If the Blue Jay are serious about finding an upgrade in centre field this off-season, it’s likely worth making a call to Alex Anthopoulos in Atlanta.
Ross Atkins and the rest of the Blue Jays’ front office have a long task ahead of them this off-season when it comes to improving the current roster. We’ve discussed many of the needs here at Jays Journal quite a bit, especially when it comes to starting pitching, but I’ve also written about how the Blue Jays could really use an upgrade in centre field.
While the free agent market doesn’t provide many opportunities for the Blue Jays to improve the position that way, there could be a few options if they’re willing to talk about a trade to make an upgrade. I do believe that the central focus of the front office will be on the starting rotation, but if they are serious about finding an answer in centre field then it might be worth placing a call to their old pal Alex Anthopoulos in Atlanta.
The Braves are in an enviable position with some elite level talent that has already arrived like Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies, and they have several more potential impact young players on the cusp of the big leagues as well. With some money to spend and the team squarely in the thick of the National League contenders, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Braves got a little more aggressive this winter.
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I actually thought that they might be interested in the services of Ken Giles before they signed Will Smith to a three year, 39 million dollar pact, but chances are that will take them out of the closer’s market. I also thought there could be a fit with the Braves looking for a catcher and the Blue Jays having a few talented young options, but now that they signed Travis d’Arnaud on Sunday, that’s likely off the table as well.
Still, I believe there’s an opportunity for the Blue Jays to make a trade with the Braves when it comes to the outfield. As I mentioned above, the Blue Jays could really use a solid option in centre field to join their rebuild, and it’s possible that the Braves could be the team that has the solution they’re looking for.
Right now Atlanta’s outfield is pretty full with Acuna Jr., Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis (who they re-signed), Adam Duvall, and possibly Austin Riley as well. They will need to fill former Blue Jay Josh Donaldson‘s shoes at third if they don’t re-sign him, and Riley could be part of the solution there. There’s also Cristian Pache, who while the Braves are expected to let him play most or all of the 2020 season in Triple-A, there’s a case that their top prospect could contribute now.
As much as I’d love to see the Blue Jays make a serious offer on Pache, I don’t think they would be willing to pay the trade price on him, if the Braves were willing to move him at all. However, what about Inciarate, who is still just 29 years old, and is a three-time Gold Glove winner? The Braves could use Acuna Jr. in centre as they did last season when Inciarte battled injuries, and fill the corners with a platoon of Duvall and Markakis, and Riley in the other corner, or possibly use the funds to add another impact bat.
I don’t think the Braves would be willing to just give away Inciarte, but I’m willing to bet they would move on from the veteran after a tough 2019 season. He was only able to play in 65 games and slashed just .246/.343/.397, which was easily the lowest batting average of his career. However, injuries were the primary culprit as he started the campaign dealing with a back strain, and later had a fairly significant hamstring injury that kept him out down the stretch. He’s not terribly expensive, but he’ll make seven million in 2020, eight million in 2021, and has a nine million dollar option for 2020 including a 1.025 million buyout, so the Braves might want to allocate that money elsewhere.
Why would the Blue Jays be interested? Well, Inciarte is still only 29 years old, and while he battled injuries last season, he’s been a very productive big league player. He’s a career .286/.338/.390 hitter, but more importantly he would provide a steady glove to anchor the outfield. His defensive talents weren’t fully on display last year as he battled injuries, but he won an NL Gold Glove award every year from 2016-18 for a reason, and that’s a skillset the Blue Jays could use.
Our FanSided colleagues over at Tomahawk Take recently published an article about how the Braves might have “one center fielder too many”, and I can’t help but wonder if Atkins and company have considered Inciarte as an option. With three years of contract control at a reasonable salary, there are plenty of reasons to ask. With Acuna Jr. and Pache on the 40-man roster, the Braves might even be interested in one of the many corner outfielders in Toronto who could be battling for a job next year anyway.
It’s hard to say what kind of return that the Braves would want for Inciarte, or even if they’d want to move him without another outfield addition there. However, if I’m in the Blue Jays’ front office, I’d at least make the call to feel things out.