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For Braves, adding an impact third baseman seems simple, yet complicated

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There are a few high-profile third basemen available out there for the Braves. They could just go get them, but it’s definitely easier said than done.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Atlanta Braves Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The Winter Meetings have provided some juicy rumors and tidbits when it comes to the Braves and baseball as a whole. The chatter that’s been consistent for most of this offseason is that the Braves could use an outfielder and they definitely need a third baseman. When it comes to the outfield, they’re rumored to be one of two teams in the running to sign Marcell Ozuna. As far as third base goes, both Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado could be available in trades — the Rockies are in a “listening” mode when it comes to their perennial Gold Glove/Silver Slugger third baseman and the Cubs are shopping Bryant (among others) in what appears to be an effort to shed payroll.

So, this means that the Braves are now in a position to fill their needs and do so with a high-impact acquisition (or 2). Realistically, I can only envision the Braves filling one of these holes with one of the aforementioned names.

Trade pitching prospects and a bat for Bryant

Outside of simply signing Marcell Ozuna and leaving it at that, this would probably be a realistic way for the Braves to get their seamless replacement for Josh Donaldson (if the Braves don’t re-sign him) and also quench Alex Anthopoulos’ thirst for a splashy trade. Apparently, it would be pretty easy to entice the Cubs to make the move — Dave O’Brien is reporting that people who are “close to the Cubs” believe that if the Braves can bundle together “a couple” of pitching prospects and “a bat,” that would probably be enough to bring Kris Bryant to Cobb County.

While this seems straight forward on-paper, it’s still a very aggressive trade to make. It’s pretty safe to assume that the Cubs would likely be looking right at the top of Atlanta’s pitching prospect list, which means that they’d probably be asking for guys like Ian Anderson, Kyle Wright, Kyle Muller and Bryse Wilson. If the Braves are comfortable with losing two of those guys and also sending a hitter (maybe Ender Inciarte, who the Cubs have had their eye on for years now) to Chicago, then I believe we’ll actually see it happen. However, DOB also made sure to point out that just because this might be what Chicago would accept in return, this may not be what the Braves would be willing to offer.

So while it all seems simple, there’s still some fundamental complications involved. Even with the amount of cost that it would take both from a financial standpoint and a prospect standpoint, it would still be easy to sleep at night for the next two seasons knowing that an MVP-caliber player is manning the hot corner and that the Braves will continue to have an infield laden with talent.

Sign Ozuna, then trade Waters/Pache for a third baseman

As far as turning the Braves into a legitimate World Series contender for the next couple of seasons, this would do it. This would also be the most aggressive idea, which also means that it’s probably the least realistic. With that being said, it’s still feasible that this is a path that the Braves would take in their efforts to finally return to the NLCS and hopefully beyond that as well.

This particular path would be heavily contingent on beating the Reds to the punch and making the Marcell Ozuna signing happen. Also, I’m going by the word of Jon Morosi and assuming that Ozuna is targeting a four-year deal. Even if it ends up being three years, if the Braves get Ozuna then you have to assume that this would probably make Drew Waters and/or Cristian Pache available in any trades. With Ronald Acuña Jr. and Marcell Ozuna manning the outfield, that means that there would only be one spot left for either Waters or Pache to inherit.

So with that in mind, Waters or Pache could be included to surely sweeten the pot in any potential deal involving Kris Bryant — or Nolan Arenado. While the Braves and Cubs still seem like the likelier trade partnership, I’d imagine that the Braves have probably done their due diligence in order to at least check in on Arenado and see what the Rockies would want. It still seems improbable (for reasons that I’ll explain later) but it’s possible!

This entire scenario of signing Ozuna then trading for a high-caliber third baseman is also improbable-but-possible. This would constitute a dream scenario for the Braves when it comes to their offseason goals and it would also be a dream scenario for fans since this means that the Braves would have gotten a massive green light from their corporate overlords in Colorado to spend money on team payroll. I don’t think this is going to happen, but it’s pretty cool that this is at least feasible!

Swing a deal for Arenado

Another option that seems simple on paper, but it’s nowhere near simple. I think that the prospect cost from Colorado’s standpoint would be similar to what it would cost to pry Kris Bryant from Chicago’s hands. However, this would cost a pretty penny from a financial point-of-view. As Grant McAuley noted in his Winter Meetings blog, Nolan Arenado is on a very expensive contract — as it turns out, this would be the richest contract that the Braves have ever taken on in franchise history. Additionally, he’s got a no-trade clause and he could opt-out after the 2021 season. While it’s similar to how Kris Bryant could potentially leave after two seasons when the Braves decide he’d be too expensive to retain once he hits free agency, I think the Braves would rather deal with Bryant than pay Arenado $70 million for two seasons and deal with the possibility of him leaving.

So the solution to this issue would be for Colorado to agree to continue paying some of Arenado’s contract in exchange for the Braves sending more prospects and major league talent to Colorado. That means that this could make this an incredibly expensive trade for the Braves, in addition to gambling with the idea of keeping him past that second season. Yeah, Nolan Arenado is an amazingly talented third baseman who has proven that he’s worth every penny of what his contract is demanding. Still, the cost for the Braves to take him on could end up being too rich for them to take him on.

Sign Anthony Rendon

Well, I just went on about how Nolan Arenado may be too expensive for Atlanta. Anthony Rendon would likely be on a slightly higher AAV and also on a longer contract. Even though there’s no significant prospect cost involved, this would be breaking the bank and put the Braves up there with the big money powerhouses in baseball. Magic Johnson, your thoughts?

Nope

I figured as much.

So, the Braves do have options to make a big move at some point this offseason. They have a few options when it comes to third base and they’re rumored to be closing in on an outfielder. However, none of these options are cheap and this would require the Braves to make a pretty big investment in order to make any of these options happen. There’s also the possibility that this leak-averse front office could just be throwing all of these public ideas out there as a smoke screen for what they could be doing, since most of Atlanta’s moves this offseason have come in the form of a surprise.

Either way, we’re going to see what the team’s real intent is for the upcoming season. The offseason has worked out pretty well for Atlanta so far and it seems like they’re on the cusp of making this a great offseason and solidifying themselves as real contenders on the baseball landscape.