The outfield is my #2 need for the Braves going into this offseason. Right now, they have a ton of options, but not a lot that can put this team over the edge. Nick Markakis has a buyout, Matt Joyce is a free agent, Ender Inciarte is under contract for a few more years, but do the Braves envision him as part of their future? There are a lot of decisions Anthopoulos will have to make. He could postpone those until next offseason, but Atlanta should be looking to win now after capturing back-to-back NL East crowns.
Ozuna didn’t work out as well as the Cardinals would have hoped in St. Louis, but he will be a top target for teams looking for outfield help. He was a two-time All-Star with Miami, only 28 years old, and coming off a season in which he hit 29 homers with a .800 OPS.
Castellanos was linked to the Braves several times last offseason. The Tigers held onto him until the trade deadline, however, finally dealing him to the Cubs, where he proceeded to explode. He hit .321 with a 1.002 OPS and 16 home runs in only 51 games for Chicago.
Other Starting Options
There’s always the option of bringing Markakis back. He’s cheap and was well worth the money in 2019 once again. If the Braves can’t land a substantial upgrade, riding Markakis until Pache or Waters is ready is probably the best solution.
Gordon was an All-Star in Kansas City from 2013-2015. He’s fallen since then but did just put up his best season with the bat since 2015, posting a .741 OPS. Gordon remains an elite defender, but is he much of an upgrade over Markakis? I wouldn’t say so.
Puig might feel like a headliner, but the reality is he is more of a name than anything. Is he a slight upgrade over Markakis? Probably, and there’s a higher ceiling. More than anything, it would be nice to have someone outside of the top four batters strike fear into the opposing pitcher, knowing the game could change with one swing.
Dickerson has had some pretty good years as a pro and hit .304 with 12 homers and 59 RBIs in just 78 games last year for the Pirates and Phillies. He’s a left-handed bat with a little more pop than Markakis, a career OPS of .832, and he is five years younger.
Can’t imagine him playing anywhere other than New York.
Garcia was an All-Star back in 2017 with the White Sox, finishing the year with a .330 batting average. A down 2018 forced him to settle for a one-year deal with the Rays, where he hit a career-high 20 home runs in 125 games with a .796 OPS. At 28, he should be in for a multi-year deal.
Pence went from being out of the league to an All-Star, but health only allowed him to play 83 games. At 37, it’s an intriguing thought, but Markakis seems like a more reliable option.
He may have a little more pop than Markakis, but I doubt the Braves would move on from Markakis for Adam Jones.
I do think this is a pivotal year in the process of building a perennial World Series threat. Alex Anthopoulos has to be evaluating how Atlanta can get better at each position, and there are two lingering question marks at each corner outfield spot. Most teams are getting 170+ RBIs, and 50+ bombs from these positions. The Braves got about half of that and never had a firm starting outfield. Austin Riley will be an option in left if Anthopoulos decides to bring back Josh Donaldson. Although, his end to the season doesn’t inspire too much confidence heading into 2020.
The Braves could bring Markakis back. After all, he’s a bargain at his current number, and Atlanta has a couple of budding outfield prospects on the horizon. Holding onto Markakis and Inciarte as stopgaps until Cristian Pache or Drew Waters is ready may be the best way to allocate money elsewhere. However, if neither Waters or Pache prove to be better than Markakis, and Austin Riley’s scuffle continues, then the Braves will be missing out once again at a position where offense is generally produced.