Braves: Potential blockbuster outfield targets

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If the Braves aren’t willing to spend the money it will take to bring Marcell Ozuna back, they will have to find a backup plan, and there aren’t many power bats left on the free-agent market. That could force Alex Anthopoulos to start considering the idea of a blockbuster trade much more seriously.

As of now, the Braves have two holes on their team — left field and third base. I wrote yesterday about the third basemen Anthopoulos could target in a potential trade. Today, I’ll be going through the outfielders. While there aren’t as many game-changing power bats who play outfield compared to the third baseman group, there are still a few impact players the Braves could acquire.

Just like I did with the third baseman, I’ll be breaking up the outfields into three categories — unlikely, possible, and green light.


Whit Merrifield

For a good reason, several teams have tried to pry away Whit Merrifield from the Royals as they continue to rebuild. He is a machine with the stick, leading the league in hits in 2018 and 2019. He’s also a menace on the base-paths, racking up 99 steals from 2017-2019. Merrifield doesn’t hit for much power, so he’s not exactly what the Braves are looking for in the middle of their lineup, but he is good for about 15-20 homers each season. Regardless, the Royals seem intent on keeping him, and I can’t blame them, considering he is only scheduled to make $7.25 million in 2021, $2.95 million in 2022 (!), and $6.7 million in 2023.

Ian Happ

Given the Cubs’ unwillingness to rebuild because of how porous the NL Central is, I don’t imagine they will seriously consider trading Ian Happ. Still, I wouldn’t totally count it out, and he would be an ideal fit for the Braves. The 26-year-old accrued 1.9 fWAR during the shortened season, has a career .825 OPS and can play third base if needed. On top of that, he still has two more years of arbitration years remaining after 2021. It would take a lot to pry him away from the Cubs, but he’d be a nice fit because of his offense and versatility.


Lourdes Gurriel Jr. 

The Blue Jays seem to be focused on one thing — winning. They’ve been one of the most active teams in free agency, filling in the pieces around their ultra-talented young core. If winning is the only thing on their mind, Gurriel Jr. is staying put. However, after acquiring George Springer, the Blue Jays have an overcrowded outfield, and Gurriel would bring back quite a prospect haul in return.

Gurriel raked for Toronto last season, slashing .308/.348/.534 with 11 homers in 57 games. He also comes with plenty of affordable team control, as he’s scheduled to make $3.5 million this season, $4.5 million in 2022, and $5.4 million in 2023 before his third and final year of arbitration. Who knows if the Blue Jays would really entertain selling him, but it’s certainly worth a phone call.

Mitch Haniger

After his 2018 campaign in which he finished 11th in the AL MVP voting, Haniger was one of the hottest names on the trade block, and the Mariners could have traded him multiple top prospects. That’s not the case anymore. The slugging outfielder missed the entire 2020 season and only played in 63 games in 2019. Still, before the injuries, he was a budding star, and the Braves will now be able to acquire him at a much more affordable price — both prospect-wise and financially.

Haniger is only scheduled to make $3.1 million in 2021 before his final year of arbitration in 2022. That should make him very attractive to Alex Anthopoulos. I’m not sure how keen the Mariners are on parting ways with him, but they should be considering it at the very least. Seattle is fooling themselves if they think they can compete with the A’s and Astros in the AL West.

Trey Mancini

Jon Heyman has already reported that the Braves have “kicked the tires” on a possible trade with the Orioles for Trey Mancini. Although Heyman called it unlikely, I’m sticking him in the possible category. Mancini is exactly what the Braves are looking for — a right-handed power bat to stick behind Freddie Freeman. It also helps that he is a fantastic leader in the clubhouse.

Like for every team, it would be painful for the Orioles to let go of the face of their franchise. However, they are — and should be — in full sell mode. Mancini only has one more arbitration year remaining after the 2021 season, so if the Braves are will to part ways with some good prospects, the Orioles should be listening.

Green Light

Andrew Benintendi

The Red Sox are rebuilding, and one of their most attractive trade chips is outfielder Andrew Benintendi. According to many sources, it looks like he will be traded before the start of the season, and you have to think the Braves have checked in. Benintendi isn’t a power bat, but he’s a doubles machine that hits for a pretty high average. In 2018, he was responsible for 4.4 fWAR, so the Braves could certainly do much worse, and he shouldn’t cost too much in terms of prospects.

Photo: Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire


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