Just when you think things are beginning to calm down a bit when it comes to the Atlanta Braves and their wheeler-dealer ways and you think that you have all of the answers, the Braves decide to change the questions on you.
We all figured that the Braves had their outfield set with Hector Olivera, Ender Inciarte, and Nick Markakis being the starting outfielders, and if we're being quite honest here, that'll probably still be the case as we get closer and closer to Spring Training. However, two interesting rumors materialized yesterday concerning two new outfielders, and now we're left to figure out exactly what to make of it.
First off, there's the rumor that the Braves are interested in signing Yoenis Cespedes, whose prolonged stint as a free agent continues to perplex everybody who's been following baseball this offseason. We're almost exactly a month away from pitchers and catchers reporting, and yet Cespedes is still floating around on the market. When a player who possesses the talent that Cespedes has is still available for a long period of time, this is when you see teams like the Braves start to "get involved," because why not?
braves are an interesting team that has some interest in cespedes. many calling, but some looking for a price.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 13, 2016
The positives to the Braves bringing in Cespdes are pretty obvious -- he'd easily slot in as the starting left fielder, and that'd probably move Olivera back to third base (even though are serious doubts about Olivera's ability to play 3B, still. Also, I'd be willing to bet that they'd still throw him out there in LF as a backup, just to have that in their back pocket). Plus, in a lineup that is currently bereft of power, having a guy who hit .291/.328/.542 last season with 35 HRs and 135 wRC+ would be an absolute boon. Freddie Freeman would probably cry tears of joy at the fact that there would be another legitimate source of power in the lineup. Plus at this point, the price could actually be reasonable so the odds of a potential overpay would go down.
So, should we all start salivating at the idea of seeing Yoenis Cespedes and that rocket arm of his manning left field for the Braves?
Similar to the odds of you winning tonight's Powerball https://t.co/iL7e7qY9q9— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) January 13, 2016
So much for that! I can probably see this pursuit ending similarly to how the Braves pursued Darren O'Day and Ben Zobrist earlier this offseason -- Either they're doing this in order to give off the illusion that they're out here makin' deals, or an agent is doing this in order to spice things up as far as the market is concerned. Either way, this probably isn't all that serious.
Meanwhile, another outfielder who's been linked to the Braves recently is our lovely friend from the "Good Ol' Days," Carlos Gomez.
Ender Inciarte's name has been bandied about in trade rumors since the day after the Braves acquired him in the Shelby Miller robbery, so naturally it makes sense to see that a contender like the Astros would be interested. He's young, he's oozing with potential, and he's got a few years of team control left. Plenty of teams would love to have Inciarte, which is why it's smart for the Braves to listen to any offers that they're receiving for him.
With that being said, they'd probably have to get a huge haul from Houston in order to make this work. Carlos Gomez is still a solid player, but after two years of playing at an elite level in 2013 and 2014, he leveled back to the player that we were used to seeing in 2015. Plus, he's five years older than Inciarte, and when you're a team that's in the position that the Braves are in, you typically want to get younger and unless they'd also intend on trying to flip Gomez down the road (he's entering the last year of his contract as well), then it really wouldn't make much sense for the Braves to add him.
Of course, if you want to get creative, then maybe a third team could potentially get involved, and the Braves would just be part of a deal that moves Inciarte to one team, Gomez to another and leaves the CF spot wide open for someone else to take, with the idea that Mallex Smith could take the spot on a permanent basis whenever he's ready and the Braves would scavenge whatever assets the other two teams decide to give them as a cost for Inciarte. Either way, the idea of Carlos Gomez coming to Atlanta isn't exactly the most attractive idea for Atlanta if we're thinking long-term.
At the top of this article, I said that the outfield combiation of Olivera-Inciarte-Markakis would probably be what the Braves still end up going with by the time the season rolls around, and I still believe this to be the case. Yoenis Cespedes doesn't seem like a realistic option, and Carlos Gomez would seem like a step back in the rebuilding process for the Braves unless they got creative with that particular acquisition. So, unless the Braves stumble upon a miraculous haul that bolsters their already-strong farm system and maybe brings in one or two major league-ready players as well, they should probably stick with what they've got for now.
However, it's definitely nice to see a team like our Braves in Hot Stove talk -- even if they probably aren't serious threats to turn the smoke of these rumors into a legitimate fire. It keeps things interesting, doesn't it?