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Braves Trade Rumors: Something has to give in the Atlanta Outfield

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The Braves front office has about $47 million in commitments to five outfielders over the age of 28 for the 2016 season.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As you all surely know by know, the Atlanta Braves currently have too many outfielders. Particularly, the Braves have too many bad outfielders. Just one day into the annual Winter Meetings, we've already been hearing a lot about the current state of the Atlanta outfield, and it seems like only a matter of time before something happens with this glut of old players.

After trading Chris Johnson for Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher for long-term salary relief last season, as well as the recent position switch of Hector Olivera to left field, there are just too many bodies for the three positions. Nick Markakis is going to lock down right field next season and it seems like either Cameron Maybin or Mallex Smith will be getting most of the innings in center field.

Here's David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution with some of the reasoning behind the Olivera move, in spite of the number of outfielders:

"We feel he can play third base but we wanted to get a good look at him in the outfield," said Hart, adding that the Braves at their staff meetings in early October agreed Olivera might have an easier time adjusting while learning left field instead of third base. The team’s glut of outfielders under contract didn’t deter them from making the Olivera move.

"The guy’s a good runner, he’s got good instincts," Hart said, "and so we’ve had (outfield instructor) Bo Porter go down and spend a week with him in Puerto Rico, and we’ve got Seitz (hitting coach Kevin Seitzer) down there. The guy’s playing well. We’ve been encouraged by what we’ve seen in left field. But we haven’t abandoned third base.

"Yeah, I think we know that we’ve got some strength, we’ve got some numbers in the outfield. But this is about putting Olivera in the best position to where he can help us. We think that that bat has a chance to play and be a real bat that we can have for a period of time. What’s the best place for us to play him, where he’s going to have a chance to help us the most? Listen, it still might be third base. But we’ve been encouraged by what we’ve seen in left field."

Given the state of the outfield, I figured it would be interesting to take a look at the group as a whole, and see what the front office has to work with in regards to trade-bait (not much), and also what the team has to work with as far as on-field talent goes (meh).

All together, the five Major League players I've mentioned are set to receive $46,766,666 from the Braves during the 2016 season, according to Cot's Contracts.* Using the upper limits of the math skills I have, that comes out to an average of $9,353,333 million per player. If all of the players produced at the same level they did last season, that means the Braves would be paying just over $24.5 million per Win Above Replacement.

*This number takes into account the $10 million that the Braves received from the Indians.

Player

PA

HR

BB%

K%

AVG

OBP

SLG

wRC+

WAR

Markakis

686

3

10.2

12.1

.296

.370

.376

107

1.6

Maybin

555

10

8.1

18.4

.267

.327

.370

94

1.0

Bourn

482

0

9.5

22.2

.238

.310

.282

68

0.0

Olivera

87

2

5.7

13.8

.253

.310

.405

97

-0.1

Swisher

260

6

13.5

20.8

.196

.312

.320

78

-0.6

Obviously paying $24.5 million per win isn't an efficient use of resources (last year a win was worth around $5-7 million depending on your system), but assuming these players are going to be the exact same as last year is also obviously a poor strategy.

Truth is, most of the players above could actually be worse next season. Bourn and Swisher are both on the downswing of their careers and Maybin's first-half performance is unlikely to be replicated again next season as well. You could even argue that Markakis will take another step backwards in 2016 — his Steamer projections argue just that — although I think a full offseason a year after surgery will help him return some power to his game, and be about as valuable as he was in 2015.

The one player who we should certainly see some improvement out of is Olivera. And if we don't, well I think then it would be safe to assume the ol' Alex Wood-Jose Peraza trade didn't exactly work out. But we still don't really know what kind of player Olivera is going to be on an everyday basis, so we'll just have to wait and see.

What we do know though, is that Markakis and Olivera aren't going anywhere anytime soon, so John Coppolella has Maybin, Bourn and Swisher to use as trade bait this offseason. Oh boy.

If you were expecting any sort of repeat of last year's offseason, stop now. Atlanta traded away more talent than any other organization in baseball last year, and got an impressive haul of young players because of it. The outfielders traded away this winter will be more about shaving a few dollars off of the budget than acquiring any young talent.

MLB.com's Mark Bowman paints a good picture of the value each of these players would have in trade talks:

But the Braves will likely attempt to cut some of their outfield surplus via trades this winter. It appears they would be willing to eat some of the money owed Swisher ($16 million) or Bourn ($14 million).

If they find difficulty in finding suitors for Bourn or Swisher, the Braves may have to move Maybin, who enhanced his value significantly with a strong first half this season and then battled a variety of ailments during a disappointing second half.

With the expectation that Smith will likely be in Atlanta by at least the All-Star break, the Braves have some extra motivation to get some value for Maybin, who will make $8 million in 2016 and then become eligible for free agency.

Bourn and Swisher would obviously be salary dumps, and to a certain extend I think Maybin would be as well. He's clearly the most attractive trade chip of the group given his age and the first half he managed during 2015 (.289/.356/.418 with eight homers and 15 stolen bases), but his second half (.240/.289/.311 with two homers and eight stolen bases) certainly raised concerns about his ability to produce at that level on a regular basis going forward.

It's certainly possible that some team tries to acquire Maybin in the hopes that they can get more of the first half than the second, but his $8.1 million price tag for next season and injury history should limit the return the front office is able to get.

Given all of this, I would say it's pretty obvious to temper the expectations you may have in mind with the Braves' return in any trades regarding these players. This is much more about getting rid of waste, and cleaning up the outfield picture than it is about improving the on-field product.

With the Braves seemingly intent on turning Olivera into a left fielder, there's definitely the chance that Atlanta trades for a productive everyday third baseman (someone has to play there after all), but don't be surprised when none of these players are involved in that sort of deal.

Although, we are talking about Coppy, so I guess anything and everything is on the table. Basically, what we should be taking from all of this is that at some point this winter, something has to give with the surplus of outfielders, and that something probably isn't going to be a blockbuster deal. And based on the track record of this front office, it's probably going to happen sooner rather than later.

So, enjoy this while you still can: