SportsTalkATL’s Braves 2022 Free Agent Wish List: Infielders

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The Braves are world champs! That still hasn’t quite sunk in yet. But now that the 2021 season is officially over, it’s time to start looking ahead. We’ll discuss the 2022 free agent class in more detail as the offseason progresses, but first it’s probably best to at least identify which players the Braves should perhaps target.

Today, I’m beginning a Braves 2022 Free Agent Wish List series, which will cover each position group (infield, outfield, catcher, starting pitching, bullpen), beginning with the infield. The players on these lists aren’t necessarily ones the Braves will sign, but given the team’s current needs and potential ones down the road, these are ones I believe GM Alex Anthopoulos will be looking at the closest. Some position groups are deeper than others of course, so I’ll try to limit each list to no more then ten.

 

The infield outlook 

With the massive strides by Austin Riley, as well as the continued development of both Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies, the Braves infield is pretty well set. Plus, I just don’t see the team letting Freddie Freeman walk away, not after winning a title. But given he hasn’t re-signed as of today, we’ll prepare for the worst.

 

Freddie Freeman (1B)

Even though it’s difficult to label Freddie as an unrestricted free agent, he is currently available to any team willing to pony up the big money. Freeman has already stated that he wants to remain a Brave for the rest of his MLB career, but obviously a new contract requires two parties coming to an agreement. Hopefully Anthopoulos gives the man what he wants. 

 

Anthony Rizzo (1B)

If Freeman were to actually walk, there’s really only one other player that I believe could come even somewhat close to filling his shoes, and that’s Rizzo. The problem, though, is that recently the former Cub has made it known that he’s “eager” to return to the Yankees — the team he played the final two months of the 2021 season with. The last few seasons haven’t been Rizzo’s best, at least nothing quite close to his 2014-17 stretch (in which he averaged nearly 5 WAR per year), but there’s still plenty of power in the 32-year-old’s swing.

 

Ehire Adrianza (INF)

As far as a depth piece or utility player for the infield, the Braves really don’t have to look very far as Adrianza was fantastic in that role with the team in 2021. At a salary of just $1.5 million, the 32-year-old switch-hitter hit .256 with a .769 OPS in 91 PA as a substitute player this year (and an .802 OPS as strictly a pinch-hitter) — strong numbers for a player forced to produce at any given time off the bench. Even better, Adrianza can literally play ANY position on the diamond, save for catcher and pitcher.

 

Josh Harrison (2B/3B)

He’s certainly not the player he was a few years ago, back when he averaged 3 fWAR from 2014-17 with the Pirates, but now nearing his mid-30s, Harrison is still a player that can hit for a solid average and play respectable defense. He played on a one-year, $1 million deal in 2021, so he Harrison shouldn’t be too expensive either. 

 

Charlie Culberson (UTIL)

The production Culberson provided for the Braves back in 2018 (.270 AVG, 12 HR, 107 wRC+) is obviously unrealistic to expect at this point, but the now-32-year-old is coming off a pretty strong year with the Rangers in which he finished with 22 XBH (15 doubles) in 271 PA, to go along with average-ish defense (-0.4 Def). Like Adrianza this past season, Charlie was always clutch coming off the bench. Perhaps a reunion can be worked out.

 

Marwin Gonzalez (UTIL)

Gonzalez’s performance has dropped off drastically the last two seasons as the 32-year-old has been worth a dreadful -0.5 fWAR since the start of 2020 — but sometimes it’s hard to quantify a player so versatile. Other than first base, the eight-year veteran provided above-average defense in 2021 (per FanGraphs UZR/150), while playing at seven different positions. If you recall, it was he who came up with the big hit as a pinch-hitter for the Astros in the Game 5 loss for the Braves. He’s not exactly a must-sign, but Gonzalez is a nice depth piece worth considering.

Be sure to check back as the series continues. Next, I’ll look at outfielders.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

 

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