At this past weekend’s Chop Fest, Alex Anthopoulos addressed the media about potential moves in the near future. He said a lot of things were in the works, especially in the outfield market where the Braves most noticeable need remains. Anthopoulos added there are ‘probably’ three guys in the free agency and trade markets he feels could be a fit in Atlanta’s outfield, including one name that has not been discussed publicly in the media.
Finally, there’s some spice to the conversation. Let’s take a look at five guys who could be occupying the corner outfield spot for the Braves next season, featuring a couple of obvious candidates and a stab at who this mystery player could be.
If I had to put my money on who will be playing right field for the Braves to begin next season, it would be Nick Markakis. It’s the furthest thing from what many Braves’ fans want to hear, but with a dwindling market, Markakis could be the best bang they can get for their buck at this point. Despite falling off in the second half, he still hit a hair under .300, with a .366 on-base percentage and an OPS over .800 while winning a gold glove. He may not be the ideal cleanup hitter, but if he returns, I doubt that is where he will be in the lineup any longer. Markakis is still a quality player and veteran presence that brings a winning attitude to the club.
Pollock has been connected to the Braves for a couple of months now. He has a few significant strings attached to him, however. First off, he’s been hampered by injuries, playing in over 140 games only once in his seven-year career. Secondly, if the Braves were to sign him, they would be forced to cough up a compensation pick, something they have been rumored to be hesitant about. Lastly, he is also going to cost a good chunk of change more than Nick Markakis. He’s younger and would undoubtedly be an upgrade over Markakis, but the investment may not turn out being worth the risk.
I wouldn’t count Peralta as the under the radar candidate that Anthopoulos is talking about, as several rumors have linked the Braves and Peralta, and Gabe Burns of the AJC even mentioned Atlanta contacting the D-Backs in regards to Peralta during the Winter Meetings. Burns said at the time that the Braves were turned away. But things change, and Peralta would be an ideal addition to the lineup.
The Braves want a true cleanup hitter to hit behind Acuña, Donaldson, and Freeman. Peralta is just that coming off a season where he hit 30 home runs and drove in 87 runs in 146 games. The Diamondbacks aren’t undergoing a full-blown rebuild yet, so it may take some convincing, but quite some time has passed since the Braves front office was initially turned away.
Following the trade of Yasiel Puig, it was unknown if the Dodgers were interested in dealing anymore of their talented outfield surplus. It appears they are, with rumors now swirling around a possible trade with the White Sox for Joc Pederson. Pederson has yet to be connected with the Braves, which means he could be the mystery man Anthopoulos was alluding to when talking about possible outfield additions.
It makes sense. Pederson brings much-needed power from the left side even though he is only a .228 career-hitter. He is a plus defender and could be a nice platoon option with players like Camargo, Duvall and even Riley expected to get some reps in the outfield in 2019. He probably would not cost an arm and a leg prospect-wise and fits in age-wise with the rest of Atlanta’s young core.
Acquiring Reyes would be the epitome of an out of nowhere move that Anthopoulos was talking about. Some rumblings out of the Padres’ camp early in the offseason suggested they were trying to move some of their surplus of outfield talent. However, those rumblings appear to have softened over the last couple of months, as San Diego remains focused on becoming a contender next year.
Whether that is possible or not is something the Padres front office has to be honestly evaluating. If they decide they cannot, Reyes would be a dream fit in the order by Freeman. In only 87 games played as a rookie last year, he blasted 16 home runs, which is even more impressive considering half of his games are in San Diego.
Reyes will only be 23 next year, fitting perfectly alongside the rest of the Braves core for the foreseeable future. Although, his strikeout numbers, defense, injury history, along with the prospects the Braves would have to move may make a deal for Reyes unrealistic.