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Braves Mailbag Part 2: Marcell Ozuna’s trade value, A.J. Minter and more

The second part of this week’s mailbag explores Marcell Ozuna’s trade value, thoughts on A.J. Minter and more.

Below is the second part of this week’s Atlanta Braves mailbag. If you missed the first part, you can find it here. Again, thank you to everyone who took the time to submit questions. We will do this again soon.

How do you think the Braves will fill their final four open 40 man roster spots?

I think at this point that it is impossible to predict. I’m going to talk about free agency again below, but I expect the Braves to be active on the waiver wire over the next month as well. Atlanta signed Luis Guillorme to a major league contract a few weeks ago, but I still think there is a decent chance that veteran infielder David Fletcher gets a look. The Braves also just signed Jordan Luplow to a minor league deal. I feel pretty strongly that they will add another right-handed hitting outfielder at some point.

As things stand now, the Braves still only have 12 position players on the 40-man roster. My bet would be that three of those four open spots eventually go to position players. One important thing to remember is that just because they start one way during the spring, doesn’t mean that is how it will end up on Opening Day. They will continue to look for bench upgrades as teams start to pare down their rosters. After all, this was the team that got butterfly magic out of Anibal Sanchez after the Twins cut him in Spring Training in 2018 — if a guy’s original landing spot doesn’t work and he could be a fit, the Braves will likely be all over him.

Recently read an article about Marcell Ozuna possibly being traded. My question would be what in your opinion would be his trade value?

I know there has been a lot of speculation on this front, but I don’t get the sense that the Braves want to subtract. I don’t think there is anyway to predict what they might get from Marcell Ozuna this season either, but they have maintained confidence in him despite his on-field struggles in 2021 and 2022 along with his off the field issues. That paid off for them big time last year as he put together one of the best seasons of his career.

Another situation is that if they moved Ozuna, then that potentially opens up a hole in the lineup. Sure they could possibly DH Travis d’Arnaud and Sean Murphy a little more, but I’m not sure that is something they would want to do, as they were pretty hesitant to do so even before Ozuna started breaking out of his funk — the Braves DHed d’Arnaud against four lefty starters in their first seven games, and sometimes DHed Murphy in Chadwick Tromp starts while d’Arnaud was hurt, but in the end, their catchers DHed literally ten times all season. d’Arnaud produced an 83 wRC+ in 74 games last season (albeit with a much better xwOBA) and is about to turn 35.

With all that said. I’m not sure how much trade value Ozuna has. I don’t think there is any way that you can reasonably expect him to duplicate last season. I also wouldn’t bet on him being as bad as he was in 2021 and 2022. Still, he’s a DH that gives a team nothing in the field or on the bases. With the way he has been up and down, I’m not sure if he would bring back something in a trade — maybe if he weren’t owed any money, but he is.

Would it make any sense to trade Ozuna while he still has value, and then sign Jorge Soler? It might create more lineup and payroll flexibility.

I discussed Ozuna’s value above and how I’m not sure it is as high as some think. I know a lot of people have been thinking about bringing Jorge Soler back for a while. Ozuna is 33 and is owed $18 million for 2024 and has a $16 million club option for 2025 that includes a $1 million buyout. So effectively, the Braves owe Ozuna at least $19 million.

Soler is about to turn 32 and opted out of the final year of his contract with the Marlins after hitting 36 home runs last year. My guess is that Soler is looking for another deal of at least three years that will pay him more than the $36 million he signed for in Miami. MLB Trade Rumors predicted a three-year, $45 million deal for Soler. He is still on the market so maybe he doesn’t get that, but you have to think that he is looking for something close.

Signing Soler wouldn’t add any payroll flexibility unless his market has really cratered to the point that he’d take a one-year deal for less than $19 million. In that scenario though, Ozuna was better last season and has the added flexibility of that club option that could (I can’t believe I’m saying this) be picked up if he put together another monster season in 2024. Both players should only be used at the DH position at his point in their careers.

Jorge Soler will forever have a place in my heart because of the 2021 World Series, but I just don’t think it makes much sense, unless some really weird stuff happens, like a team offering a huge return for Ozuna and/or Soler willing to take a much lower deal than Ozuna’s existing commitment. Unfortunately, Dave Stewart probably isn’t walking into a rival Front Office from around the corner at this point.

I know it’s not feasible to trade good players from a great team, but would it be a bad idea to trade A.J. Minter? Being that relievers aren’t super valuable and the Braves have a ton of them. Maybe they could get some good value out of him.

I will admit that there was a brief moment after the team acquired Aaron Bummer that I wondered if they might trade A.J. Minter. However, I return to the same line of thinking for anytime someone suggests they might trade Max Fried. They are trying to win a World Series. If you are trying to win a World Series, you need the best players that you can acquire.

For that reason, I just don’t see it happening. Minter has arguably been their most important pitcher in the bullpen over the last few seasons. I think a lot of teams will be interested in signing Minter next offseason, but I’m not sure what kind of trade value he would have in his last year of team control either. I’m sure they could get something if they wanted, but would that be more valuable than just keeping him and hoping that he pitches important innings in the postseason? The fact that the Braves agreed to terms with Minter ahead of the arbitration figure exchange date makes this even less likely at this point — they’ve already done the legwork on hashing out a deal

Have there been any hints of a reunion with Duvall as a right-handed platoon outfielder?

First, I’m not sure the Braves are looking for a platoon outfielder. Alex Anthopoulos recently said that they are planning to give Jarred Kelenic a chance to play every day. I mentioned above that I do think they will add a right-handed outfielder to the mix, but it might not be as a strict platoon option.

One of the interesting things about Duvall is that he isn’t as good against lefties as you would think. Last season he had a 124 wRC+ against right-handers, but just a 91 against lefties. For his career, he is essentially the same hitter against both with a 100 wRC+ against left-handers and a 97 wRC+ against righties. Even his xwOBA against lefties in his career is a great but not exactly lefty-smashing .329. Basically, Duvall is a platoon option because that way you don’t have to expose yourself to his career .313 xwOBA against right-handers, but not because he’s a silver bullet against lefties. (He has two years in his career with a .350+ xwOBA against lefties, and none more recent than 2020.)

Duvall’s ability to play all three outfield spots would be nice to have, but I’m not sure that he can’t find a job somewhere where he has more than just a bench role. It sounds like he is close to finding a bigger role with either the Red Sox or the Angels.

Do you think there is money available for another mid-level signing or are we looking at just minor league deal with invite to spring training to fill out our 40 men roster?

One thing that we have seen in the past is that they usually always hold back some budget room so that they can add in-season. One of Alex Anthopoulos’ favorite sayings is that they are always looking for ways to make the club better.

I think there is a better chance that we are going to see a lot of minor league deals with Spring Training invites, but I also wouldn’t completely rule out one more signing for the bench either.

With all of the big names from this year’s IFA class now signed, what prospect in the Braves’ system has the most upside? Is it a new guy - Jose Perdomo, Juan Espinal, etc. Or someone that was already in the system like Luis Guanipa?

I Handed this question off to Garrett Spain since he is way more qualified to answer it than I am.

Well, if we’re talking about all players in the system then it’s Hurston Waldrep and I don’t think I would consider it to be that close. You’re talking about a Cy Young level ceiling and I don’t think there is anyone else in the system that has the potential to be the best in the league in that way. I think the question is shooting for position players though, which is a bit of a tougher question. In the ceiling conversation I tend to always answer based on realistic ceiling, because while there are guys like Kadon Morton who have elite physical tools and could be superstars with a hit tool, the likelihood of that is negligible for a productive evaluation. The answer in this case is Luis Guanipa for me, though it’s not a huge gap between him and Jose Perdomo and Perdomo is more likely to reach his ceiling. Keep in mind we’re working with reports and not actual observation here, but Guanipa has better bat speed, raw power, and speed. Perdomo does have a value advantage in playing shortstop but Guanipa’s overall physical toolset is remarkable and makes up for that gap.

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