season we’ve been discussing ideas on how to get Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis off this roster. Because their cost exceeds their value, this is obviously a tricky exercise. We came up with elaborate trade ideas, we crowd-sourced it to you guys for you to come up with solutions, we sent money, we included prospects, or sometimes, we adhered to the sunk-cost principle and said just cut them. I’ve frankly had about all I can take talking about how to get rid of them. We’ve turned over every stone there is to turn. That horse died weeks ago.
Gloriously, this post isn’t concerned with making that happen. Nope, today we get to make a large, magnificent assumption: they’re gone. Don’t know how, don’t care. This post is being written as if five minutes ago, both players were moved and moves need to be made.
The easy, and probably accurate, assumption is top prospect Ronald Acuna will fill the void in RF. Exactly when that will happen is a topic for another post, but even if it’s not until June, it’s not like Atlanta is going to rush out and make a big move for a right-fielder. They’d likely just go with internal options until he’s ready to go. What that means is, as of right now in our dream world, the Braves need to find themselves one more outfielder to play left field.
So we’re going to look at some early candidates. There’s obviously way too many possibilities for this to be an exhaustive list, so while our situation is still hypothetical, we’ll just going through some of the more logical choices. Also, don’t put in any stock in the order I put these guys. This isn’t a ranking.
The easiest solution is always to just sign a replacement so we’ll look at free agents first.
Cain is far and away the best OF on the market and arguably the best position player overall. His defense is still plus and he more than holds his own with the bat given how many runs he saves with the glove. But being the best also means the most expensive. Cain is expected to get somewhere around 4/$70M and it’s possible Atlanta balks at that kind of contract. It’d be an impressive group to watch though. One can only dream of a Cain-Ender-Acuna outfield. Not sure anything would touch the ground.
Bruce makes some sense just because he’d add some pop to the lineup and the fact that he’s LH works a little better with the pieces in place. But Bruce is a butcher defensively and new Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos has already stated one of the primary goals is improving the defense. Now, technically, Bruce would be an improvement over Kemp in the outfield but so would a basketball goal. I think Anthopoulos is looking for a more substantial improvement defensively than replacing Matt Kemp with Jay Bruce.
As I was writing, I tweeted out to you guys to send me names of players you thought would be interesting for LF. You guys were awesome in your responses, as I got way more names then even I had considered, but there was one glaring omission. Not one person mentioned Jarrod Dyson. I get it, LF is traditionally a power position and a speed/defense/base-running guy doesn’t exactly get the blood pumping. But value is value. It’s a zero-sum game and saving a run is exactly the same as knocking one in. Dyson brings value, projected around 2 WAR for 2018, and a perfectly reasonable price tag around 2/$18M. AA clearly loves defense and a move like this wouldn’t surprise me at all.
The tweet I sent out wasn’t a poll question and I really wasn’t keeping score, but Cargo was easily the most mentioned, which surprised me a bit. I think fans associate Gonzalez with his name, his swing, and the player he used to be more than the player he actually is today. Some might not realize, away from Coors Field, he’s a league average hitter at best. Combine that with below average, declining defense, and there are probably better options out there. With that being said though, he’s still projected at 1 WAR for 2018 and that’s still an upgrade for Atlanta. I’m guessing he takes a 1 year deal to regain some value so a 1/$10M contract seems reasonable.
Maybin would be a 1000x more interesting to me if he could figure out how to hit the ball in the air. Of course, he’d also be more interesting to every one else. But even at his current version, he’s playable. The cost would be quite low and there’s value in elite base-running. He would probably work best as half a platoon if you can find a LH counterpart. Estimations I saw had him signing for around $7M.
If Atlanta doesn’t find anything that interest them in the FA market, the next logical solution is a trade. Here are some possible trade targets.
Khris Davis, OAK
When we we’re trying to build playoff teams for 2018 earlier this off-season, Davis was a guy I targeted. And for good reason. Davis is a 2-2.5 Win player who could probably be had rather affordably. The A’s are notorious for having the tightest payroll in baseball and Davis’ arbitration number this year is going to be into 8 digits. Oakland could surprise people and actually pay him that, but a trade is certainly possible, if not plausible. Braves also had one of the lowest HR totals in MLB last year so Davis and his 43 bombs would instantly improve that.
Yasiel Puig LAD
Puig’s name seems to come up every off-season for one reason or another, but lost in all the negatives about him is the fact that he’s a really good player. Wonder how many people realize he put up a 3 WAR season last year? You can be sure Anthopoulos knows, spending the last couple of years with the Dodgers. LA has an elite OF prospect in Alex Verdugo coming up soon, so naturally there’s been speculation that Puig could be moved. I’d take him in a heartbeat. Don’t know what the cost would be, but I trust AA to make a sound deal if it’s there.
The Marlins Boys
Derek Jeter and his new team, the Marlins, hold the key to entire off-season in their hands. Obviously, the big headline right now is Giancarlo Stanton and where he’s going to go but even after that is settled, there will be some big chips still left in Miami. Namely the other two outfielders, Christian Yelich and Marcel Ozuna. The prospect cost of landing these guys would be extremely high but so would the benefit of adding either one to your team. Both project to be 4 WAR players in 2018 and both have the fire power to hit in the middle of your order. Given the choice, I’d prefer Yelich simply because of how cheaply he’s signed through 2022 but I’m not picky. Either instantly takes your team to another level and with Miami reportedly looking to shed payroll, I wouldn’t rule it out.
Jackie Bradley BOS
The player and the team most linked to each other this off-season has been Boston and J.D. Martinez. Boston had one of the lower home-run totals in baseball last year and Martinez would obviously help. For the money their going to pay to get him, Martinez is going to play everyday and likely in LF. That means one of the Betts/Bradley/Benetendi trio would likely be moved with people speculating it would be Bradley. As we’ve already stated a few times, Anthopoulos wants to improve the defense and the OF is the quickest way to do that. A bit like the Cain/Ender/Acuna dream from earlier, a Bradley/Ender/Acuna OF would arguably be just as good. At least defensively. As to cost, that’s going to depend on what else Boston does this off-season and what they need for 2018. I will say, they’ve basically gutted their farm the last couple years with trades and could potentially look to build it back up a bit. The Braves would, of course, be natural fit in that scenario having one of the best farm systems in baseball.
Rule 5 guys
Jason Martin was a big topic of conversation in our rule 5 articles and if you look up his numbers, it’s easy to see why. Martin posted a 121 wRC+ in AA last year with an impressive .210 ISO so he could be an option for Atlanta. Another possibility is Jose Cardona who played for the Rangers AA club last year. The bat doesn’t blow you away but he controls the strike zone and plays first rate defense in the outfield.
Were Kemp and Markakis actually to be moved, we’d obviously go more in depth. This is just a primer. Anyone you’d like better?