With the Braves trading Shelby Miller and Andrelton Simmons, it’s clear that the front office pushed back the timeframe for competitiveness a bit. However, this team looks much more prepared to be long-time contenders when that period begins. The team got more years of cost-controlled talent, and shredded payroll in the process. The team received Ender Inciarte in the Shelby Miller trade, and he’s a very similar player to our own Nick Markakis. Inciarte actually hit for a better average than Markakis, and had 21 steals in the process while offering elite defense. Consider this: Inciarte actually had more runs saved last season than Jason Heyward. Markakis was great for us last season, but Inciarte is a more team-friendly long-term option.
For now, the plan appears to be Hector Olivera in left field, Ender Inciarte in center, and Nick Markakis in right. With this being said, Inciarte did spend a lot of time in right field, so he could be our long term option there. There are a lot of variables in play. Mallex Smith is an intriguing prospect who will likely be ready by midseason, and he plays center. He is a cost-controlled option for the team who has the foundation of becoming a great leadoff hitter. If he comes on strong, the team could look to trade Markakis in an effort to start Mallex in center and Inciarte in right. The move would help develop future assets and shed very valuable payroll.
But consider this: what if Mallex flops? I dont think he will, but no prospect is a sure thing. What if Olivera ends up playing third base after all, and left field is a wide open starting job for Mallex? The Braves have options as we speak, but making a trade at this moment would be a serious roll of the dice. Consider that Markakis is spending a full season recovering from neck surgery, and is expected to be at full strength for next season’s campaign.
Teams such as the Royals have already shown interest, but it I think the right avenue for the team is to wait until the deadline and sell high on Markakis if Mallex is ready and Hector is in left field. I expect a lot more production out of Markakis in 2016. The team will not get a full return on their investment if they look to move him now.