Braves: Best bench options left on the market

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Disappointingly, Jonathan Villar just signed a one year, $3.5 million contract with the Mets. He was my favorite free agent that was still available — basically a souped up Johan Camargo — a switch hitter but with much more speed, power, and versatility. Given Anthopoulos said he backloaded Ozuna’s contract to add to the bench and bullpen, I think Atlanta can afford one or maybe even two of these guys. If you want to see some of the best bullpen names left, check out Chase’s article here. I’ll be targeting versatile players that can handle a multitude of positions or players who do one thing very well. Unfortunately, catcher is very thin, so you may notice this is a pretty substantial omission. Tyler Flowers is easily the best name left on the market. I’ll be avoiding former Braves with the exception of one obvious candidate.

Yasiel Puig

2019 Stats: .267/.327/.458, 24 HRs, 84 RBIs

After agreeing in principle to a contract with the Braves during the 2020 season, a failed COVID test sidelined Yasiel Puig and voided the signing. We didn’t hear from him again, and fans questioned why he didn’t get another offer — especially after Adam Duvall went down with an injury during the 2020 postseason. Puig has a powerful right-handed swing, and he fits in with Atlanta’s clubhouse. He has some legal issues ongoing, but if those check out, I’d easily have him back.

Adam Duvall

2020 Stats: .237/.301/.533, 16 HRs, 33 RBIs

I still don’t think non-tendering Adam Duvall was a good decision, but if the Braves get him back on a bargain, Alex Anthopoulos will have proven me wrong again. Hopefully, we don’t have a Darren O’Day situation, where Duvall signs somewhere else for pennies. The closer Atlanta gets to Spring Training, the chances of Duvall coming back increases (in my opinion). Duvy has provided some insanely clutch moments, especially in the postseason.

Derek Dietrech

2020 Stats: .197/.307/.459, 5 HRs, 8 RBIs

As I mentioned, versatility will be a big part of this piece. Dietrech had a pretty bad 2020 and only appeared in 25 games, but he can play nearly anywhere on the diamond. The Braves could do a lot worse than the former Georgia Tech product, especially if he’s available on a minor league pact.

Brad Miller

2020 Stats: .232/.357/.451, 7 HRs, 25 RBIs

Brad Miller is one of my favorite options left on the market. He can hold down some first base duties and plays both middle infield spots well. These are arguably three of the weakest positions on Atlanta’s bench, and Miller has a lot of pop in his bat. He’s one season removed from clubbing 30 home runs and posting an .894 OPS for Tampa in 2016.

Maikel Franko

2020 Stats: .278/.321/.457, 8 HRs, 38 RBIs

You could make the argument that the former Phillie and Royal had the best 2020 out of anyone on this list at the dish. Franco is a bit of a liability on defense at times, but he should be fine as a fill in behind Austin Riley.

Nomar Mazara

2020 Stats: .228/.295/.294, 1 HR, 15 RBIs

Mazara is a true three outcome hitter, and while this may be me projecting (I thought Mazara would be a star); he could be an interesting project pickup. He was good for 20 home runs (and about 115 strikeouts) every season of his career until an abysmal 2020. I would still take him on a minor league pact and see if he get can the bat rolling in Gwinnett.

Jason Kipnis

2020 Stats: .237/.301/.404, 3 HRs, 16 RBIs

Kipnis’ days of being one of the elite second basemen in baseball are certainly behind him, but I still think he’s a great leader that provides a lot more than what you see on the stat sheet. Injuries have undoubtedly caused a lot of his decline, but I’m sure he has still got a few clutch bombs left in him.

Jedd Gyorko

2020 Stats: .248/.333/.504, 9 HRs, 17 RBIs

Gyorko is a name that has really faded over the years, but he was absolutely dominant in the mid-2010s. He isn’t the same 30 home run guy, and his defense isn’t going to wow anyone, but he clubbed nine home runs for Milwaukee in a shortened 2020 season and can play first, second, and third base.

Joe Panik

2020 Stats: .225/.340/.300, 1 HR, 7 RBIs

Another guy who really fell off; there was a serious conversation for Joe Panik being one of the best second basemen in the majors six years ago. He played fantastic defense and was always wearing out the gaps. As his play dipped, he was shipped off to the Mets where, shockingly, he played okay. Even with an uninspiring 2020, I’d be willing to throw a minor league deal at Panik.

Jackie Bradley Jr.

2020 Stats: .284/.364/.450, 7 HRs, 22 RBIs

While defense *can* be overrated in baseball, I don’t think that’s the case for JBJ. He is truly one of the rangiest players in the game. Additionally, he’s coming off his best year at the plate. Bradley is certainly an upgrade over Ender Inciarte, and his sneaky power probably makes him my favorite player left on this list. It’s a shame the DH is on the shelf for now — Acuña Jr, Pache, and Jackie Bradley Jr. would be one hell of a defensive set in the outfield.

Tyler Naquin

2020 Stats: .218/.248/.383, 4 HRs, 20 RBIs

Naquin is a player who I felt never got a fair shake, and I thought he would be a star after his rookie season when he posted an .886 OPS. He quietly had a very good 2019 as well, and even though his 2020 numbers weren’t great, I think he’s a pretty solid option on a minor league deal.

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