Left Field Lottery–Where Do The Braves Go Now?


emptyleftThe Zack Greinke soap opera is over and now everyone focuses on Josh Hamilton. Neither was directly important to the Braves as they seek to find what GM Frank Wren recently called a one year stop gap in left field. The free agent market is however expensive and thin in that category;  Cody Ross wants a minimum of three years, Nick Swisher is going to be horribly over priced and I personally think over rated. I’d give Ross three years but I suspect he’ll get more dollars than the Braves want to give up elsewhere. So what’s left for left?

The Usual Suspects

There are a few free agent outfielders that I assume (fervently hope) are not being considered at all. Those include:  Andres Torres, Aaron Cunningham, Austin Kearns, Darnell McDonald, Scott Podsednik, Bobby Abreu, Johnny Damon, Delmon Young, Ben Francisco, Kosuke Fukudome, Ryan Sweeney, Jeremy Hermida and Luke Scott.

That leaves Lance Berkman, Endy Chavez, Don Kelly and Ichiro Suzuki. Ichiro is likely to land in New York again next year so I’ll ignore him. Don Kelly was one of the revolving door outfielders in Detroit last year and a lefty so I suspect he’s out as well unless they want to run a platoon with the already signed Reed Johnson. Kelly’s numbers aren’t that good however and we’d likely be as well off with Evan Gattis. Chavez is another candidate to platoon with Johnson,  his pedigree is better but his numbers aren’t.

Lance Berkman is interesting; at least to me. I admit to liking the way the Big Puma plays the game. He’s a great clubhouse guy and played well during the Cardinals World Series season but two knee surgeries resulted in him missing most of 2012. Berkman played a lot of outfield in Houston but he was younger then with better legs so he’d be a below average fielder. He can however still hit.  His career line is .296/.409/.544 and in 2011 he managed .301/.412/.547 for the Cards. Realistically we could expect something closer to something near to his 2009 .274/.399/.509 if his knees hold up.  Puma could also back up Freddie Freeman at first base and would provide some veteran leadership in the mold of David Ross and Chipper Jones. Whether he would want to play in Atlanta is another question.

Berkman said that if he played he wanted to play every day and he didn’t want to DH. But with Houston being extorted moving to the AL he might do it anyway. Talks have been going on but no deal has been reached yet.  I’d make a call and see how he’d like to try a year at Turner Field.

Trade Options

When talking about trade options I prefer to be realistic. No team is going to trade an All Star outfielder for a pack of gum and two tickets to see It’s A Wonderful Life.  Any trade has to be value for value and challenging teams aren’t going to give away a key player just because we ask nicely. So we’re looking for a team that has excess outfielders or that will soon have and that’s a short list.

Arizona

The Diamondbacks obviously feel they have a glut of outfielders as they are willing to trade Justin Upton. I gave my opinion on that a couple of weeks ago but the D’Backs obviously want Andrelton Simmons and we aren’t giving him up. The alternative of a multi-team trade is something everyone – notably the Rangers – are currently pursuing. So unless the GM is keeping a secret from all the sources that leak such things, the D’Backs and the Braves don’t match up.  The Rangers might be a match however.

Texas

If the Rangers are successful in landing Upton from Arizona and Hamilton lands back there as most expect and setting aside the possibility that the Rangers get Pujolsed by some unknown team, they would have excess outfielders to trade. That player would be one from Nelson Cruz, David Murphy and Craig Gentry. The obvious candidate would be Cruz who’s in his walk year at age 33 (in July). He’s prone to quad and hamstring strains, not a good right fielder, due $10.5M next season and Upton is a right fielder. There are other issues to.

Two years ago Cruz was a stud at the plate with a line of .318/.374/.576 and only 81 strikeouts. His OBP dropped  to .312 in 2011 and had only a small rebound to .318 last year while his strikeouts climbed to 140.  I’d pass on Cruz unless Texas paid him and took a player to be named later in trade.  the other two names are more inviting and likely less attainable.

David Murphy isn’t a thrilling player to watch but he’s been an essential part of the Rangers’ getting to the post season. Last year Murphy was a 4.0 rWAR and fWAR player with a wRC+ of 127.  He hits lefties and righties well, will earn about $6M this year in arbitration this year and is a solid if not flashy defender. Even though it is his walk year too he just turned 31 and if I’m Texas he isn’t leaving any time soon. But if he’s offered I’m talking to them and talking hard.

Craig Gentry has been the Rangers fourth outfielder and primarily their backup center fielder.  He hasn’t shown much power but his OBP has gone up every year as he gets more playing time. He fast and might steal more bases on a team that did more of that and he’s a good defender.  Gentry has led off and hit 9th which in the AL is their second leadoff man spot. His OBP numbers indicate he might do well leading off even though he only has 10 at bats there in his career. If he was the target B.J. Upton would have to move to left but his bat projects there in any event. Gentry’s pre-arb eligible this year and so the least expensive of the players.

San Diego

I’ve already dismissed Hermida and the Padres starting outfield of Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin and Will Venable are pretty secure that leaves one of my favorite 4th outfielders Chris Denorfia.  Denorfia had another good season : 293/.345/.451, 19 doubles, 6 triples, 8 homers and 36 RBI in 382 PA and stealing 13 bases in 18 attempts. He hits lefties better than righties by a good bit, he hit .346/.402/.512 in 2012 and over his career, in 467 at bats versus lefties, he’s compiled a .319/.385/.454 line. Last year for the first time had the majority of his at bats as a leadoff man putting up a .303/.354/.468 line along with 10 of his doubles and 3 of his triples in that slot.

Denorfia is 32 (33 next July) and in the second year of a three year deal making $2M next season and $2.25M the next. While he’s  played all three outfield positions he’s really a corner outfielder and his strength is really the same as Reed Johnson’s; facing left handed starters. So as much as I liked him last winter, I wouldn’t go get him now. The Padres may have to make changes this year as Jedd Gyorko is ready for the majors  but has Chase Headley in front of him at third and Yonder Alonso at first. How they handle that may determine whether Quentin for example is available.

The Rest

Other teams may have an outfielder to move but not any of note.  After Toronto traded some prospects for the Marlins major league players, rumors surfaced that they might make Emilio Bonifacio available.  What they would want I have no idea, they seem to have two rosters up there. When that happens pitching is always the answer. The Reds are seeking a CF and leadoff man that doesn’t strike out 166 times while hitting .213. They just signed Ryan Ludwick again and have Chris Heisey, Jay Bruce and Xavier Paul on the books too. Still I don’t see them trading anyone.

That’s A Wrap

At least for me. I have no real favorite that I believe the GM will actually go after.  I’d have made the other Upton my priority this off season and I don’t see that happening right now. So who do you want the Braves to sign/trade for to play left. There’s a list below you can vote on. If you have someone that isn’t on the list tell us in the comments. Note that all players may not actually be available even if you heard a rumor.  The Twin continue to say no to a Josh Willingham trade and the Rockies have asked for a big return for Michael Cuddyer.  I’ll leave the poll open until Tuesday at 6PM CST.

 

Updated.. Results


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  • zero7777777

    Bring back Michael Bourn and stick him in left and have him hit lead off.. Two problems solved.

    • fireboss

      If Bourn comes back he goes to center and BJ moves to left. All you have to do is get him to accept one year at $10M, Good luck with that.

      • AtlbravesAL83

        Love a Bourn Hayward Upton OF but not only will he not come back for 1 year 10 Mill, we’d have had to sign him first. He won’t come here when we clearly said BJ Upton and player x in left are better WAR players in our mind then Bourn Prado were last year. We knew he was gone and now can sign to play in Texas, again.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dnrob David Robinson

      you guys cant be serious…

  • Lee Trocinski

    You forgot to mention Corey Hart. He’s my pick, but if that couldn’t happen, I’d honestly probably just stay status quo for now. I just don’t see anyone worth the money except Upton, and I think that ship has sailed for ATL. If Francisco flops early on, we can do something like the White Sox did with Youkilis this past season, finding the next veteran that gets pushed out of a job.

  • Lee Trocinski

    You forgot to mention Corey Hart. He’s my pick, but if that couldn’t happen, I’d honestly probably just stay status quo for now. I just don’t see anyone worth the money except Upton, and I think that ship has sailed for ATL. If Francisco flops early on, we can do something like the White Sox did with Youkilis this past season, finding the next veteran that gets pushed out of a job.

    • fireboss

      Didn’t mention him because I don’t think he’s a possibility. Only mentioned Willingham and Cuddyer because there were rumors. I agree there’s not much there aside from J Up.

  • jub

    Constanza!

    • fireboss

      Isn’t an everyday player.

  • AtlbravesAL83

    If not Upton, we need to make a move on Fowler. No matter what CO says, he’s available and cheaper than Justin. We have pitching they need and Dex is a GA boy. Good fit for a team controlled player, for now at least.

    • fireboss

      Rockies want too much for Fowler. The Rangers might move Gentry now for a pitcher. Leonys Martin is moving up their depth chart and gentry’s a better player than Fowler. Peter Bourjos has to be inquired about and is worth a few phone calls

      • AtlbravesAL83

        Compared to Upton and in a world where we HAD to do something, which do you chase? Seems Upton would cost a fortune compared to Dex and Fowler could be there long term. Agree Gentry/Bourjos are better fielders at least. Thoughts?

        • fireboss

          I think The Rangers need bullpen help more than ever and we have bullpen arms so I suspect we could get Gentry for an arm and a prospect. Bourjos is harder to figure. Angels will want a lot for him and there will be many suitors so the price will be high. IF they believe Francisco can hit as well as play third we migh tget Bourjos for Juan and an arm or two. Gentry more probable but Wren not likely to do a multiplayer after the Teixeira trade

          • AtlbravesAL83

            Great analysis, good points all around. Hope something gets done soon! Thanks

  • Rob Konis

    Still on Evan Gattis here. I think he will add right handed power. Hold the money for midseason when you might be able to trade for a top starting pitcher if you need one to help the staff. If not in house I would still like to see them bring the Upton brothers together by trading for Justin Upton, another right handed power bat.

    • fireboss

      I’d love Gattis to be an answer both monetarily and from the personal story side. I haven’t seen him play in person but I wonder how well the transition to left field can be going if they still have him catching. By all accounts his catching defense is nothing to write home about and we have enough minor league catchers in the system to allow him to be a full time outfielder in training. The Braves however had him behind the dish half the time in 2012. While playing left field isn’t as complex as say SS, everyone can’t do it at a high level. He’s played 37 games in the outfield as a pro that’s not really enough to make him a starter in left on a contending team. If we want him to be an outfielder we should take away his catching gear, put him in left field and leave him there for a while at Gwinnett to see how he does.
      J Up isn’t moving now unless the D’Backs get blown away. Having traded a top pitching prospect for a SS (essentially) and signed Eric Chavez to play third, we don’t match up well with them; at least not as well as the Rangers. On top of that is the Teixeira anxiety syndrome that’s gripped the throat and the backbone of the Braves from office since JS had a few days of GM insanity and made the now infamous trade with Texas. Those things make a trade for a lesser player more likely.