As I wrote this morning, it’s beginning to look like it is either Marcell Ozuna or bust this offseason after the Phillies finalized a deal with JT Realmuto yesterday. Atlanta could settle for a short-term deal with Adam Duvall, Jackie Bradley Jr., or Joc Pederson. Still, I don’t think anybody in Braves Country — including Alex Anthopoulos — would look at it as a successful offseason. Nevertheless, there is one other way the Braves could fill the gaping hole left in the middle of their lineup — a blockbuster trade.
I’ll break this article into two parts because the Braves have two obvious places where they could use an addition — left field and third base. Without Ozuna, the Braves don’t even have a starting left fielder, so they could search the trade market for outfield help, as they’ve reportedly already started doing. Jon Heyman said yesterday the Braves have “kicked the tires” on the Orioles Trey Mancini. Although he followed it up by saying a deal was unlikely even though Baltimore is in sell mode. However, the Braves could also inquire about the lengthy list of star third baseman that might be available, with a plan to use Austin Riley in more of a platoon role since he can play left field as well.
Of course, either of these moves could only happen if Alex Anthopoulos proved willing to part ways with some significant prospect capital, something he hasn’t done yet as the Braves general manager. However, after finishing just a run shy of beating the Dodgers, the pressure will be at an all-time high if he does not re-sign Marcell Ozuna. I wouldn’t expect Anthopoulos to do anything hasty — he always could wait and make a splash at the trade deadline — but he definitely would be more enticed to pull the trigger if something is close.
I’ll be splitting these third-base candidates into three categories — unlikely, possible, and green light.
This is a name you’ll hear thrown around Braves Twitter a lot, and for a good reason. Chapman had a “down” year in 2020 and still managed an .812 OPS while playing some of the best defense at the hot corner. In 2019, he was an All-Star that smashed 34 homers and tallied 6.2 fWAR, and the year before that, he was responsible for 6.7 fWAR. Chapman’s the type of guy you trade the farm away for, especially considering he has three more years of arbitration remaining.
Unfortunately, the A’s have no reason to move him right now. Sure, given their payroll, it’s doubtful they re-sign him when his contract is up, so at some point, they may consider trading him. However, not after they just ran away with the AL West and plan on competing for the division again. I see no way Oakland even entertains offers on Chapman at any point before the trade deadline.
Our own Clint Manry just wrote today on what it would take to bring Jose Ramirez to the Braves. If you haven’t read it, it would require quite a haul, but that should be expected for a player as affordable as Ramirez, who has established himself as one of the best players in the game.
The Indians are the weirdest team in baseball. They are constantly running a payroll that might not even be able to afford one of Tom Brady‘s mansions, yet they somehow remain competitive. Even though they traded away Francisco Lindor, I don’t think Cleveland views themselves as rebuilding. They have too much good pitching to feel that way, and as long as they have Ramirez, they have a chance to win. Because of that, I don’t imagine the Indians will be very interested in moving their star third baseman — at least not this year.
Arenado’s arguably the best player on this list. He’s won eight straight Gold Gloves and is the owner of four Silver Sluggers. Over his last five full seasons, he’s averaged a .947 OPS with nearly 40 homers and 125 RBIs per season. Sure, Arenado plays half of his games at Coors Field, but he’s a bonafide stud no matter the arena.
I have Arenado in the possible category because it is about time for the Rockies to face the music. He has an opt-out clause after the 2021 season, and there is no way Colorado should think they can compete with the moves that Los Angeles and San Diego have made this offseason. It’s time for the Rockies to enter a complete rebuild, and that starts with trading Arenado.
In the same breathe, that opt-out clause after the 2021 season makes things tricky for teams trying to trade for Arenado. Are you getting the All-Star third baseman for one year or six? That difference will dictate his trade value. Arenado would have to show some willingness to stay in Atlanta past this season for Anthopoulos to consider parting ways with his best prospects. Even still, his $35 million AAV may be too much for the Braves to take on, especially with extensions for players such as Freddie Freeman, Dansby Swanson, and others looming.
Seager is a name that was connected to the Braves before last year’s trade deadline. Of course, nothing came to fruition, but I imagine similar conversations are happening this offseason. The Mariners will not be competitive this season, and he only has two years remaining on his contract. Seager is not an All-Star caliber player, but he would still be an upgrade over Austin Riley at third base and shouldn’t cost the Braves too much in terms of prospect capital.
A year ago, the Cubs could have received a king’s ransom for Kris Bryant, but after a disappointing and injury-plagued 2020 campaign, the 2016 NL MVP won’t require nearly as much of a prospect haul. He only has one year remaining on his contract and is coming off a season in which he posted a .644 OPS in 34 games. However, this could be the perfect target for the Braves. They wouldn’t have to part ways with one of their very best prospects, and financially, his one-year, $19.5 million figure should be very attractive to Alex Anthopoulos. The only question remaining is — how willing are the Cubs to move him and throw in the towel on the season before it begins?
Longoria isn’t the sexiest name, but if the Braves are looking to improve at the hot corner without giving up much prospect capital, he’s certainly an option. At this point in his career, he’s good for about a .250 average and 20 homers while playing elite defense at third base. The biggest obstacle in a potential Longoria deal would be his contract. He’s owed $18.5 million next season, $19.5 million in 2022, and has a $13 million club option for 2023. The Giants would have to eat a large chunk of that for the Braves to be seriously interested.
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