The Braves are looking to trade at least one of Michael Bourn or Nick Swisher before Opening Day and they’re willing to “to eat a significant portion of the salary” owed to either player to facilitate a deal, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports.
Given how aggressive Atlanta has already been on the trade market this winter, it’s no surprise that the rebuilding club is exploring getting at least some of the money owed to those two veterans off the team’s books. Swisher is owed $15MM in 2016 and he has a $14MM vesting option for 2017 that will be guaranteed if he makes 550 plate appearances next season and passes an end-of-year physical. Bourn is owed $14MM in 2016 with a $12MM vesting option for 2017 that also becomes guaranteed at the 550-PA plateau. Of the $29MM owed to the duo in 2016, however, $10MM will be covered by the Indians as part of the trade that brought both men to Atlanta in exchange for Chris Johnson last August.
Neither of those options seem particularly likely to vest while the two players are on Atlanta’s roster given how Freddie Freeman is locked in at first base and the starting outfield is slated to consist of Hector Olivera, Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis. Emilio Bonifacio is also on hand as a low-cost backup center fielder, so Bowman thinks Bourn could be more expendable than Swisher, who can theoretically provide more value as a backup at first and both corner slots.
The big question about Swisher, however, is whether he’d be productive (or even able to play) over a full season given his surgically-repaired knees, even on a part-time basis. It’s worth noting that Bourn has also had his share of injury problems, as hamstring issues have undoubtedly played a role in his declining defense and stolen-base statistics over the last two seasons.
Between the injuries and struggles at the plate, Bourn (0.4 fWAR in 2014-15) and Swisher (-2.3 fWAR) are far from sterling trade candidates. It’s not completely out of the question, however, that the Braves could find a trade partner since they’re willing to eat some money. If the Braves are willing to pay as much as half of either player’s salary, and assuming Cleveland’s $10MM contribution is being split equally, Swisher and Bourn now cost in the neighborhood of $5MM and $4.5MM, respectively, for 2016. Those could be palatable prices for clubs looking for experienced veterans in backup roles, especially if there’s a team that believes Bourn or Swisher could rebound in a new environment.