Welcome back to the Atlanta Braves “way too early trade candidates” column
The Atlanta Braves have plenty of holes; one trade will not be enough to put them over the top. However, they have such a strong core that catching the Mets is far from unfathomable, and some trade scenarios make sense for Alex Anthopoulos to consider at the deadline.
In fact, according to an interview with Alex Anthopoulos from Jeff Schultz of The Athletic (subscription required), when asked if the Atlanta Braves would add at the deadline, the answer was pretty straightforward, “I feel like we can add in every area. We can get better in the bullpen, the rotation, and offensively, of course. We have two guys starting for us who were not a part of our projected outfield.”
Who should the Atlanta Braves Target?
Remember, we’re looking at realistic trades here. There are endless possibilities, but there are typically three reasons why teams make trades.
- Rebuilding: Teams that know they won’t compete may trade their desirable players for prospects to expedite the rebuild process. We’ll be looking for veteran players who can help the Braves win now from these teams.
- Contending: Teams that feel they will compete will trade their prospects for players to help the club now to a rebuilding team. The Braves currently fall into this category.
- Salary Dump: Baseball is a business, and a team in a tight spot financially may be willing to trade a contract they no longer want for financial flexibility. Depending on the scenario, a team could part with a prospect or Major League players for cash considerations.
The Pirates, Orioles, Tigers, Rangers, Diamondbacks, Rockies are virtual locks to be sellers. The Atlanta Braves could work out a trade with any of these teams, but it is important to note that these teams are in different rebuild phases. This means that the type of contracts they are willing to move will vary depending on which phase they are in.
The Orioles line up well with the Braves
The Baltimore Orioles are abysmal and have been for years. At the time of this writing, they are 20 games out of first place with a .319 winning percentage. However, they have a bright future, possessing a farm system that ranked 5th in MLB.com’s preseason rankings.
The Orioles also do not have much guaranteed money on the books. According to Spotrac, they are only required to pay $21,065,362 in 2022, which will increase slightly after arbitration salaries are determined.
Although rich with prospects, Baltimore may be willing to move contracts of players who will not be on the team when they are ready to compete again if it will speed up their rebuild by adding more prospects with high upside. The Atlanta Braves do not have the highly ranked farm system that they had the past few years, but they do have some prospects that are near MLB ready, who could pry away some decent returns in a trade.
Enter Trey Mancini
If we are honest, a defensively limited corner outfielder would not have been on the wish list just for the Braves a few short months ago. Times have changed, though, and a guy like Mancini would be an instant upgrade to a Braves outfield starting two non-prospects that were in the minors to begin the season. No disrespect to Abraham Almonte, but you are not in good shape offensively if he is your clean-up hitter.
Almonte has been a nice surprise with a 144 OPS+ (44% better than league average), but the sample size has been minuscule. He has a career OPS+ of 84; regression is sure to be around the corner. Guillermo Heredia was also a breath of fresh air when he was called up but is slumping tremendously as of late.
It only makes sense to add another big bat in the outfield mix. Mancini would not only provide that, but he is relatively cheap at the pro-rated amount of 4.75 million and is under team control via arbitration next year as well.
Trey Mancini brings a history of a well above average bat, even if his defense is lacking.
Mancini is limited defensively; he has never had a positive defensive season from a value standpoint, posting a negative defensive Wins Above Replacement (dWAR) every year.
So far this season, in 401.1 innings at 1st base, Mancini has a -0.6 dWAR. That is not good. However, in only 121 innings in left field, Almonte has already accumulated -0.5 dWAR, so theoretically, Mancini could be a defensive upgrade over Almonte.
To be fair, left field is a more valuable position than 1st base, so it would make more sense to look at 2019 (Mancini did not play in 2020) when Mancini had 718.2 innings in the outfield. He posted a -1.1 dWAR. Almonte is on pace to have an egregious -2.96 dWAR if he were to play the same amount of innings in the outfield that Mancini did in 2019.
From an offensive standpoint, Mancini has always been excellent. His career slash line is .275/.337/.486, which is good for 20% above average in the OPS department, boasting a 120 OPS+, and he’s been even better lately, posting a 134 OPS+ in 223 games since 2019.
These are not MVP numbers, but it puts him up there with other All-Star caliber players. For example, in 2019 (the last full MLB season), if we look at the top 10 best hitters in the American League in terms of OPS+, #10 was Yoan Moncada with a 139, which is only 5% better than Mancini has been since then.
What about Mancini’s underlying metrics?
There is a lot of controversies when looking at peripherals since they are not true outcome numbers. However, they are a good tool to help understand if a player has had luck on their side or if the way they are performing has a high probability of continuing. The keyword is “probability.” These numbers cannot predict the future, but they are a good tool to have in your chest when evaluating if a player has a chance to continue his true outcome numbers at his current pace.
Mancini’s peripherals, according to Baseball Savant:
- Expected Batting Average (xBA) – Top 95% of the MLB
- Expected Weighted On Base Average (xwOBA) – Top 92%
- Expected Slugging Percentage (xSLG) – Top 89%
- Barrel Percentage (Barrel%) – Top 85%
- Hard Hit Percentage (HardHit%) – Top 61%
Based on these numbers, Mancini has actually been unlucky compared to his true outcome numbers. So, the odds are pretty high that Mancini will continue, if not exceed, his current output.
A trade like this makes sense for both sides. Mancini is only under team control through 2022, and the Orioles will not be competing next season either. Given that Baltimore is traditionally allergic to handing out big contracts, they need to move Mancini at some point, and his value has never been higher than it is right now.