The Braves are 32-27, sitting pretty at 2nd in the NL East, 2nd in the Wild Card, and have already endured, and persevered through, the largest road trip of the year. The bullpen is taking shape and the lineup and bench, if used correctly, has the most depth it’s had since the days of Martin Prado and Omar Infante. Yes, this team is good but we haven’t seen greatness yet. Even with a 32-27 record, there are 8 teams with better winning percentages, and I’d venture a guess that of the 8, 5 of them as constructed, will finish with a better record than the Braves. With the Mariners and Royals (on pace for 100 losses) declaring fire sales, and 2 teams in the Orioles and Marlins also on pace for 100-loss seasons, the time to start the shopping list could be now and the Braves could be a team that’s extra motivated to make at least 1 trade pretty quickly.
Why? Glad you asked.
Ender Inciarte has begun baseball activities, but the plan is to slow play his return and give him every chance to prove that he’s healthy. The Braves made the same announcements in regards to both Chad Sobotka and A.J. Minter and all 3 have a common denominator: they were royally sucking when placed on the IL. I’m not suggesting that none of the 3 were actually hurt. On the contrary, I do think at least 2 of the 3 had ailments and needed to take an IL trip. However, it goes without saying, that if Austin Riley were hitting .220 with an OPS of .615 while playing below average defense, Ender would’ve likely been asked to expedite his rehab. That didn’t happen and Austin Riley is looking like the 2nd coming of Hercules at the plate and his outfield defense has been more than serviceable and I’d go as far to say that it’s been quite average.
So what does that mean for Ender? Well, if Snitker is given the chance, Ender likely starts and that’s the scary part. The counterpoint is equally scary and that is if Snitker sticks with the lineup at hand, Ender becomes an expensive defensive replacement at 5.75MM. However, 2019’s salary isn’t the real issue but 2020 at 7.7MM and 2021 at 8.7MM (with a 2022 option for 9MM & 1MM buyout) becomes a burden for a mid-market team. And this doesn’t even take into account the likelihood of Ender becoming a disgruntled employee while riding the pine.
It’s my opinion that it’d be best for the Braves and best for Ender that they part ways via trade. And for the sake of a small list, let’s take a look at the aforementioned 4 teams to see if there’s a match.
Finding a Match for Ender
Miami Marlins: It’s well known that the Marlins are embracing the Latin American culture under the new management of Derek Jeter, and rightfully so. Harold Ramirez, 24 y/o and their current CFer, is having a breakout year but isn’t a good fit for CF. From there, it gets extremely murky and it’s a mish-mash of Grandma’s leftovers.
Conclusion: With a low AAV for an everyday CFer and a veteran presence on a veteran team, Ender, from Venezuela, matches up well in Miami.
Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles are bloody awful. They don’t look like they’re going to be good for a while, and I’d be willing to bet that that they’re likely not wanting to give what little they have in trade commodities to acquire someone like Ender Inciarte. However, the Orioles do weird things all the time and if the Braves sent back a useful prospect or 2 in a larger deal, it could work.
Conclusion: Ender’s match for Baltimore isn’t ideal but could be worked out in a multi-player deal.
Seattle Mariners: The Mariners GM is the least patient GM in all of baseball and CF has been an eyesore for quite some time. Heck, they even decided that to insert Dee Gordon there with 0 experience and it went about as expected. CF, especially from a defensive perspective, is still a problem in Seattle and Dipoto might finally be tempted to put a real CFer out there.
Conclusion: Ender’s match for Seattle seems ideal for both parties.
Kansas City Royals: The Royals royally suck and, in all likelihood, would want prospects as the return on any trade. However, the Royals have some interesting pieces that could help a team but come with a hefty financial burden. Worthy of note, Billy Hamilton is their starting CFer and he’s turned into one of the worst MLB regulars in the game.
Conclusion: Like Baltimore, Ender’s match for KC isn’t ideal but could be worked out in a cash balancing scheme.
Breakdown: Adam Conley needs a reboot on his arsenal and he could get that with Kranitz and Mike Fast (the Spindoctor) at AAA. Steckenrider wasn’t so Steckenrider earlier this season and was thought to need Tommy John, rather Dr. James Andrews prescribed rest. Both guys have potential to be back end forces in a bullpen while Ender and Demeritte get a chance to be building blocks on a rebuilding team.
Breakdown: This is a weird deal but makes sense for both parties. Broxton and Givens are better ballplayers than what they’re showing, but are at risk of leaving the Orioles high and dry should they continue to perform poorly. This deal allows for both teams to get what they need and see if it sticks for this year and beyond. Broxton becomes the cheap 4th OFer/5th bench piece Braves desperately need and Braves also get a good look at what could be a back end bullpen guy for the next 2.5 years.
Breakdown: I truly don’t want to see Brian Snitker try to salvage Ender Inciarte at the expense of Austin Riley, and I feel that would happen should he stick around. Mallex Smith provides a stellar PR replacement in late and close games that can play good LF defense in place of Austin Riley with occasional spot starts when Acuna needs a CF break. Seattle gets the defensive captain they’ve desperately needed for a decade.
Breakdown: This one is wild and there are dozens of scenarios that pop in my head when it comes to these 2 teams, but they all come back to Duffy and Diekman. Hamilton becomes the true 4th OFer/PR extraordinairre while Duffy slots in the rotation just in time to start staggering rotation skips to stay fresh for the postseason stride.