As the Braves continue to search the market for a third starter to roam their outfield in 2019, every day without an acquisition seems to last a lifetime.
But what if the answer is already on the roster?
This one won’t please a lot of fans, but in his newest piece from The Athletic (subscription required and recommended), Ken Rosenthal seems to think the Braves could rely on roster incumbent Adam Duvall for the outfield vacancy.
“The Braves’ remaining need is an outfielder, but the team might end up turning to Adam Duvall in left field if the market for a desirable free agent or trade candidate plummets and the team chooses to redirect its money or prospect capital to that player. Duvall, 30, is quite affordable, with a projected $3.1 million salary in arbitration. He is an above-average defender and had back-to-back 30-homer seasons for the Reds in 2016-17, but he collapsed in a part-time role after the Braves acquired him last July 30, producing only a .344 OPS in 57 plate appearances.”
With the remaining payroll flexibility (anywhere from $15-25MM remaining, depending what you read), plugging Duvall into the outfield would seemingly allow the Braves to use those funds to fill other holes, such as the much-coveted frontline starter position or bolstering the bullpen. Utilizing Duvall would also let the Braves retain the prospect capital that teams would require for parting with other viable options such as Mitch Haniger, David Peralta, or any other starting OF that could come available between now and the start of the season.
Keep in mind - devoid of context, if I told you the Braves were planning to deploy a 30+ HR slugger with plus defense in the third outfielder role, it would seem like a fantastic idea (at least on paper). However, based on Duvall’s brief tenure with the Braves, this might not exactly be music to your ears. After being acquired from the Reds last July 30 to platoon with the then-slumping Ender Inciarte, Duvall limped to a .344 OPS, and Inciarte’s bat switched on to keep him from losing his starting role. As a result of his struggles, Duvall was left off the playoff roster.
Even with his offensive struggles last year, Duvall’s impressive defense with the Reds garnered him a Gold Glove nomination.
Duvall’s career line is not nearly as bleak as it appeared after his acquisition, but I cannot see any scenario where this is a comfortable endgame for the Braves. This is not to say that the Duvall-as-a-starter gambit couldn’t happen, but even if Rosenthal’s statements carry weight, Alex Anthopoulos will no doubt continue to look for the best possible intersection of talent and cost until he feels the roster is adequately set.
More than anything, the news appears to signal that Anthopoulos will not willingly enter into a preposterous and unnecessary bidding war for any player, and he is still comfortable waiting for prices to drop to his liking.