With the Braves saying goodbye to Dansby Swanson, who signed a massive deal with the Cubs, Alex Anthopoulos has money to bolster the roster. Their obvious hole is at shortstop, but I expect the cap space to be allocated to other positions because of the available free agents on the market. The outfield and designate hitting options are much more plentiful than shortstop; here are some free agent targets that could interest the Braves:
Now, each of these options is different. Some will be costly, while others will garner less expensive contracts. Conforto is a prove-it deal candidate. Coming off a down 2021 campaign, the veteran makes a ton of sense after missing the 2022 season due to injury. Conforto can build up his value on a one-year deal for a run at what could be his last potential lucrative free agent deal next offseason. With the Braves’ deep lineup, Conforto wouldn’t get pitched around, and he’s familiar with the division. It makes a lot of sense.
Drury is an above-average bat, coming off a career-best 2022 campaign, and is about as versatile of a defender as any in this league. He slashed .263/.320/.492 with 28 home runs and 87 RBIs last year en route to Silver Slugger honors. Over his career, Drury has spent time in left field, right field, shortstop, third base, second base, and first base. He’s only 30 years old and would be deadly in the middle of the Braves lineup. The club could give him a one-year, high AAV deal or spread it out across a few years with a slightly lower AAV.
Mancini’s 2022 season was a tale of two cities. In Houston, he posted a .176/.258/.364 slash line with eight home runs and 49 strikeouts, going just 1-for-21 in the postseason for the Astros. However, in 92 games with the Orioles, Mancini hit .268/.347/.404 with a respectable .751 OPS and 113 OPS+ — 13 points above league average. After missing the entire 2020 season because of a battle with cancer (which he won), Mancini’s performance has been a bag of mixed results, but he’s an improvement over what the Braves currently have in Eddie Rosario and Marcell Ozuna
Pollock won’t be as expensive as some other options because of his mediocre season with the White Sox, in which he slashed just .245/.292/.389, with a .297 wOBA and 92 wRC+ — the first season in nearly a decade he posted a sub-100 wRC+. He might not be an All-Star anymore, but he’s still a decent option in a platoon scenario.
Honestly, I don’t know why this move hasn’t already been made. Duvall is an obvious candidate to return on a one-year deal, coming off a serious wrist injury. Before going down with the injury, Duvall was actually finding his groove and looking like the version we saw in 2021, where he totaled 38 home runs, 113 RBIs, and won a Gold Glove. He won’t be asked to play center anymore and will provide a ton of pop in the Braves lineup; plus, the familiarity between both sides is there. This makes the most sense out of all these free agent targets.
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