With the disappointing news that Liberty Media is seriously restricting Alex Anthopoulos’ budget for 2021, Atlanta has to create some salary flexibility somewhere, and Ender Inciarte’s albatross contract is a good starting point. Unfortunately, that’s much easier said than done.
Back in 2017 when Inciarte was an All-Star, his contract looked like a bargain. He was a Gold Glove winner for the second of what would be three seasons in a row, and Atlanta had him locked up until 2022 for about $30 million. Now the contract is a nightmare. Not only has his defense declined, but his .512 OPS in 2020 was at the bottom of the majors. In a non-COVID impacted offseason, his $8.7 million for 2021 would be palatable, but that’s just not the world we live in.
Inciarte is currently the sixth-highest paid player on the team, and the fourth-highest with more than one year left on his deal. He does have a buyout for next season for a meager $1.025 million, but Atlanta needs to field a competitive team now. With the Braves being so close to de-throning the Dodgers in the 2020 NLCS, they can’t afford to pay one of the least valuable hitters in baseball that much money in 2021. Atlanta still needs help in the bullpen and off of the bench, but time is running out.
I offered up some trade packages in a recent article, but that was before a flurry of very talented players started having their club options declined for 2021. It was clear that just about everyone in baseball would be pinching pennies, and it’s very likely the stakes have been raised to find a taker for Ender’s money. It’s looking like it will take a miracle to unload his contract at this point in the offseason, or a top-15 prospect, which I don’t see happening. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Inciarte DFA’d during the season if he doesn’t turn things around quickly.