Ender Inciarte is coming off of a season in which he became the first Braves player to record 200 hits since Marquis Grissom while capturing his second straight gold glove award in center field. He is entering his age-27 season and is on a team-friendly contract through 2021. Given all of that, should the Braves consider shopping him this winter?
That is the question that ESPN.com’s Keith Law asks as he includes Inciarte in his list of who could (or should) come up in trade discussions this offseason. On Inciarte, Law says:
Inciarte might be one of the 10 most valuable trade assets in baseball right now, between his consistent production (3-plus WAR for three straight seasons by both Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs valuations), youth (2018 will be his age-27 season) and team-friendly contract (he's owed $26.8 million over the next four years, with a $9 million option for 2021).
He goes on to point out a potential logjam in center with top prospect Ronald Acuna.
I think it is safe to say that Acuna is coming perhaps as soon as opening day in 2018 but it is hardly a situation where he can’t fit into an outfield situation that also includes Inciarte. The Braves will no doubt spend a portion of the offseason looking for ways to move on from Matt Kemp in left or Nick Markakis in right. While Acuna fits the profile in center, his strong arm and good glove makes him an option in right as well.
It must also be pointed out that Inciarte’s value is probably currently at its peak. If the Braves wanted to cash him in and gain the biggest return, then now is probably the time.
This is also the point where we have to point out that right now, we still don’t know who will be making these types of decisions in the Braves’ front office going forward. Still, given the amount of losing that the team has endured over the last three seasons, it seems likely that they will be looking to take another step forward in 2018. Trading Inciarte now wouldn’t seem to fit into that narrative.