The Braves‘ most pressing needs surround the pitching staff.
The starting rotation needs addressing, regardless of Charlie Morton’s decision. The bullpen needs bolstering as well. In my perfect world, Atlanta adds three or four high-powered arms, giving Brian Snitker seven or eight reliable arms out of the ‘pen. It might not show in the regular season, but it does show up in October, which is the only thing the Braves need to be concerned about.
There’s still work to do among position players, though. The Braves need to do something about left field. Whether that means exercising Eddie Rosario’s option and adding a right-handed bat to platoon or finding an everyday starter, something is coming down the pike.
The Athletic sees All-Star outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. as a free agent fit.
17. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (opt-out clause)
B: R T: R HT: 6-4 WT: 215
2023 (Diamondbacks): 3.0 WAR
Career: 10.8 WAR
Agent: Wasserman 2023 salary: $5.83 million
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. had arguably the best year of his career, and it couldn’t come at a better time. In 2016, Gurriel signed a seven-year, $22 million contract with the Blue Jays that covered 2017 through 2023 and included a player opt-out clause after this season; the opt out overrides his service time, which would have given his organization, now the Diamondbacks, another year of control. Gurriel slashed .261/.309/.463 this season with 35 doubles, 24 home runs and 82 RBIs. He also had 14 Defensive Runs Saved, the best mark of his career by far.
Best fits: Diamondbacks, Braves, Mariners
Contract prediction: Three years, $36 million
I’m not quite sure Gurriel is an obvious upgrade over Rosario, especially looking at their 2023 stats, but he’s certainly a cost-effective option.
Rosario is also one of the streakiest hitters in all of baseball, and he didn’t show up when the lights were brightest. On the other hand, Gurriel has been the model of consistency, never posting an OPS+ below 100 (or league average).
In his six-year career, Gurriel has a career OPS+ of 118 and an OPS just shy of .800 at .791. Moreover, he’s somewhat positionally versatile. Gurriel primarily plays left field but has also seen some time at first base, which could prove valuable if Matt Olson needs a rest or ever goes down with an injury.
Defensively, they’re comparable players, and Rosario might even be slightly better. As I said, it’s not an massive upgrade, but Gurriel provides a bit more consistency; it just depends on what the Braves are looking for.