The Braves have done a nice job of at least having a game plan to fill needs for the upcoming season. They acquired Matt Kemp to man left field. Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson are expected to man second base and shortstop, respectively. While Adonis Garcia and Tyler Flowers have contributed this season, there is little doubt that they are not in the Braves’ long term plans. The Braves have talented prospects at third base and catcher, their two biggest needs to fill this offseason, but unfortunately that talent is still in the lower levels of the minor leagues.
As far as the catcher position goes, the team has options. There have been rumblings that a Brian McCann trade could surface if the Yankees eat some money. The free agent market includes names such as Matt Wieters and Wilson Ramos. However, the options at the hot corner are thin for Atlanta.
There is one difference making third baseman that will hit the open market, and that is Justin Turner. He is perhaps the most underrated name to hit free agency this winter.
There is no questioning that Turner would still not be a long-term solution. He turns 32 this winter and was a late bloomer in the big leagues.
There is no denying, however, that Turner has raked this year. He is currently slashing at a .275/.346/.496 rate (good for a .842 OPS) with 19 homers and 64 RBI. As the Braves clear salary and turn the corner on their rebuild, they will look to start spending money to improve the offense. Turner is a great addition to any team. He plays a well rounded game and has put up WARs of 4.2, 3.9 and 3.7 the last three seasons. If he can be a 20+ home run guy for the Braves and they upgrade at the backstop, they could quickly turn into a feared offense.
The biggest obstacle for the front office will be having to outbid the Dodgers for his services, assuming they want him back. The frame for an ideal Turner deal would likely be similar to what Daniel Murphy got from the Nationals last winter. A 3-year, $40 million deal with a team option in the third year allows the Braves a stopgap between now and when prospects with the likes of Austin Riley will be ready to contribute to the big league team. The Braves have little money committed and he would be a short term investment.
He’s not Chipper Jones, but Justin Turner is an under-the-radar guy who can really help this team. Just imagine this lineup heading into 2017:
(Jace Peterson super utility player)
That could be a dangerous combination, especially if the Braves decide to upgrade to a power bat in right field as well. Mallex Smith and Ender Inciarte have similar skillsets, so either could potentially be moved in a package to acquire such a player. The Braves will have a lot of money to spend this winter, and it’s fun to look at the different possibilities they will have going forward. Justin Turner is a name Braves fans need to keep in the back of their heads between now and when the weather turns cold.