Braves: Remaining free agent offensive targets

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It’s quiet out there today.

I went out this morning to send some stuff in the mail from my eBay store. Living in a town of 23,000 means you kind of already know everyone’s routine, even if you don’t know them personally. Basically, I live in a modernized Mayberry up here in central Arkansas. Having that sense of omnipotence about the routines and traffic gives one an idea of how heavy the streets will be, how long lines will be, etc. I’ve never seen my mini-Mayberry so dead and empty in a long time, even with the holidays just ending. It’s almost a little bit haunting, honestly.

It’s quiet out there today, almost a little too quiet. It’s quiet on the streets and especially quiet in the market right now.

The Stove is Off

Since the Braves signed Charlie Morton to a 1-year, $15M deal last Tuesday, there’s been nothing but radio silence. Not just with the Braves, mind you, but all across baseball. The stove is the coldest I’ve seen it in years, and everyone is seemingly recovering from the Thanksgiving food and drama comas — taking it easy as we ease back into the workweek.

Right now, it doesn’t appear as if much is going on, but that doesn’t mean there’s no work to be done.

Recently, Buster Olney highlighted the Braves in an offseason analysis piece, showing how they have an advantage this offseason. Olney talked about how Anthopoulos has a knack for the one year deal and how we could VERY well see another few happen before February hits.

The Art of the Deal

Let’s talk about this for a second. Since AA’s arrival from across the states, we’ve seen a couple of one-year deals that ended up being phenomenal investments in the form of Josh Donaldson and Marcell Ozuna. Together, they posted a combined .299 AVG, 55 HR, and 150 RBI’s with a combined 136 OPS+. With the proven success from his two beta-tests, it’s safe to assume any deal we see from here to February will be in the same vein.

It’s important to remember, also, that Ozuna posted his .339 AVG, league-leading 18 HR/55 RBIs and 145 OPS+ with more than half of the season cut short. Having him in the cleanup spot was crucial to Atlanta’s 2020 success, which saw them two runs away from the World Series. We could sit here and play hypothetical with his 162-game stats all day, but I’d rather see how he fits into this offseason’s priority list. He can hit 55 homers and 160 RBIs all he wants to next season, but if it isn’t with an A on his hat, then the Braves have a lot more work to do.

Marcell Ozuna

We love you, Big Bear. We really do.

Aside from the MVP season from Freddie Freeman and the rotation-saving dominance of Max Fried, the talk of Braves Country has been centered around Marcell Ozuna since the announcement of his one-year deal.

Admittedly, I was among those who weren’t thrilled about the signing. I didn’t think he would hold up with the high-energy and defense-centered Braves.

Lemme tell you, I’ve never been happier to be wrong.

Stuff like this seemed to happen every game, as Ozuna lifted the Braves high above everyone else in the NL East to give Atlanta their third consecutive division title on the road to another fourteen in a row (is that anyone else’s goal? Just me? Okay.)

Ozuna gambled on himself after a mediocre (for his standards) 2019 in St. Louis and took the house for all it’s worth. His limited 2020 was still enough to land him his first top-10 MVP finish in his career. He also got his first Silver Slugger since he was dealt from Miami to St. Louis back in the offseason of 2017.

Needless to say, the Braves lineup would be empty without Ozuna. So how does he sign back with Atlanta?

It’s important to remember that he served a majority of his games as a DH, which was a part of the 60-game season implemented as a result of COVID. If the universal DH makes its way back for regular play, then I don’t see a single reason that Ozuna doesn’t re-sign. He loves this team, they love him, and his stats wearing the tomahawk across his chest don’t lie. It just makes sense. Even without the universal DH, I see the Braves pushing aggressively to get him back in Marietta. But, if for some reason that doesn’t happen, then they need options. Maybe a 2017 World Series MVP?

George Springer

Now, I know everyone’s thinking about it, but honestly, haven’t they done their time? The punishment was extremely mild, but they’ve been dealt out and served. It’s time to look to the land of “always bigger” and a few dented trash cans if Ozuna doesn’t re-sign.

And why not? All antics aside, they’ve got an all-around solid player hitting the market this winter.

It’s important to remember that one person doesn’t make up an entire team. The trash can days are over, and Springer just wants to play ball. He posted a .265 AVG with 14 HR, 32 RBIs, and a 140 OPS+ in this shortened season. Clearly, the offensive onslaught he can provide was not caused by denting any waste receptacles.

If there’s one thing that Springer can offer that the Braves are constantly on the lookout for, it’s consistency. Barring injuries that may occur or another shortened season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go for 30 HR/100 RBIs this season. 

Putting him in the outfield to join Acuna and Pache will give the Braves the offensive pop they need in a 4-hitter, along with the defensive skills that this organization holds so near and dear to them.

Although there is one problem.

Apparently, Toronto read this article before it was even published because they are centering their focus on the young, spitfire outfielder. If AA wants to have Springer join the Braves, then he’s got to move quickly.

Luckily, there’s a plan C if he does sign with Toronto; and he can be found coming from the same city.

Michael Brantley

Yep. It’s that time of year again.

I say again, of course, because the Braves have been linked to the former Cleveland outfielder since his tenure over there ended. 

Now, here we are, two years later, and we’re once again linked to Brantley.

Honestly? Why not? He showed the baseball world that he found a way to stay healthy for a whole season’s worth of games. He also showed us he can still hit the ball exceptionally well.

With all these questions about the 4-spot, the outfield void, and the “what if’s” behind the universal DH, it seems that Brantley would be a safe bet for the Braves. The contact hitter out of Bellevue, Washington is coming off three straight All-Star Game berths. Brantley’s combo of respectable defense and consistent plate output could be just what AA is looking for in his lineup.

Eddie Rosario

Surprised? So am I.

But, a few sources are saying that there may be a farewell this week between Rosario and the Twins.

Rosario, a life-long Twin, broke into his own in 2019, posting a .276 AVG with 32 HR and 109 RBIs. The left-handed right fielder helped carry the Twins to the playoffs on a squad aptly-named the “Bomba Squad.”

I wholeheartedly believe that Rosario is one of the most underrated players out there. He consistently hits for power and is always healthy, often serving as a staple in Minnesota’s lineup. Adding his power to a lineup with the reigning NL MVP would help push the Braves to their fourth straight division title.

On Deck

Just because all is quiet on the offseason end doesn’t mean there’s nothing to look for. The relief pitching market seems to the most saturated it’s been in years. There are more than plenty of solid relievers out there to help strengthen the already-elite Braves bullpen. The best fits for Atlanta’s rotation are highlighted next, as our starting rotation is all but solidified.

In the meantime, stay logged on to SportsTalkATL for all your Braves analysis and offseason news.

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