Braves: Letting Adam Duvall walk was the right move

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Alex Anthopoulos said one of the reasons the Braves decided to backload Marcell Ozuna‘s contract was so they had some room to add to their bullpen and bench this season. One bench option that made obvious sense was Adam Duvall, who had a stellar 2020 and has spent the last two-and-a-half years in Atlanta. Unfortunately, he signed with the Marlins yesterday to a one-year contract worth $5 million guaranteed.

After a brutal start to his Braves career, Duvall became a real productive piece of the team over the last two seasons, smacking 26 homers in just 98 games while boasting an .852 OPS. When Atlanta decided to non-tender the right-handed slugger, it shocked just about all of Braves Country. But with Marcell Ozuna back in the cards and the universal DH returning to the National League in 2021 looking less and less likely, parting ways with Duvall makes plenty of sense for both sides.

From Duvall’s perspective, he gets an opportunity to play every day with a team that is becoming more competitive by the year. It also doesn’t get much better than living in Miami, either. On the Braves, he would have been a fourth outfielder and probably only started once or twice a week while serving as a pinch-hitter on other nights — something he hasn’t had much success with over his career.

Duvall has only hit .221 with four homers and 25 strikeouts in 77 pinch-hit at-bats over his career. Since 2018, those numbers have been even worse. That year, he hit below the Mendoza line with no homers in 35 pinch-hit plate appearances. The next season, he went just 1-8 in pitch-hit opportunities before finally having success last season, going 2-5 with a homer.

It’s been pretty apparent over his Braves career that Duvall is the type of player that needs at-bats to find a rhythm. He is undoubtedly one of the streakiest hitters in the majors. When he’s hot, you want him in the lineup every day, but he needs those everyday at-bats in order to heat up.

With no DH in the National League, those at-bats weren’t going to be there for Duvall. Acuna, Pache, and Ozuna will be starting nearly every game, making Duvall strictly a pinch-hitter. Paying him $5 million to do something he’s proven to struggle with over his career doesn’t make much sense. It sucks to let him walk, especially after the way he was able to bounce back from his miserable 2018 stint in Atlanta. But with money being tight, Anthopoulos can likely find a bench bat that is equally as valuable for a fraction of the price. 

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