Is Atlanta Braves focus shifting to third base?

Third baseman Justin Turner is still a free agent. Could the Atlanta Braves go after him? Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Third baseman Justin Turner is still a free agent. Could the Atlanta Braves go after him? Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

Given the lack of success, it’s hard to suggest that there’s a “focus” on the Atlanta Braves‘ activities this month.  But a shift could be taking place.

Just a couple of weeks, we heard a report that the Braves were focusing on the left-field position for their offensive upgrades.

However, after a series of hitters at that position have signed with other clubs, there are precious few outfielders of interest remaining (though I suppose there’s at least one if you call Marcell Ozuna an outfielder).

The rumors — however anecdotal they might be — now involve third base.  We’d heard a few rumblings, but mostly they are taking the usual tack:  words like “checking in”, “interested”, or “circling” are involved.

Frankly, it’s getting quite late in the process for sketchy terms like that.  That said, there have been such terms said from various sources about Turner, Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez, and Nolan Arenado… until last night, of course.

The strongest rumor today — if you can call it that — involves Turner.  The MLB Trade rumors site quotes Jon Heyman as above, but adds this:

"It’s unclear whether the Braves are among the reported four finalists for Turner, whom the Dodgers, Blue Jays and Brewers have also courted. … There’s a clear need at the position for the Braves, who received awful production there from Austin Riley, Adeiny Hechavarría and Johan Camargo in 2020. They’ve done nothing to upgrade the spot this winter."

The key elements for Turner during this off-season of free agency are these:

  • 36 years old
  • Wants a 4-year deal (which he’s not going to get from anyone)
  • Is presumed to eventually return to the Dodgers… unless somebody gives him a reason to do something different.

Turner is a bit of a wild card in almost everything respect you can think of.  That said, he’s been a remarkably consistent hitter over the last several years, posting OPS figures above .800 in every season since 2014… and .860+ from 2017-2020.

So while it’s not common at all to see a player of this age get a multi-year deal, he might actually be a candidate… though at 2 years, and not the desired 3 or 4.

But does anyone think that Atlanta is offering anything more than a single-year deal?  As with Josh Donaldson, et al, this would be exactly the kind of situation where such an offer would be made.

However, if you’re Justin Turner… would you expect to do any better after the 2021 season?  No — if he’s got an offer of 2 or more years now, he’ll take that.

That would leave Atlanta on the outside of the party once again, almost certainly unwilling to make the top offer.

Would the Atlanta Braves go further for Jose Ramirez?

If that’s the verdict on Turner — and we’ve already seen the result with Arenado — then what would make Alex Anthopoulos take the extra steps required to pry Ramirez from the Cleveland baseball club?

Probably nothing, but let’s list the reasons anyway:

  • He’s still only 28½ years old
  • 3 times he’s finished in the Top 3 of MVP voting.
  • He has 30+ homer potential
  • Averages .848 OPS… with multiple seasons well over .900
  • Slugging rates averaging nearly .500
  • 3 more years of team control
  • Oh, and he provides well above average defense… and he’s in his prime years now

Cleveland did just trade Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco.  They’ve been systematically off-loading their best pitchers.  The Reds are said to be after one of their latest acquisitions:  Amed Rosario.

Still, they also just inked Eddie Rosario (no relation), which suggests that they will be trying to win in 2021… they likely can’t do that if Ramirez isn’t at the hot corner.

So while the Braves might wish to upgrade at the third base position, the song continues to come around to the same refrain:  is Atlanta willing to make the leap and sacrifice necessary to get the needed player?

So far… that hasn’t happened.

Next. Try not to strike out against this guy. dark

Sorry if the tone here seems to be getting more cynical, but that’s the result of high expectations with precious little results with time running out.  At this point, it may be Ozuna, third base, or bust.