I continue to believe that Johan Camargo will not be a starting outfielder for the Braves for the bulk of the year. I think they really like Camargo as insurance policy for 2B, 3B, SS, and the OF while also still getting a lot of PAs even if a significant injury doesn’t occur. Who could the Braves land to play the outfield?
Mitch Haniger – Clearly the most talented option on this list. But it’s hard to know what exactly Seattle is doing. In a span of about a month and a half, they traded away Mike Zunino, James Paxton, Alex Colome, Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, and Jean Segura, but also traded for Mallex Smith, Jake Bauers, Domingo Santana, and Justus Sheffield. They not only got much younger, but may have even gotten better as a result. So do they trade Haniger, who is cheap as anyone, entering his prime, and can crush baseballs? Who knows. But it would be a nice way for the Braves to clear their pitching logjam by trading two high-end pitching prospects and whatever else it would take to get him.
Nicholas Castellanos – He is the more available, slightly more expensive, slightly better hitting, but worse defending version of Mitch Haniger. They’re both probably just as good of a bet to give you at least a .850 OPS, they’re the same age, but Castellanos has less control. Like I said, though, he would be less of a defender than Haniger. Castellanos has just one more year of team control, and he’ll probably make around $10-11M this year. He’s a right-handed bat with lots of power. It would probably take a mid-tier pitching prospect and some filler to land him.
Yasiel Puig or Jesse Winker: One would think Cincinnati will be looking to trade one of their three corner outfielders. Jesse Winker is young, cost-controlled, and while he hasn’t had a full season of success yet, he’s hit .299/.397/.460 in 436 PAs across the last two years. Puig, while a lightning rod, can hit, run and throw, and he does them all quite well. B-Ref liked Puig to a 2.7 bWAR, and Fangraphs had him at 1.8 WAR. But he’s had two straight years with at least a .820 OPS, he stole 15 bases in 20 chances, can throw with just about anyone, is still quite young (28), and he’s got one more year left of team control where he’ll probably make around $12-13M. He’d be a good guy to bring in for one year, decide if he’s as crazy as he seems (or if he can be de-crazied in the right environment), and decide if you’re interested in him long-term. Like Castellanos, I think you can get Puig for about a mid-tier pitching prospect and some filler. Winker will be much more valuable in a trade, so look for some combination of a high-end pitching prospect and filler or a couple mid-tier guys and some change to get him.
Bryce Harper – Bryce Harper has not yet been contracted to play for an American baseball team. I’m not sure if you’ve heard that, but we break news here. It’s unknown the exact length and total money committed he’ll ultimately get, of course, but it’s safe to say that AA has led us all to believe he doesn’t want to get anywhere close to what those figures would be.
A.J. Pollock – Probably the best defensive option on the list. He would give the Braves three outfielders capable of playing CF, and his career .805 OPS would be very helpful in the outfield. He hasn’t played over 150 games since 2015, though, so his durability is a concern. Would he fit well in a scenario where the Braves could look at Austin Riley or Johan Camargo spelling him should he get injured? Sure, but for how much? Michael Brantley got 2YR/$32M, and Andrew McCutchen got 3YR/$50M. They’re all very similar ages (Cutch and Brantley will be 32, and Pollock will be 31). McCutchen does not have the injury concerns, perhaps hence the reason for the 3rd year. Brantley and Pollock are most similar, though Brantley is coming off a year where he played 143 games, and Pollock missed more time (113 games played). Pollock may have to settle for even a one year deal, but the AAV may still be similar to Brantley’s. You’d be doubling down on the strategy employed with Josh Donaldson to sign a very good player coming off some injuries to a one year deal.
Carlos Gonzalez – He’s another early 30’s outfielder (33, though) who might be getting a shorter-term deal. He’s another guy who you could pencil it for about a .800 OPS at this point in his career, though he would be more limited defensively than Pollock. The Coors effect could be in play with him, though, as he’s another typical Rockie with a pronounced home/road split. I still think he’s a good bet to provide you some above average offense out of RF. 1YR/$12M or 2YR/24M?
Nick Markakis – Well, here you go. As a platoon option against righties, you could do a lot worse. If he was a part of a strategy of easing Austin Riley into the big leagues while getting Camargo and Adam Duvall some PAs, his return would have merit. He’s obviously the least-talented outfielder on this list. He works only as a very limited portion of the strategy to improve the team, whereas everyone else on this list would be acquired to be your primary RF. With that said, to his credit, he will provide some nice Veteran Presents. If Jon Jay got 1YR/$4M from the White Sox (though there could be some Manny Machado-angling there), then I think Kakes gets 1YR/$6M. Whether it’s from us is an entirely different story.
Marwin Gonzalez – Gonzalez plays all over the diamond. He’s logged innings in the last two years at 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, and LF, and he’s given Houston a tremendous amount of versaility. But versatility is not something the Braves are in great need of with both Camargo and Charlie Culberson without starting roles, so the Braves may not be willing to pay for that versatility — something that will inevitably occur from another team — when he only has a career .737 OPS. 3YR/$48M
Haniger would solve two birds with one stone: he would be the perfect addition to our lineup, and we could use our best currency (pitching) to acquire him. But the Mariners may very well not be interested in trading for him. Short of Haniger, and short of Harper, of course, I’d love to see the Braves trade for Castellanos or sign Pollock. If they really upgrade the rest of the roster elsewhere, then you could do worse than Markakis.