Braves Way Too Early Free Agent Targets: Mark Canha

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As the regular season is coming to a close for the Atlanta Braves, free agency season is inching ever closer.

There are still many variables to determine which route the Braves will take once it is time to fill out the roster to make a championship run in 2022.

While there is no way to predict what will happen, one thing is for sure; this team has holes in the outfield to fill before the start of next season.

The Marcell Ozuna situation is still uncertain; Ronald Acuña will be back, but his timetable is underdetermined, and there are multiple pending free agents on the current roster.

Jorge Soler and Eddie Rosario are unrestricted free agents after the 2021 season, and Adam Duvall and Joc Pederson both have mutual options for 2022. Even though some fans would love to have all four of these players back, there is no guarantee that any of them will be.

Could the Atlanta Braves have another outfielder on their radar as an alternate option?

Baseball is ultimately a business. Most teams cannot keep every player they desire, and players may not love the offer the team presents as much as fans think they will take a “home-team discount.”

As stated earlier, there is some uncertainty with Ozuna and his hefty contract. The Braves also have high-end outfield prospects on the rise, such as Drew Waters, Michael Harris, and Cristian Pache. Due to these factors, look for the Alex Anthopolous to target relatively cheap, short-term contracts to fill the potential holes in the outfield.

Could Mark Canha be an option for the Atlanta Braves?

Hit by pitch king Mark Canha will be available in free agency this upcoming off-season. He is not the type of player that fans will drool over, but he provides a lot of offensive production and comes with a potentially cheap price tag.

This season, he is currently slashing .231/.360/.399, which equates to a 114 OPS+ (14% above league average), and that .360 OBP should be particularly intriguing to the Braves. OBP is one area this team has struggled in this year. Currently, the Braves are tied with two other teams for sixth in the National League. They also are in the middle of the pack when it comes to strikeouts, ranking seventh.

Since Canha’s breakout year in 2018, he has slashed .250/.367/.446 with a 125 OPS+, averaging 78 walks to 138 strikeouts per 162 games played. His specific profile of hitting would go a long way in complementing Atlanta’s HR happy offense.

According to Baseball Savant, Canha has been excellent at accumulating walks and getting on base in general:

  • 2019 – Top 8% in MLB in weighted On Base Average (wOBA)
  • 2019 – Top 8% in MLB in walk parentage (BB%)
  • 2020 – Top 9% in MLB in BB%
  • 2021 – Top 13% in MLB in BB%

Canha also has excellent contact skills. This year, he is in the top 8% in chase rate (swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone) and top 27% in whiff% (swings and misses).

Canha’s defensive metrics are a mixed bag. His outs above average (OAA) is in the top 14% of MLB, but he has a career -4.6 defensive wins above replacement (dWAR) with -11 defensive runs saved (DRS) in this year alone. He also averages an ultimate zone rating (UZR) of -1.0 per year. He is slightly above average on the base paths, accumulating a 2.9 ultimate base running (UBR) for his career. UBR encompasses all base running besides stealing, with 0 being league average. Canha also is slightly above league average at stealing bases with an accumulated weighted stolen bases (wSB) of 0.4 (again, 0 being league average).

Can the Atlanta Braves sign Canha?

This upcoming off-season will be Canha’s first trip to free agency as a 32-year-old. He, like most first-time free agents, will likely be seeking the most guaranteed money. The real question is how high his demand will be.

The only big-name outfielders in the upcoming free-agent class are Nick Castellanos (if he opts out of his current contract), an aging Andrew McCutchen, and 34-year-old Tommy Pham, who has been declining since 2020.

Because of this, the demand for a player of Canha’s profile may be higher than usual, resulting in him landing a multi-year deal. If this is the case, it may be something the Braves won’t want to do. However, if Canha is interested in joining a competitor on a one-year pact, he could be a worthwhile addition to a lineup that is in desperate need of some more players that can get on base.

Photo: Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire

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