With Marcell Ozuna unlikely to return soon, the Braves have a gaping hole in the middle of their lineup. Even if Travis d’Arnaud returns, which he is supposed to next month, Alex Anthopoulos still needs to add a rather substantial offensive boost. The obvious targets would be outfielders, who could fill right in for Ozuna in left field, and I’ve already gone over several initial targets. Still, the Braves could also be in the market for a third baseman, and it could benefit them in more ways than one.
For starters, no, I am not advocating to move Austin Riley. He’s been an All-Star caliber bat. However, defensively, it’s been an entirely different story. Take a look at this statistic, courtesy of Austin Reach:
At -6.6, Austin Riley has by far the worst UZR in MLB at any position (next worst is Tatís at -5.2). He's also last among 3B in OAA at -7. If I'm the Braves and I'm considering buying at the deadline, I'd be looking for a 3B so I could push Riley to LF.
— Austin Reach (@braves_stats) June 29, 2021
Now, that tweet was from a couple of days ago, but the point remains — Austin Riley hasn’t been very good defensively at the hot corner, evident in his 11 errors on the season. What’s weird is most of those errors haven’t come at the fault of his glove; it’s been his arm that’s often been the problem.
Riley’s generally good for a couple of highlight flashes of leather a week, and I truly believe he will be a third baseman for the rest of his career. But right now, the Braves need help, and they may be able to make their team better overall by adding an offensive weapon at the hot corner rather than an outfielder. I still think trading for an outfield bat is more probable than moving Riley around, but it’s just another option for Alex Anthopoulos to consider when making moves this July.