Braves Need Another Outfielder?

Braves Need Another Outfielder?

The Braves made their first big move of the off-season on Saturday, trading Matt Kemp to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 4 players. This trade had very little baseball function, though Brandon McCarthy is interesting, as this was mostly swapping short-term debt for shorter-term debt. In short, Atlanta added money to 2018 to free up money in 2019. If you’re looking for further breakdown of this deal, Tommy already has you covered. That’s not what we’re doing today. We’re looking at the aftermath. The answer to the question “what’s next?”

As soon as the trade went down and everyone had a chance to digest it, you started to see a flood of these tweets:

The overriding consensus after this deal was made was one of the key parts of it was opening up a spot for Ronald Acuna, Atlanta’s top prospect. And why not? Makes perfect sense. Braves had 3 outfielders under contract plus the best outfield prospect in baseball. They traded away one of those outfielders so the logical conclusion is it opens up a spot for said top prospect, and once again, gives Atlanta a full outfield.

But here’s the thing. I’m not sure that’s actually what’s happening. There’s a decent case that Atlanta not only wants to, but needs to acquire another OF. That Kemp’s departure doesn’t make way for Acuna, but for the OF they’ve yet to obtain. And that Acuna’s opening will come at current RF, Nick Markakis expense, not Kemp’s.

Here’s my logic.

The first and easiest point is Acuna literally just turned 20 years old. He’s played all of 54 games in AAA and there’s a very real and possible scenario where he simply isn’t ready for the majors. Planning on a 20-year-old being one of your starting outfielders isn’t much planning, no matter how good he is. Now, he absolutely could be ready for the majors but I think we can all agree the prudent thing to do would be to plan on him not being, and adjust if he is.

The second point is service time. Even if Acuna is ready, the reality is the Braves might not be ready for him. I’m not going to dive into the minutia that is the MLB service time rules, but basically teams have a financial incentive to hold players back 2 weeks or even 2 or 3 months into season. The why is, again, detailed but basically it helps teams control the cost of the player for as long as possible. Given where Atlanta is in the financial pecking order of baseball, I fully expect them to maximize the service time rules in regards to Acuna and hold him back.

So there’s a realistic chance Acuna could be down until June, or honestly, even until September, depending on how the season is going for both he and the team. This means Atlanta could cut or trade Markakis whenever they deem Acuna ready and immediately plug him into that spot. As things stand now, I don’t find it likely that Acuna and Markakis will ever play in the same outfield. I think once the former is ready, his spot will be opened up by moving or cutting the latter.

Which leads to my third point. If the plan was to play an outfield of Acuna, CF Ender Inciarte, and Markakis, you either have to put the younger, superior talent in LF or you have to ask an established veteran to change positions after playing almost every innings of his career in RF. Neither is ideal and both are avoided by simply acquiring a full time LF now, and replacing Markaksis with Acuna when his ready.

My last point is GM Alex Anthopoulos himself. Here’s what he said after the trade regarding Acuna:

We expect Ronald Acuna to factor at some point in 2018 and I’m not prepared to say when. He’s a young player at 19, turning 20 real soon. We expect him to factor in 2018. Whether that’s early, middle, or late I’m not sure.”

It would be weird for plan A to be a 20-year-old and reading this quote from Anthopoulos, it doesn’t sound like it is. Not only that but we know from reports that Atlanta has been asking about left fielders. If the plan was to play Acuna, Inciarte, and Markakis together, then asking about Adam Duvall doesn’t make much sense. Where it does make sense though is if you basically consider Acuna and Markakis as one position. One will play RF until the other is ready. Which leaves Ender in CF and a big ole’ question mark in LF.

And that’s why this isn’t just semantics. It changes what comes next. I think Atlanta is full-fledged shopping for an OF, because well, they need one. They need a LF. And I think they get one before the season starts. Prudent planning would be to have 3 OF ready to go for 2018 outside of Ronald Acuna and then make the necessary move when he’s ready to play and you’re ready for him to play. If they can move Kemp, they can easily find a way to move Markakis when the time comes.

My guess; as soon as Christian Yelich makes it clear to Miami he has zero intentions playing there, Atlanta moves in hard to get him. If they come up short there, then guys like Duvall make some sense. We’ll see. But my prediction as we sit here on December 19th, is that we never see a Markakis-Inciarte-Acuna outfield. Agree? Disagree?

 

 

19 Comments

Yup, no reason to make Acuna a Super Two player.

But I’m not crazy about Yelich. We would have to pay for his five years, and one of these years would be wasted. Yelich value is high, but if you throw away 2018 season with $7M salary – his value decreases.

So I’d rather sign another placeholder. Some indistinctive FA, one year contract, $2M.

Oh, and selling Markakis stopped to be necessary. We could as well wait and pay him money instead of giving the same money to other franchise to pay him.

TRad, as always solid reasoning.

I’m not 100% on the “Let’s get Yelich” wagon either. The pricetag is sure to be prohibitive. The thought of acquiring JT Realmuto passed through my mind yesterday instead of going year to year with Flowers and Suzuki and crossing our fingers on Jackson, Cumberland, Contreras, etc. but I encountered the same issue with him as I did Yelich because of positional value.

Regarding Yelich (or any high valued player, for that matter), perhaps taking back a couple of contracts like, say, Martin Prado and Brad Ziegler would help lower the price enough to make losing the first year of Yelich’s affordability worthwhile?

As for Markakis, while I’m not a fan of Nick and never have been, I agree a trade is not necessary, or to be forced–especially if the Braves have to pay a significant amount to get rid of him. We can now allow teams to come to us if they want to take him on at full cost if they reach that point of desperateness.

That said, I’d also add that while we just added Preston Tucker to support your “indistinctive” outfielder, a longterm solution shouldn’t be ruled out if the right situation arises. While unlikely to arise right away, it’d be foolish to pass up a good deal just because we accomplished the primary goal of clearing a spot for Acuna.

I’d have to disagree with you on Yelich’s value decreasing after this season. If the Braves, theoretically, signed a placeholder type OF for 2018, they’d need two outfielders for 2019. One would be Acuna, obviously… but at that point, I think it’d be tough to sign a quality OF for essentially 4/50mil, which is what Yelich will be owed. That’s less than Markakis got, with his age and declining power numbers.

That’s correct, but to get Yelich we need to spend prospects.

I’d rather trade for him next offseason – I think with 4/50 contract he will be cheaper than with 5/57.

And I think we will need one OF – Inciarte and Acuna look like a quite solid foundation.

I believe you’re spot on with this article, Stephen.

If the Braves are essentially punting 2018, and it appears as if they are, then why start Acuna’s service clock? Furthermore, why not at least give him some seasoning in AAA, since they can afford to? The Braves have semi-rushed a few of their prospects these past two seasons, I think. It might be wise to try to avoid repeating those same mistakes with their top positional prospect.

The plan absolutely should be to acquire a LF to add some thunder to the order, which I badly hope ends up being Yelich. Duvall would do, as well. They should hold Acuna down until the deadline, when they can trade Nick to a contender for a lottery ticket… and they’re ready to go for 2019.

And, again being prescient, in come Preston Tucker. He and Dustin Peterson can compete for the LF role in 2018. Tucker can also platoon with Lane. I guess we’d like more than that but that would seem to be the plan right now.

Roger, you very well may be right… but that is a potentially depressing plan.

Castoff shopping is fine, and may even have it merits if it’s for a key bench piece, or injury replacement. The thing about it is though, if AA wants to build his car out of duct tape, he best not be surprised when the wheels fall off.

This is exactly right season to go for cheap lottery tickets. If Tucker’s all of sudden good, great! If he’s not, well, what we have lost? Already lost season? So what?

I hope this is THE LAST such season. As ridiculous as it sounds – the window FOR REBUILDING is closing. Freeman won’t be great forever. We need to use his VG+ seasons. Albies and Swanson seasons have started to run – we need to use the opportunity to use them for minimum money. Some pitchers are in the same situation. In 219 we need to have a serious contender.

Here’s a question that nobody has seemed to ask: What is a best case scenario for Dustin Peterson at this point? Horrible luck with injuries but still only 23. What would happen if he had a strong (and healthy) spring training?

Even after acquiring Tucker as a possible 4th or 5th outfielder, I still feel that the Braves will make more deals before the season. I expect Markakis to be traded before spring training. But I don’t thin that Yelich will become a Brave, because I don’t think that now is the time for the Braves to be trading away their good prospects. I think the Braves will go after another outfielder, probably someone less established than Yelich, but with potential.

Guys, slow your roll! I seriously doubt that AA is going to seriously make a push for Yelich (he’s too expensive, and rightfully so! A major talent with a team friendly contract). He’s far from ‘the missing piece’ (a Fred McGriff, he is not)!

The 2018 Season is all about finding out answers to a number of questions! Are Albies and Acuna the read deal/top of the order havoc causing Altuve/Corriea-type? How much/far will our PLETHORA of young prospects develop (both in Atlanta and in The Minors)? Will Ownership give AA a 2019 Budget of at least $150 mil?

When we find out the answers to those questions…we’ll know which direction Braves Management will end up going in going into The 2018 Free Agent Offseason! Simple as that!

I’m not sold on Yelich nor Relamuto. Stay away from Archer (I’m so glad that Evan Longoria was finally traded to The Giants). No to Donaldson too!

As the prices steadily drop on those who are still Free Agents once January rolls around….there’s a chance that The Braves may be able to snag someone for a 1 year deal (with a little more higher salary for the one year) to either play 3rd or left field! I trust AA to know how to work that potential slide in the market! I’m confident that AA WILL NOT be taking on any contracts longer than 1 year UNLESS they are with the likes of Albies/Acuna/Soroka/Allard/Gohara/etc, lol!

Just wait until 2018 plays out. If we can get a surprise bat or two in this lineup….and if our pitching surprises us (McCarthy and yes, even Kazmir could join a rejuvenated Teheran and Folty and the horse Gohara….to form a solid rotation in 2018)! That would leave Newcomb and Folty on the outs…either in the bullpen OR back in Triple A. Imagine a Triple A rotation of Soroka, Allard, Newcomb, Tousiant, Fried…with Medlen, Blair and Wisler the long relief/spot starters, lol! Not bad, lol!

Odds are that Acuna will start the first 15 days or so with Triple A…before being called up for the 1st and only time in his career! From Day 1, he’ll be working on his Hall of Fame Resume, lol!

As far as left field….let Adams/Fisher do the platoon (unless we get a steal of a deal with one of those free agents whose salary demands do some serious dropping). Let AA work his magic!

There is no way I pass on a reasonable offer for Christian Yelich. He is controllable through the 2022 season and has proven to be a dynamic bat in a lineup. He wasn’t incredibly impressive in CF for the Marlins, but keep in mind that OF in Miami is huge, he had Stanton on one side of him with limited range, and he’s not a CF by nature.
Not everyone we trade for has to be a future HOF player. Yelich can fill a much needed role in our OF for the next 6 seasons. Imagine, we could actually go into the next 5 years not having to worry about our OF situation and focus on areas that can greatly increase our chances of being a perennial playoff contender.
Granted, all of this is assuming we can get a reasonable package put together to get Yelich and not a gross overpay. But there is no reason to hold off if he can be acquired reasonably just because you aren’t sure how the rest of the team is going to shake out. A controllable guy like Yelich figures into plans for the next 5-6 seasons.

I agree one thousand percent, Chattachop. As long as the Fish want something within the realm of reason, there’s no reason not to pull the trigger. The OF would be locked up, at pretty much a fixed cost, for the next half decade. At that point the club has one main hole going into 2019, at 3B; with an internal option in Riley, and the cash to go external, too.

One bonus, too- I think it’d create nice balance in the order. Consider…

1)Albies (S)
2)Acuna (R)
3)Freeman (L)
4)Riley (R)
5)Yelich (L)
6)FloZuki (R)
7)Inciarte (L)
8)Swanson (R)

I know some eyebrows might pop at Inciarte hitting 7th, but if I was a manager, my reasoning would be maybe it helps Swanson see some better pitchers to hit with Inciarte on the basepath? Also, worst case, you have a leadoff type guy leading off every 3rd inning of any hit-less games.

Chat and King.
I won’t disagree on Yelich and a “reasonable” price, but I think what the folks not endorsing Yelich (myself included) are implying is the price likely will be anything but “reasonable” considering how many teams will be interested.

Factoring in also is the fact that the Marlins are no longer under pressure to dump payroll. As it stands they’re more or less where they need to be payroll-wise for the 2018 season. Any trade going forward will not be finance-induced like the Stanton, Gordon and Ozuna trades were and that alone will increase the price of any trade going forward.

Beyond that, what is “reasonable”? I’m going to go out on what I think is a nice sturdy limb here and suppose that your versions of what is going to be reasonable for Yelich isn’t the type of offer the rest of us are imagining it will likely take to get Yelich.

Note: Before responding and saying you’d trade something like Nick Markakis, Jose Ramirez, Aaron Blair, Matt Wisler and Travis Demeritte for him, put yourself in the Marlins shoes and ask yourself if you’d trade Yelich for anything short of the motherload with as many as 5, 6, maybe 10 to even half the teams in the majors interested in him?

Bryce, I understand where you’re coming from… I know it’s commonplace to see a lot of people suggest it’d be easy to get something for nothing, essentially. I understand it’d probably require parting with at least one of Sororka, Wright or Allard; plus a pitcher another tier down, and possibly a Cristian Pache. I wouldn’t be the least bit mad if AA paid that price, though. Reasonable to me is anything not involving Acuna, Albies- or more than one of the Sororka/Wright/Allard trio.

King,
I am glad you didn’t take my post as an insult to your or Chat’s intelligence when naming the specific players I did and caught the suggestion that basically Yelich is not going to be had for a lowball offer due to circumstances that were listed plus some.

This is where I believe the counterpoint thrives. While you say a reasonable price you’d be okay with includes (just as an example) Wright, Wentz, and Pache, what if it’s more? I certainly can see it getting to that point where it’ll take a lot more. With other teams involved and potentially driving up prices, would you be willing to increase significantly to include, say, Gohara instead of Wentz along with another significant piece like an Alex Jackson or Bryse Wilson? Is the line of reasonable drawn immediately after the price you named or is it negotiable?

Bryce, I would say the price is always negotiable to an extent. I wouldn’t want to see them deal Gohara, mostly because he’s already a ML level piece, even if not totally proven. However, if it takes an Alex Jackson, or a Bryse Wilson… so be it. Prospects are lottery tickets- they all feel like they’ll be winners, but so few are. Yelich would be a much more proven commodity, in an area the club lacks depth.

My preferred outcome would see the Braves lessen the prospect cost by taking Prado’s full salary on, since they could use a stopgap 3B at any rate. I guess the line for me would be no more than one of the Braves top five prospects though; and no one currently on the ML roster under the age of 30, sans Tehran.

Yelich age, contract and projection:
2018 26 7,0 4,3 WAR
2019 27 9,75
2020 28 12,5
2021 29 14,0
2022 30 15,0

Let’s suppose future production would be similar to standard age curve. Till 28 constans, later -0,5 WAR per year. So estimated sum of his production is about 19,5 WAR. Cost of 1 WAR is about $9.

So we have salaries: $58 and value of WAR: $180.
We need to give Marlins $122 value in prospects. It’s a LOT. Allard and Fried had before the last season estimated FV 55. Pitcher FV 55 prospect has value about $22. OK, they have good seasons, so let increase them to FV 60. it gives $70. Pache? Was FV 50, let’s give him FV 55. Another $38 (batters are valued higher). We need to add somebody like Muller or Touissant (again, assuming their FV has increased during the last season).

So Allard, Fried, Muller and Pache are a package with value similar to Yelich IF ALL OUR PROSPECTS have increased their FV.

Let’s throw away 2018 season. Now we have salaries $51 and vakue of WAR $140. Only $90 of surplus. By waiting one year (in which Yelich production would be wasted, we are not going to be contender next season) we have significantly decreased package we would have to pay for him. About 1/4 of Yelich’s contract value is caused by the low salary in 2018!

Bottom line: if Marlins are ready to sell Yelich for 65% of his value – we could do it. If they want the whole value – we should stay away.

Remember: you don’t trade for players – you trade for their contracts.

TRad, that’s a very well thought out counterpoint. There’s no guarantee Yelich isn’t dealt to another club beforehand though, and you don’t run across a ton of team friendly deals like his.

I will say if the lay of the land was a bit different, and all of these all-star level 3B that are soon to become available were leftfielders instead- your argument and breakdown would sway me to your side.

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