Braves outfielder Adam Duvall has declined his half of his $7MM mutual option, reports Craig Mish of SportsGrid and the Miami Herald (via Twitter). He’ll receive a $3MM buyout. However, because Duvall has fewer than six years of Major League service time, he’ll remain with the Braves as an arbitration-eligible player — should they wish to tender him a contract. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects a $9.1MM salary for the veteran slugger.
Duvall signed that one-year deal with the Marlins last winter, after being non-tendered by a Braves team that ultimately reacquired him prior to the trade deadline. The 33-year-old Duvall has long been a strong defender with a perilously low OBP and plenty of power, but he dialed that skill set up to new heights in 2021. Duvall slugged a career-best 38 home runs and posted a whopping 19 Defensive Runs Saved (in addition to a 9.9 UZR and 5 Outs Above Average), but he also turned in a .281 OBP that tied him for the second-worst mark among all qualified hitters in Major League Baseball. The bottom-of-the-barrel OBP was enough for weighted metrics like wRC+ and OPS+ to peg his overall offense at just two to three percent better than the league average.
Still, a 30-homer bat with plus defense in the outfield corners is a plenty useful player, even if Duvall perennially ranks near the bottom of the league in on-base percentage. The projected $9.1MM price point is plenty reasonable for a player who posted 3.1 bWAR and 2.4 fWAR on the season, but it bears repeating that the Braves non-tendered Duvall not even one year ago, when he carried a smaller arbitration projection and was coming off a similar season. In 209 plate appearances with Atlanta in 2020, Duvall hit .237/.301/.532 with 16 home runs — a pace that falls pretty closely in line with this year’s .228/.281/.491 output.
Of course, the Braves have less certainty in their outfield than they did last year — and their World Series win likely gives them some additional resources. A good chunk of that extra cash has to be earmarked for a hopeful Freddie Freeman extension, but the Braves can clearly afford to keep Duvall in the fold if they so choose. And with each of Eddie Rosario, Jorge Soler and Joc Pederson set to hit free agency, plus Ronald Acuna Jr. on the mend from an ACL tear and Marcell Ozuna’s status up in the air following an alleged domestic assault, Atlanta could well decide place a premium on the certainty that’d come from tendering a contract to Duvall.
They’ll have until Dec. 2 to make that call, although with the collective bargaining agreement set to expire one day earlier, on Dec. 1, it’s best not to assume anything transaction-wise from that point forth.