We continue this series of the five best free agents at each position with the outfield. Keep in mind this isn’t just the five best free agents of the whole class. It’s the five guys that best fit the Braves needs and price range. Since Marcell Ozuna is coming off the books, I expect Atlanta to be on pretty much all the outfielders in the class, prioritizing bringing Ozuna back.
If you missed any of the previous parts to this series, click the links below:
We will see what direction the Red Sox decide to go this offseason, but it is very possible Jackie Bradley Jr. is playing for a different team this offseason. Bradley’s best season came back in 2016 when he posted a WAR of 5.3, according to FanGraphs. However, he hasn’t played anywhere near that level since, plateauing around 2.0 WAR in each season. Bradley did put together his best offensive season in a while in 2020, posting a career-high .287 batting average, but if the Braves go in this direction, they will be forced to add more offense. Personally, adding Bradley to their current outfield mix doesn’t make much sense. His best tool is his defense out in center field, but the Braves don’t really need that with Acuña and Pache in the mix.
Gonzalez put together a 4.0 WAR season back in 2017 with the Astros, but he hasn’t been able to replicate it since, topping out at 1.5 WAR over the last three years. Still, he makes some sense for the Braves because of his versatility. He provides some pop from both sides of the plate and can play in left field or the infield. With Austin Riley still coming around, perhaps Gonzalez could fill the role that Johan Camargo has not been able to — a super-utility man that can switch hit. He also shouldn’t cost very much at all.
If the Braves decide they can’t go all-in on one of the top guys in this class, I expect Brantley to be their fallback plan. He’s been mister consistent ever since 2014, hitting somewhere around .300 with an .800-.900 OPS in each season. Brantley is getting up there in age; he turns 34 next season, and he doesn’t have anywhere near the pop as the top-two on this list, but the Braves could do much worse than adding him if they are forced to save more money than expected.
Springer is arguably the best player in this class, no matter the position. There may be some people eery of the fact that he is coming from Houston, and the whole cheating scandal. However, Springer didn’t seem to have a problem adjusting this season, smashing 14 homers to the tune of an .899 OPS. He was also the Astros best player in the playoffs. Ozuna might be a little better with the bat, but Springer more than makes up the difference with his defense. The only reason I have Springer at #2 on this list is because he will likely cost significantly more money, and I really appreciate the kind of chemistry Ozuna brings to Atlanta’s clubhouse
1. Marcell Ozuna
I don’t think I really have to say too much about this man. Alex Anthopoulos took a chance on him this offseason, and Ozuna took a chance on the Braves — both reaped the rewards. Unfortunately, there is so much financial uncertainty this offseason, so Ozuna won’t cash-in fully on his career-year. However, I still expect him to get a hefty three or four-year contract. Hopefully, the Braves can bring him back because his bat and attitude brought a different feeling to the club in 2020.