Ender Inciarte’s Braves tenure is likely over

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After Adam Duvall suffered an injury in the second inning of Game 1, the Braves turned to rookie Cristian Pache to replace him in the outfield. Pache notoriously was placed on Atlanta’s playoff roster over Ender Inciarte, and the Braves once again passed on adding Inciarte to the 28-man roster today.

Duvall was diagnosed with an oblique injury and is not healthy enough to continue, forcing the Braves to replace him on the roster with Johan Camargo. Duvall is no longer eligible for the remainder of the postseason, even if Atlanta makes it past the Dodgers. It’s an extremely unfortunate time to go down, and as Brian Snitker said several times yesterday, “you hate it for (Duvall).” However, I want to focus briefly on Inciarte, who I believe we’ve seen the last of in a Braves uniform.

From 2015-2017, Inciarte was a well-above-average major league player. Not only was he arguably the best defensive center fielder in baseball, but he was also a tremendous contact bat that hit exactly .300 over those three seasons. He even made the National League All-Star team in 2017.

That led to the Braves signing Inciarte to a five-year extension with a team option in 2022. At the time, it seemed like a pretty safe deal, but it’s quickly turned into the worst contract on the entire team. Over the last two seasons, Inciarte has only managed to hit .225 with an OPS+ of 70, and his defense has also started to worsen. Meanwhile, his contract continues to get bigger.

Inciarte made $4.7 million in 2018, $5.7 million in 2019, $7.7 million this season, and is scheduled to make $8.7 million next year — even though the Braves will no longer have a spot for him.

Cristian Pache is the organization’s top prospect, and the fact that he was picked for the postseason roster is telling. He will almost certainly begin next season in Atlanta. The Braves also have Drew Waters, who is their second-ranked prospect. Since there was no minor league season, he probably won’t start in Atlanta, but it’s only a matter of time before he’s donning the tomahawk across his chest. That leaves no room for Inciarte, especially since the roster will go back to 26-men in 2021.

Our Jake Gordon brought up the idea of trading Inciarte a couple of weeks ago. Obviously, considering his contract, he carries no value. However, there is a blueprint that has been used several times to rid of abysmal contracts. The Braves could opt to attach a mid-level prospect along with Inciarte in hopes of trimming their payroll, so they can be more active in free agency. Moving him could be the difference in bringing back Marcell Ozuna or one of their top relievers, like Shane Greene or Mark Melancon. However, Atlanta may not be too interested in giving up prospect capital just to shed salary.

If that’s the case, It still looks highly unlikely Inciarte is on the team in 2021. Even if it seems like a waste, designating him for assignment appears inevitable. Perhaps a team claims him on waivers and saves the Braves some money. I would be pretty shocked, but crazier things have happened. Though, the reality is that Atlanta is likely going to have to bite the bullet and pay his salary while he attempts to resurrect his career with another team. Nobody likes to accept defeat, but the Braves are moving on from Inciarte — whether it be through trade or release.

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