Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos said yesterday that he’s interested in acquiring a middle-of-the-order bat, as David O’Brien of The Athletic reports (subscription link). That could be a third baseman or outfielder, per the club’s top baseball operations decisionmaker.
The top preference for the Atlanta organization would surely still be a new deal with third baseman Josh Donaldson. But the Braves may decide not to keep pace with bidding that seems to be going to four years.
It always seemed quite possible, probable even, that Donaldson would move on to another team after making good on the one-year deal he signed last winter. What’s most interesting about the latest update is the fact that the team is not limiting itself to finding impact at the hot corner.
“Ideally,” says Anthopolous, the desired offensive output would come from a player that suits up at third. But it “can come in the form of an outfielder, as well,” he said. The primary goal is to get a big bat to replace the outgoing production that Donaldson delivered. “I can’t guarantee we’ll be able to accomplish that, but I’d like to add a middle-of-the-order bat if we can,” says Anthopoulos.
In terms of open-market corner outfield possibilities, there are quite a few younger players, though none to Donaldson’s standard. Where one draws the line in deeming a player a “middle of the order bat” is obviously a subjective matter. The Braves could go after Nicholas Castellanos, Marcell Ozuna, Yasiel Puig, or Avisail Garcia. Or, the club might consider lefty swinging veterans Corey Dickerson and Kole Calhoun. Two conceivable options — Tommy Pham and Hunter Renfroe — were already traded for one another. There are some other possible candidates that may be available via trade, though the remaining market has yet to gain much clarity.
What of Johan Camargo and Austin Riley? We’ve often heard indications of confidence in that pair of younger players. But that doesn’t seem to be the vibe around the organization. “[P]rivately it’s not believed [the Braves] consider either a good or perhaps even acceptable option” for the hot corner in 2020, O’Brien writes.
That adds to the intrigue surrounding the possibility of the team landing a corner outfield bat. Perhaps the club would then also need to pick up another option at the hot corner. Having already re-signed Nick Markakis to go with young star Ronald Acuna Jr., adding another outfielder would also likely increase the possibility of a trade involving Ender Inciarte. The Braves are also said to be interested in adding a glove-first, shortstop-capable utility piece, meaning the team is still shopping for at least two and possibly three position players.