The Atlanta Braves have already gotten off to a torrid start in this offseason by signing the likes of Will Smith, Cole Hamels and Travis d’Arnaud from the open market.
They also re-signed Chris Martin, Darren O’Day and Nick Markakis. The Markakis extension is a good baseball move on paper, but only if you view him as a viable replacement option and full time bench player. However, as it has become apparent in recent seasons, Markakis is all but guaranteed to be hitting fifth (or fourth) if he is on the roster. He also will draw 150-162 starts if healthy at the ripe age of 36.
Again, Markakis’ value at the four million dollar price tag he signed for is solid as a backup. This Braves team is ready to contend for a World Series though and Nick Markakis, Ender Inciarte, Adam Duvall or Austin Riley simply cannot be starting outfielders on a team that is seeking the big trophy.
Last season those four players combined to produce just 2.2 fWAR which would’ve ranked in a tie for fifth place on the team as one position player. Now, fWAR doesn’t tell all, but it is a pretty good indicator of player worth. So instead of 2.2 fWAR spread over four underwhelming players would it not be advantageous to be able to get 2.2 fWAR (or better) out of one player? That seems like a pretty simple/stupid question, but essentially that is the point where the Braves are at.
The only other current options are the two stud outfield prospects at Triple A, Cristian Pache and Drew Waters. Those guys may have some pretty bright futures, but at this point a team in contention can’t be dependent on two rookies to put up the kind of numbers it would take to push this Atlanta team over the top. So, where do you go? Are there even players out there that are attainable at that talent level?
The short answer is yes. The even better answer is that those players are available, and that the Braves are one of the few teams with the minor league resources (and Major League resources) to get deals done in the trade market. The Cubs and Red Sox have been rumored to be looking at shedding money in order to get away from the luxury tax. That could mean the likes of Mookie Betts and Kris Bryant are available upgrades for the Braves, and those are the types of players that Atlanta’s front office should be seeking out (and more than just one).
Players are also out there to be had on bad teams like the Pirates with Starling Marte, or the Marlins and Brian Anderson. There are simply too many ways to get offensive upgrades for the Braves not to be heavily involved. Even in free agency right now the likes of Nicholas Castellanos, Marcell Ozuna and Yasiel Puig remain available.
The Braves are at a point where they need to make a statement. The talent at the Major League level is really good at the core, but the outfield aside from future MVP Ronald Acuna Jr. is extremely lacking for a team ready to “go for it”. Now is the time to push the chips to the center of the table, and with how aggressive the Braves and Alex Anthopoulos have already been, the time to win is now.