With Nick Markakis deciding not to play in 2020 because of the coronavirus, the Braves have a void on their roster. It’s not in the outfield, where Markakis has started over the last five seasons, but they do need to add a left-handed bat to their bench that can possibly serve as a DH at times as well.
Our own Harrison Coburn has been on the Scooter Gennett bandwagon since December, and while it may not have made a ton of sense for both sides back then, it does now. The lefty bat not only adds exactly what the Braves need to their repetoire at the plate, but he can also serve as a utility man all over the diamond, with games logged at second base, third base, left field and right field.
Gennett had a down year in 2019 with the Reds and Giants after admittedly coming back from a groin injury too early in the season and was only able to play in 42 games. The results were a .226 average with just two homers and nine total extra-base hits. However, in 2017 and 2018, Gennett was a machine for the Reds, tallying 50 combined home runs, a .303 batting average, 189 RBIs, and an .859 OPS, which led to one All-Star appearance in a season that he posted a 4.5 fWAR (2018). Yet, somewhat suprisingly, he remains unsigned as we sit here July, eight months since the last MLB season ended. However, that has more to do with his perceived value than anything else.
According to MLB Trade Rumors, Gennett talked with Doug Fernandes of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune about why he’s still a free agent, and Gennett revealed that while he received some offers, none of them were to his liking. He said his highest bidder topped out at $1.5 million, and most of the other contracts were non-guaranteed. Teams also didn’t view him as a starter but rather a utility man/bench bat.
In Gennett’s own words that wasn’t worth it to be “220 days away from your family.”
It’s unclear how the COVID-19 pandemic might change Gennett’s stance on playing this season. Perhaps over quarantine, he’s received the itch to get back on the diamond, and the shortened season would allow him to spend less time away from his family. However, it could do just the opposite, considering family is the number one reason players seem to be opting-out of the 2020 campaign. But with Marakis now off the Braves roster, Gennett might be the best left-handed bat left on the open market. If he’s open to coming back, and Alex Anthopoulos is willing to offer him something a little more generous, the fit makes too much sense. Regardless, expect the Braves to be observing the free-agent market for a cheap left-handed bat before the season starts to compete for a spot on the roster.
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