Coming into this season, the Braves knew that the CF situation could be in flux for 2013. With Michael Bourn‘s strong first half, he essentially priced himself out of Atlanta, leaving a vacancy for the upcoming season. This post will show any internal, free agent, and trade targets to replace him.
There isn’t really a good fit here. Jason Heyward has been an elite defensive right fielder, but I think he would end up as a below-average centerfielder, which probably wouldn’t be a good choice. Jose Constanza could do the job defensively, but his lack of power and line drives would likely hold him back from being productive in a full-time role. Todd Cunningham is still too raw to make the move to the majors.
The Braves find themselves in a catch-22 with Bourn. His poor second half may have brought his price closer to something the Braves would pay, but he left a somewhat sour taste in our mouths, so he most likely won’t be back. Josh Hamilton is also way out of our price range, and his distractions are enough to stay away from him. Torii Hunter is probably in the same boat as Heyward defensively, good in right but not good enough to move back to center. Ichiro Suzuki would likely be the same value as Constanza, but much more expensive.
This leaves three names: Angel Pagan, B.J. Upton, and Shane Victorino. Pagan is making himself quite a bit of money with his strong postseason run with the Giants. The switch-hitter has been consistently weaker against lefties in his career, something the Braves are not looking for. While he’s only been a full-time player for three years, he’s already 31 years old, and if one is worried about Bourn falling off in the future, Pagan is in the same boat being a year and a half older.
Upton is the desired right-handed bat who hits lefties well. However, he has had some Yunel Escobar-type attitude problems, and he strikes out around 25% of the time. He would probably only work if a top-of-the-order hitter is picked up to replace Chipper, or if Simmons would be able to hit up there. Victorino, like Pagan, is another switch hitter who doesn’t strike out much, but he’s hit much better against lefties. However, he just had his worst offensive season of his career, and at 32 years old, it could be the beginning of his aging decline.
There are a few available centerfielders currently on major league teams. Peter Bourjos is now an afterthought for the Angels after the emergence of Mike Trout. The right-handed bat is tremendous defensively, but his poor plate discipline and lack of line drives leave him below-average offensively. Still making the minimum next season, he could be a nice value piece to acquire. The Oakland A’s now has two centerfielders, with Coco Crisp already there and Chris Young arriving via trade last week. With Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick in the corner outfield, one would think either Crisp or Young will be gone by spring training.
The Minnesota Twins also have two centerfielders, and they are looking for pitching, something the Braves can supply. Denard Span has a slashline similar to Bourn, but he strikes out half as much. He is above average defensively, and he has actually hit lefties better than righties in his career, despite being a left-handed hitter. He is owed $11.25M total the next two years and has a $9M team option for 2015, so he is very affordable. Ben Revere makes Bourn look like Heyward. He has not hit a home run in over 1000 major league PA, also only getting 33 extra-base hits. He is up there with Bourn and Bourjos defensively, though his arm is only a step up from Juan Pierre and Johnny Damon. Like Bourjos, he has one year left before arbitration, so he would also be a decent option.