Nov. 30: FanRag’s Jon Heyman spoke to a source that stated Adams “won’t be with the Braves,” further indicating that the first baseman will either be traded or non-tendered by 8pm ET tomorrow evening.
Nov. 27: This Friday marks the deadline for MLB teams to tender contract offers to their arbitration-eligible players. Club will have until 8pm ET to agree to tender an offer or to non-tender such players, though the two sides will have roughly two months to work out an actual salary before arb hearings (if necessary) begin in February.
With that deadline looming, ESPN’s Buster Olney reports (via Twitter) that the Braves are “pushing Matt Adams” to other teams, hoping to secure a trade for a left-handed slugger who otherwise could represent a non-tender candidate in Atlanta (as MLBTR’s Jeff Todd noted in the Braves’ Offseason Outlook). Atlanta has Freddie Freeman entrenched at first base, despite a brief experiment at the hot corner, leaving Adams as something of an odd man out.
Atlanta acquired Adams, 29, from St. Louis this past May when Freeman went down with a broken wrist that would sideline him for two months. Adams’ initial production following the trade was nothing short of jaw-dropping, as he exploded with a .298/.348/.661 batting line and nine homers through his first 135 plate appearances in Atlanta. From that point forth, however, Adams posted a fairly meek .251/.291/.455 line and seven homers through 179 plate appearances — numbers that are much closer to his career batting line of .271/.315/.469.
In the end, Adams posted career-highs in both homers (20) and OPS (.841), but the knocks against him were the same as ever. The big lefty batted just .180/.206/.377 in 63 PAs against left-handed pitching and demonstrated again that he is limited to first-base/DH on the defensive spectrum. Both the Cardinals and Braves gave Adams a brief look in the outfield, but he turned in negative marks in both Defensive Runs Saved (-5) and Ultimate Zone Rating (-0.7) in a small sample of 129 innings. His glovework at first base remained solid, but the market for first-base-only bats with significant platoon issues has become increasingly crowded in recent years as teams place greater emphasis on defensive versatility.
MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a $4.6MM salary for Adams — not an exorbitant price to pay for an AL club seeking a cheap option at first base/DH. The Rays, Indians and Angels could all represent speculative landing spots for Adams, while the Rockies stand out as an NL club that could give him semi-regular at-bats at first base.
For teams that view Adams as a bench bat, however, committing $4MM+ to a defensively limited reserve option at this stage of the offseason is a tough sell. Mitch Moreland has a reputation as one of the game’s best defenders at first base and signed for a one-year, $5.5MM contract in Boston last winter, while Adam Lind, a player with a comparable skill set to Adams, settled for a one-year, $1.5MM pact with the Nationals in mid-February. Many teams would likely consider Adams a viable backup option behind their preferred offseason targets, but that won’t help him at this juncture of a slow-moving offseason, as the top targets for each of those clubs are all still in play.