Just when you thought the stove was getting cold, more rumors emerge regarding the Atlanta Braves. Though the team has made two big trades this offseason, it appears they may not be done dealing. According to Jim Bowden of ESPN, the team is seeking a power bat to add to their lineup. This makes sense when you look at the Braves’ lineup on paper. Offensively, they actually look improved from last season. Ender Inciarte and Erick Aybar are upgrades on that side of the ball. Hector Olivera has the potential to be a nice mid-lineup bat. Having an 100% Nick Markakis and Freddie Freeman in the fold also makes them more dangerous. However, this lineup is missing one piece: a guy who can hit behind Freddie Freeman in the lineup and hit for power. Adding this type of player will allow our best hitter to see better pitches and help produce runs.
One name that has popped up in recent rumors is Yoenis Cespedes. We saw this past season how adding one impact bat can change the whole dynamic of your offense when the New York Mets made a run to the World Series. The Braves appear unlikely to sign Cespedes despite the rumors, and John Coppolella is likely just doing his due diligence on the free agent market. However, such a move would shuffle the time frame forward for the team to compete. With a weak free agent class next winter, I would not mind seeing the team spend to get Yoenis, who is a game-changer. Because he was traded midseason, he can not cost the Braves a draft pick and considering he is still available mid-January, clearly the market isn’t as fruitful as the Cuban slugger hoped it would be.
Another rumor that has popped up is a potential Ender Inciarte trade with the Astros. Such a deal, according to Jerry Crasnick, would have to see Carlos Gomez go in the deal. While I think Inciarte is a great piece for the Braves: young, cost-controlled and talented, I think he is also a great sell-high candidate. If we can find a way to turn him into a power bat for this lineup, I’m all for it. Gomez, however, is not the first target the team should pursue.
An Inciarte trade makes even more sense, however, when taking into account that Mallex Smith has a very similar skillset. Nick Markakis could be another name to watch, considering that Bowden said the team was looking at corner outfielders. Markakis could be the odd man out given his contract, and if the Braves really surprise and make a signing, they will likely have to move that contract simply to make it work.
Take these rumors with a grain of salt but know that there was a ton of speculation that the team was going to trade Shelby Miller, and it ended up happening. The more you hear, the more believable such a scenario will become. However, I think the Braves still plan on using their cash on the international market this summer.
It will be an interesting scenario to watch play out, and the team currently does have the right idea. A power bat is exactly what this team needs. It’s now up to the front office to decide at what pace they want to let their rebuild play out.