Without Adam Duvall, the Braves have to land one of the top two outfielders in free agency

Marcell Ozuna

As I said earlier this week, the top priority for the Braves after they signed starting pitchers Drew Smyly and Charlie Morton is to bring in a power bat to protect Freddie Freeman — preferably an outfielder. That now rings even more true after Atlanta’s surprising decision to non-tender Adam Duvall on Wednesday. Over his last 98 games in a Braves uniform, the slugging outfielder mashed 26 homers to the tune of an .852 OPS. The Braves reportedly still have interest in pursuing him, but I can’t imagine they will get him for less in free agency than they would have in arbitration. Most likely, Duvall’s career in Atlanta is over — at least for now.

Assuming Duvall is out of the picture, the Braves now have a gaping hole in their outfield. Their only starter from last season currently on the roster is Ronald Acuña Jr. Nick Markakis and Marcell Ozuna are both free agents, and while I could see Markakis returning on another one-year deal, he’s no longer a reliable everyday starter. Cristian Pache appears ready to take over the reins in centerfield; however, the Braves still need help in the worst type of way.

Obviously, bringing back Marcell Ozuna would ease these concerns significantly. However, Ozuna’s market is hot right now, with basically every competing team interested. It’s also worth noting that NL clubs aren’t just assuming there will be a permanent DH in the future. That could deter the Braves from re-signing Ozuna to a long-term deal, turning their focus elsewhere.

I wouldn’t be shocked if we started to hear some rumblings regarding the Braves interest in George Springer. He has a better multi-year track record than Ozuna and is a far superior defensive player. Plus, as I pointed out yesterday, the Braves probably have a decent bit of change to spend this offseason. Their current payroll is slated to be under $120 million for 2021. Last season, it was at around $160 million. The coronavirus could negatively impact that number; however, the Braves have been one of the few teams spending early this offseason, and this could be the perfect opportunity to ink a long-term deal with a cornerstone player like Springer. The Braves have often strayed away from multi-year contracts, but there should be value in the best players this offseason since the market is significantly cooler than usual.

After Ozuna and Springer, there aren’t many outfielders that inspire much confidence. Michael Brantley would be a quality pickup, but he doesn’t provide much pop. If the Braves went in this direction, they would still have to find a power bat to slot behind Freddie Freeman. That would have been much easier to do with Duvall in the fold. Without him, the Braves offense will be substantially worse if they do not land one of the two prized outfielders in this free-agent class.

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