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Braves Mailbag: Potential trade targets, Adam Duvall and more

Boston Red Sox Summer Camp Workout Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Thank you to everyone that sent in questions for this week’s Atlanta Braves mailbag. If I didn’t get to your question this week, we will do another one soon. Let’s get to it!

I saw some reports that the Reds are shopping Eugenio Suarez, I know the Braves probably want to prioritize for an outfielder but the deal might not cost Austin Riley because they have Mike Moustakas, so Riley could play LF. Do you think this would be a good fit, or be worth it?

I did see some of the rumblings that the Reds were fielding calls on Eugenio Suarez, but I don’t get the sense that they will move him. Suarez is 29 years old and is under contract at least through the 2024 season. As always with questions like these, it comes down to the price for the Braves. Suarez could make some sense provided Atlanta is really comfortable with playing Riley in the outfield. However, while it might not cost them Riley, Cincinnati would probably ask for a top five prospect to be included in the deal. I don’t get the sense that they would move Suarez, who will make around $11 million per year over the next four seasons, just to dump the salary.

I saw a rumor about Andrew Benintendi and that the Red Sox are discussing a trade with more teams than those mentioned and with the Braves being a more hushed front office and the mention of “big-league pitching depth” makes me think that they might be in the loop here. What are your thoughts on a possible trade for Benintendi?

I have wondered this as well. It was reported that the Braves would prefer to add an outfielder instead of a third baseman, but we haven’t seen a lot of details as to which outfielders they might be targeting. Benintendi is an interesting case. He is coming off of pretty much a lost season in 2020 in which he logged only 52 plate appearances while hitting .103/.314/.128. However, he is just two seasons removed from putting up 4.4 fWAR and a 122 wRC+. He has ben more effective against right-handed pitchers so he could be a platoon candidate as well. The defensive metrics don’t love him but he will make $6.6 million in 2021 before he is arbitration eligible for the final time. Again it comes down to the asking price via trade. If he could be had for some of Atlanta’s surplus pitching, then it might be a worthy gamble.

If the Braves wait for the status of the DH in the National League to be determined, isn’t that too risky by possibly expanding the amount of teams competing for Marcell Ozuna and driving his price too high?

The thing you have to remember here is while the Braves may be motivated to get a deal done, it doesn’t make much sense for Ozuna to sign with anyone as long as there is a chance that the DH might be implemented. So while a lot of teams would probably like to secure Ozuna, those players have very little incentive to sign a deal yet. I am guessing that teams around the league have a much better sense of what is being discussed and the possibility of the Universal DH being implemented. This situation isn’t just about Ozuna as several other free agent outfielders will have bigger markets if the DH remains in the National League. That is why it is astonishing that the league and the Players Association have allowed this situation to play out so slowly.

Adam Duvall was reportedly talking to Miami so given their lack of OF depth now, wouldn’t the Braves want to bring him back even if it costs a little more than they prefer?

I don’t think Duvall talking to other teams, even those in the NL East, will sway the Braves thinking on a possible reunion. When the Braves acquired Duvall, they were looking to utilize him as a platoon option against left-handed pitching. He struggled and that never really materialized. An injury to Nick Markakis in 2019 opened the door for him and he played a key part down the stretch. He put up big numbers for Atlanta in 2020 but it is important to look at those numbers a little closer. Six of his 16 home runs came in two games. Look a little closer and eight of those homers came over an eight game stretch in early September. Prior to his three-homer game at Boston on September 2, Duvall was hitting .229/.279/.696 with five homers in 33 games. He hit three more homers against the Marlins on September 9 and then hit .169/.270/.338 with three homers over the final 16 games. He hit .161/.212/.387 with two more homers during the postseason. So, while his end of the season numbers did look good, they were largely propped up by one insane eight game stretch in early September.

With that as the backdrop, I think the Braves probably view Duvall as a part time outfielder that can be effective against left-handed pitching. Duvall may desire a bigger role and it may be hard for him to get that in Atlanta. I think he could still find his way back to the Braves, but it is important to put his 2020 season in proper context.

Wouldn’t an extension for Freddie Freeman seemingly come before a potential deal with a top free agent like Marcell Ozuna? Casting aside the likelihood of the Braves retaining Ozuna, it seems if the Braves are willing to dish out a multi-year deal to any player, wouldn’t it make more sense to prioritize locking up its franchise player first?

I do think that re-signing Freeman is a priority and it is probably one that they have been preparing for over the last couple of seasons. It is unknown how much the shortened 2020 season altered that picture, but I have to think it is at the top of the offseason priority list. Because they have likely been preparing for this, I don’t think Freeman’s extension really has any bearing on their pursuit of Ozuna or another free agent.

As Freeze Agency (patent pending) continues to do nothing, I feel like the chances of us keeping Ozuna continually decrease. If this does happen, what do you think of this:

The Braves fill their LF hole this year with someone cheap, maybe bringing back Duvall and letting Drew Waters join him when he’s ready. In 2022, now you’ll have even more money saved up because Waters can take over LF full time and you can use that money to sign Corey Seager or Trevor Story (and move one of them or Swanson to third base).

Drew Waters is going to be one of the most followed Braves prospects this season and it will be interesting to see if he can play his way into the picture. I think it is safe to assume that he will need to spend most of the 2021 season at Gwinnett. I believe we will see Atlanta fill the left field position with one or two players on a short contract so that they can remain flexible. The presence of Waters plays a big part in that. I think we are inching closer to that Ronald Acuña Jr., Cristian Pache, Drew Waters outfield, but I am not sure that it happens this season.

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