July 28, 2019

Options for Outfield Help

Even before Nick Markakis went down, the Braves could have used another outfielder. After his hot start in the majors, Austin Riley has really struggled. The Braves haven’t gotten much from Ender Inciarte, even when healthy. Markakis has been a solid role player with the Braves but has never been great. Adam Duvall was hitting plenty of homeruns in Triple-A but was hitting .259.

With Markakis going down with the fractured wrist just before the trade deadline, the urgency for another outfielder increases. Below are some possibilities, in order of the outfielders who would be most attractive, with consideration to contract and what it would take to get them. The Braves likely don’t want to block Christian Pache and/or Drew Waters nor do they want to give up either of them, or Ian Anderson, for anything less than a stud outfielder with lots of years of control. And eyeballing rosters, I didn’t find any such stud outfielders who are likely to be traded.

Corey Dickerson, Pittsburgh Pirates The Mississippi native has quietly put together an impressive career. He is a free agent after this season and his 2019 salary is only $8.5 million. He tweaked his groin this past Friday night but it doesn’t seem to be too serious. And getting the left-handed-hitting Dickerson would allow Duvall or Riley to platoon.

Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers It seems there have been Castellanos rumors for several years. Could this be the year he’s finally traded? Castellanos is similar to Mancini but is a free agent after this season. That means he could be less costly, and the Braves wouldn’t be stuck with a bat-first corner guy for the long term.

Whit Merrifield, Kansas City Royals Merrifield is cheap and has 3 more years of control, plus a fourth option year with a relatively cheap buyout. The downside is he’s already 30, but the salaries he’s making and due to make are just fine for a bench player, if Pache, Waters, or someone else comes along ready to take an outfield spot. He’s a pretty versatile player, having played most of his major league games at second base and a few at third base and first base. He’s a reliable, close-to-.300 hitter with decent power and good speed.

Yasiel Puig, Cincinnati Reds Puig doesn’t seem like a Braves type player but this ain’t your father’s (or John Schuerholz’s) Braves any longer. Puig hasn’t had a good season but he’s in his prime. Maybe getting back in the spotlight on a contending team would energize him. And he’s another player who will be a free agent after the season, so he wouldn’t require a commitment beyond 2019.

Kole Calhoun, Los Angeles Angels Calhoun is solid on both offense and defense but lacks big-time impact potential. He has a $14 million team option for next season and a $1 million buyout. The Angels don’t seem like the type of team that ever thinks in terms of rebuilding, so they may not be eager to deal Calhoun, since they have an option on him for next season.

Hunter Pence, Texas Rangers Pence worked with swing guru Doug Latta in the offseason and revived his career. The good news is he’s cheap with no commitment beyond this season. He was on the IL for a while this season with a groin injury. Age makes him a moderate risk but they wouldn’t have to count on him to be an impact guy.

Shin-Soo Choo, Texas Rangers Choo is a reliable on-base machine but, as you’d expect from a 37-year-old, is not a great defensive player. He’s also signed for $21 million for next season, so he’s not exactly a great value play. If the Rangers were willing to pay down some of the contract, he’s be a fairly attractive option but seems like a long shot trade candidate.

Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals Gordon is kind of the American League Jason Heyward. He never quite lived up to the hype offensively but the offense he provided in his career went unnoticed because of unimpressive batting averages and good power but nothing special. And, like Heyward, he provided a lot of value on defense in a corner-outfield spot, in his prime. After three down seasons, he’s bounced back in 2019. He is fairly expensive, with a $20 million salary in 2019 but the Braves obviously would only have to pay a portion of that for the remainder of this season. There’s a $23 million mutual option for 2020 with a $4 million buyout. If the Royals got a good prospect, perhaps they’d be willing to cover the buyout.

Trey Mancini, Baltimore Orioles Mancini is a bat-first corner-outfielder. He’s probably not quite as good as his reputation, because his poor defense negates some of his offensive value and he’s not an elite bat, but still a solid player. He’s not arb eligible until this offseason and won’t be a free agent until after the 2022 season. At 27, he may not be the type player the Braves want to give up legit talent then be stuck with for three more seasons, even if he would help this season.

Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies The former North Gwinnett High School, Young Harris, and Georgia Tech star is signed through 2021, has a $21 million player option for 2022, and $10 million option for 2023 that could increase up to $18 million, depending on some performance incentives leading up to that point. But, rumors are he’s on the trade block. The Rockies could try to use Blackmon to gain some roster depth. But it may be tough for them to get back the package of players to make a trade attractive without eating a good chunk of his contract. Also, his stats away from Coors Field (his on-base is just above .300 and his slugging is just under .430) look a lot different than his home stats. But every park in the N.L. West outside of Coors Field (and Chase Field) are pitcher-friendly. His park-adjusted career numbers are fine, so I wouldn’t be concerned about the ballpark as much as I would be about his decline over the last couple of years. Seems a lot would have to line up right to make a trade for Blackmon work.



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