In 2018, the talk of the MLB was youngsters Ronald Acuna Jr. and Juan Soto, two generational talents who went head to head in the NL Rookie of the Year race. The two were not even close to being able to consume an alcoholic beverage legally, yet emerged as a couple of the best players in the MLB. On the flip side, there was a ton of talent in the AL Rookie of the Year race as well. Dual-talent and Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani took home the award, but the runner-up, Miguel Andujar, made quite a name for himself in the Bronx.
Andujar, who came into the year as a highly touted player in the Yankees organization, hit to the tune of .297, and while he could have taken more free passes, he struck out at a rather low rate. He displayed fine power, shelling 27 homers and 92 RBI, to go along with his absurd 47 doubles. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury plagued Andujar in 2019, limiting him to just 49 underwhelming plate appearances before finally undergoing surgery. Man, it would have been fun to see his stat line after the year of the juiced baseball.
Andujar is a downgrade defensively from Josh Donaldson. The Braves are still trying to bring him back, but the market is robust. Based on last year’s payroll, Atlanta has in the ballpark of $20-25 million left to spend this offseason. Now, Alex Anthopolous would not willingly give out this information, given the team itself has been breaking the news on the signings, and it does not exactly offer the Braves a competitive advantage making that information public. But if payroll does not increase, that means the possibility of re-signing Donaldson and a guy like Ryu or Bumgarner is non-existent.
Personally, my back up plan to Josh Donaldson would be to sign Mike Moustakas, who can probably provide 80% of the production for 50-60% of the price, and find a reliable veteran at an affordable cost. The Braves have a plethora of options to fill out their rotation – like Sean Newcomb, Kyle Wright, and Bryse Wilson – if these are the financial restraints.
However, if Atlanta does pursue a renowned veteran starter and these guys don’t fit the bill financially, that’s where I think you pick up the phone and give Brian Cashman a call. See, while Andujar is a very talented player, the Yankees had another third baseman break out in 2019 named Gio Urshela. Both he and Andujar are under contract until 2024, so New York may see this as an opportunity to reload the farm if the Braves are willing to offer some attractive prospects. The Yankees already have a young starter in Deivi Garcia and a young outfielder in Clint Frazier who seem ready to contribute in the big leagues. Those happen to be the two current strengths of the Braves’ farm, which could make things difficult. With that being said, talent prevails above all.
Would the Braves be downgrading in the short-term? Yes. Would they have to give up some young prospects in order to do so? Yes. However, if the Braves did strike a deal, they would have another cost-controlled regular to add to their young core. Andujar is an ultra-talented young player who figures to be an intriguing buy-low candidate. The icing on the cake is that the rest of that money could go towards building an elite pitching staff during this financially friendly window. Again, this is not option A, but this could be a reality that would make sense for the Braves in the short-term and the long term if they prioritize starting pitching over third base.
We’ve also talked about other quality third basemen that may be on the trade market. The Cubs will consider shopping former NL MVP Kris Bryant. However, the asking price will be astronomical. Justin Turner is also a name to keep an eye on if the Dodgers land Anthony Rendon in free agency. But Turner has shown a willingness to change positions if that were to happen, and you have to wonder if Los Angeles would seriously consider moving him to a team that will likely be competing with them in the playoffs next season. The Yankees should be fielding calls on Andujar, who should not cost an arm and a leg, and they would much rather send him somewhere where they won’t have to face him every year.