Braves: Markakis, Duvall and the hole in RF

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The road to October just got a bit bumpier.

The Braves continue to have a clear motive as we near ever closer to the trade deadline: add a responsible rotation arm and a proven closer. For the most part, that continues to be the plan.

That is, until, this weekend happened.

This comes as a blow for the Braves. Swanson’s injury, while upsetting, is covered with Camargo coming off the bench to take over. The problem, just like the offseason, remains the hole to fill in right field.

Right now, Adam Duvall will take over in right. He tore up AAA Gwinnett with 29 HR and 84 RBIs in 94 games. His first game in the majors ended with three hits, a homer, and 2 RBIs. He’s a pretty good option for now. But; if Duvall remains the option in right field, then the new problem poses itself in the form of an almost-empty bench.

Perennial Problems

Let’s travel back in time for a bit. The year is 2018. We’re well into the offseason with McCann and Donaldson to show for it. Our option for right field, Adam Duvall, is coming off a .132/.151/.344 slash line for the Braves in 2018. Michael Brantley heads south to Houston. AJ Pollock moves to the evil empire of the NL, Los Angeles. Something needs to be done; but what?

Enter the 2018 Gold Glove winner for right field, Nick Markakis. AA re-signed Kakes to a one year, $4M contract to come back and man the right corner for the defending NL East champs.

Fast forward to Friday night, as we find ourselves in the very spot we stood in during the offseason. As of today, our options remain, yet again, limited, with the news of Tampa Bay acquiring Eric Sogard from Toronto.

We’re a couple of days out from the 31st. We have needs to fill with not a lot of options on the table. The rotation needs a consistent, controllable arm. The bullpen needs a proven closer. We either need an option for right field or a bench-filler. Something needs to be done.

1. Trade for Nick Castellanos

This looks familiar, right?

The Braves continue to be linked to the Tigers outfielder as an option. For the last couple of years, we’ve seen his name in the mix for potential trades. The Braves failed to make a move each time, as the need never was severe enough to meet the asking price. Now, the stars may end up aligning.

Castellanos is slashing .300/.354/.514 against lefties in his career with 11 homers and 37 RBIs on the season. His offensive upside and willingness to adjust to whatever position needed for contenders could prove beneficial for Atlanta. The Braves will likely end up matched up against the Dodgers at some point if October is in the cards, and Castellanos’s lefty power would be a boost against their dominant arsenal of southpaws.

His downside? The shaky defense. Castellanos isn’t a banner defender, which may throw up enough red flags for AA to look past his offensive consistency. AA likes guys with a promising bat coupled with the consistent fielding ability, which isn’t necessarily what Castellanos could bring to Atlanta.

2. Make a move for Yasiel Puig

There might not be a player on the planet more motivated to defeat the Dodgers in a playoff series than Yasiel Puig, and the Reds intend on moving him before the trade deadline. The return shouldn’t be anything extravagant, and the Braves would be acquiring a known commodity that will get on base and provide a ton of power from the right side. The issue with Puig has always been his attitude and how it will affect the clubhouse. That’s extremely important to AA and the Braves, which makes this move seem less likely than one for Castellanos.

3. Acquire Trey Mancini

Jon Morosi of the MLB Network tweeted late last night that the Baltimore Orioles are active in trade talks involving outfielder Trey Mancini, and plenty of suitors are lining up. With Markakis unlikely to return this season, one has to wonder if the Braves are one of those teams engaging with the Orioles. Anthopoulos is familiar with the AL East, and Mancini would serve as an option past this season. He has three more arbitration years remaining on his contract and is hitting .279 with 24 home runs in 2019. But of course, that means the price will be much higher than a Puig or Castellanos, but it may be worth it due to the Braves unfortunate situation.

4. Give Austin Riley another chance

A month ago or so, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. It would’ve been a given.

Austin Riley came to Atlanta with a vengeance. His extremely hot-paced production at the plate coupled with his nervelessness almost seemed like he was saying “what took you so long?” to the execs in the box.

Then, the inevitable happened; the dreaded slump. Everyone kinda knew he’d cool off. I just don’t think we expected this much of a cool-down.

Riley went NUTS in his first few days in the majors, postingĀ .375/.786/1.192 with seven home runs and 20 RBIs in his first 14 games. Unfortunately, pitchers have figured him out. His out-of-this-world production came back into the atmosphere, dropping to .246/.504/.805 on the season, going .190 with five homers and 12 RBIs in his last 30 games. His drop was enough to move him from a cemented everyday player to a platoon option off the bench.

Now, I’m all for the extremes of performance; “extremes” are how I live my life (you can see my extreme expectations for Riley here.) But, if Atlanta is going to make a legitimate push for October, then Riley is going to need to solve his off-speed issues soon.

5. Stay put with Adam Duvall

Our last resort option this past winter now may very well be our best option.

Duvall came to Atlanta from Cincinnati at last year’s deadline for Lucas Sims, Preston Tucker, and Matt Wisler. His high-power history and experience in the outfield were enough add him as a possible boost to their 2018 run.

Sadly, it didn’t pan out as planned.

Duvall performed less than exceptional, or even normal for that matter. His aforementioned .132/.151/.344 slash line was not only enough to start him in AAA Gwinnett this season, but more than enough to keep him there until this weekend.

It’s looking like all that time in the minors was beneficial for the veteran slugger. He’s found his swing again and can post consistent numbers without the dreaded drop-off that he’s infamous for. His debut was promising enough to raise an eyebrow or two at least. If he can prove he’s found his stride once again and can stay consistent to his Gwinnett numbers, we could very well see Duvall stay in right as our everyday option.

The trade deadline is Wednesday, July 31st at 4:00 PM ET. Follow SportsTalkATL for all of the Braves news, transactions, and rumors leading up to the deadline.

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