Braves outfielder Ender Inciarte is facing an uncertain future as the trade deadline approaches, having struggled this season and lost his place as a regular in the club’s lineup. Despite his downturn in playing time, Inciarte told Jeff Schultz of The Athletic (subscription link) that he has no desire to leave the Braves.
“I haven’t heard if I’m going to get traded or not,” said Inciarte, who added: “If you ask me, would I rather be somewhere else, the answer is I’d rather not. I love Atlanta. There’s not any other uniform I’d like to wear.”
Rookie Austin Riley swiped Inciarte’s starting role after the veteran went to the injured list with a lumbar strain May 15. Inciarte returned a week ago after a two-month absence, but he has only collected 10 plate appearances since then. The Braves have typically deployed an outfield consisting of Riley in left, Ronald Acuna Jr. in center (Inciarte’s usual position) and Nick Markakis in right since Inciarte went down.
The Braves’ new outfield (mostly Acuna) has notched good production, though Riley’s numbers have tanked since a sizzling start. In the aggregate, though, Riley’s .246/.298/.504 line with 16 home runs in 242 PA far outpaces the .205/.293/.303 slash and two HRs Inciarte has put up across 150 PA. Moreover, the 28-year-old Inciarte owns the majors’ second-lowest average exit velocity (78.3 mph), per Statcast, which doesn’t show much of a gap between his paltry .262 weighted on-base average and his .271 expected wOBA. Needless to say, those numbers don’t bode well for a turnaround.
It’s true that Inciarte has never been an offensive force, but he was almost a league-average hitter with the Diamondbacks and Braves from 2014-18. Combining that with stellar defense and quality base running was enough to make Inciarte a solid starter prior to this season, and it helped convince the Braves to ink him to a five-year, $30.525MM extension in advance of the 2017 campaign. Thanks to that deal, Inciarte’s playing this year on a $5MM salary and will earn a combined $15MM over the next two seasons ($7MM in 2020, $8MM in ’21). Not long ago, those looked like bargain figures for Inciarte, but his disastrous 2019 – along with lessening his importance to the Braves – has surely done a number on his trade value.