Ender Inciarte‘s time with the Braves is likely over — and this was true even before Cristian Pache had a very impressive postseason. I’ve already emphasized how important trading Inciarte’s salary is, and if the team wants to keep Marcell Ozuna, Shane Greene, and Mark Melancon, they can’t afford to pay a guy who didn’t crack the playoff roster $8.7 million. I want to purge his whole contract, and some of these trades involve a straight dump — others may have bigger implications. This is a snippet from my perfect offseason plan; trading Ender is close to priority #1.
” In 2020, Ender Inciarte had a .512 OPS (.483 v RHP), was worth -0.7 WAR, regressed defensively, and had the lowest exit velocity in baseball. Atlanta cannot afford to pay him $9 million in 2020.”
Atlanta can buy out Inciarte after 2021, but attaching prospects and trading him makes far more sense. All prospect rankings are via MLBPipeline. (Note, I wanted to include the Pirates — they make sense — but $8.7 million may be too rich for their blood).
Braves Receive: LHP Chris Murphy (#26)
Boston makes the most sense here; as bad as they are, Ender could probably get a few starts next to Verdugo, especially if they don’t re-sign JBJ. As it stands, Boston has the 8th highest projected payroll for 2021 (Spotrac). When you’re picking 4th in the draft — that isn’t ideal. Boston is starving for pitching prospects, and they get two live arms in Hernandez & De La Cruz. De La Cruz provides help now with an MLB ready arm, and Hernandez is a project loaded with potential. Take Murphy’s ranking with a grain of salt — Boston’s system is very weak, and I’m more than willing to take any warm body that gets the deal done and Ender off of the books. Murphy posted a 1.08 ERA in 33.1 innings in Low A in 2019, and I think he’s a fair return for his upside.
Braves Receive: RHP Kyle Cody (#25)
You’re probably wondering why the return for a #25 prospect is so thick, but Kyle Cody has actually debuted in the MLB for the Rangers. The 26-year-old relief pitcher only had a 1.59 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 2020. Relief pitchers are volatile, but I’ll take him in exchange for getting rid of Ender’s contract and a treasure chest of lottery tickets. Tarnok was a 3rd round pick, but he’s still VERY raw. Graffanino hit .318 in A ball — the son of Tony Graffanino has some upside. Trey Riley has had his struggles with walks so far, but he still has value.
Braves Receive: LHP John Means
Woah, I know. Atlanta’s 2020 1st round pick is a steep price. However, baseball fans who have watched John Means understand why. Means had a rough 2020, posting a 4.53 ERA. And yes, the Orioles just torched Atlanta on the Tommy Milone trade. However, Means is one year removed from a 3.60 ERA over 155 innings on one of the worst teams in baseball history. He’s not scheduled to be a free agent until 2025. Jared Shuster was a strange pick at the time; he had a 6.79 ERA at Wake Forest in his final season. Vodnik provides high upside, and Jackson gives Baltimore another young catcher to pair with Adley Rutschman. The Orioles continues to add to their rebuild; Atlanta gets a low cost, high upside lefty for the rotation and salary relief. I understand the hesitations for this trade, but I think it’s pretty balanced.
Royals Receive: OF Ender Inciarte, RHP Daysbel Hernandez (#16), RHP Victor Vodnik (#17), C Alex Jackson (#21)
Braves Receive: SS Lucius Fox (#23)
Lucius Fox has had an uninspiring start to his career as a high-profile international signing. He doesn’t offer much with the bat, but he plays all over the infield and is lightning quick. He’s basically MLB ready and profiles as a low-cost Hechavarria replacement. Kansas City’s system is another that desperately needs arms, and Alex Jackson could learn a thing or two from Salvador Perez. The Royals have one catcher in their top 30, and he’s ranked 13th in their already weak system sitting in A ball.
I’d accept any of these trades in a heartbeat. The return is pretty minimal for all of them, but the focus can’t be lost here — the Braves have to get rid of Ender Inciarte’s contract and free up the money for free agency.