Recent events have suddenly changed the focus of this 2021 Atlanta Braves season and created an opportunity to reshape the next several years.
In short, they have made a point to separate themselves from the actions taken by their former teammate. It would be good for the Front Office to now fill that cavity with a player who has the kind of impact to create his own impact in the middle of this lineup.
Clearly, things aren’t the same as they were in the 2020 season when these Braves were the comeback kings and driving baseballs all over the park. They are mired in a melancholy malaise. It’s a feast-or-famine funk in which plate appearances seem to end in strikeouts or home runs… and little else.
Ozuna was arguably part of the problem. With a batting average of .213 and OPS of .645, he simply wasn’t the same feared hitter from 2020. We expected a decline from that plateau, but it had been more like a cliff dive.
So now the Atlanta Braves will almost certainly be able to consider a “do-over”. With monies that will come free — Ozuna’s salary — and the sinking teams now being readily identifiable, Alex Anthopoulos should be able to find that impact bat that this club requires.
Fred mentioned a pile of possible trade targets the other day. Most of these could fill the bill. The trick on most of them will be whether their current clubs are interested in throwing in the towel this early in the season.
There is one team that does stand out, though… one that has seemingly been more about their monetary concerns and less about the season-at-large. The Cincinnati Reds.
The Reds have Nick Castellanos inked through the 2023 season (excepting a pesky opt-out clause that kicks in after this season). That will complicate things, but depending on the desperation of the Reds financial situation (once said to be “dire”), it might not matter so much.
The other matter that might cause one to pause involves his home/road splits: a 1.308 home OPS vs. .851 on the road (with 10 home homers vs. 2 away)… though he’s still hitting .314 away from the Great American SmallPark.
But if Anthopoulos can’t acquire Castellanos quickly, then it’s still important to push for one of those other sluggers Fred noted… and preferably one with multiple years of team control available so that we don’t have to keep going through this dance every offseason.
Why? Because this team has talent that needs to be exploited for multiple playoff runs. Because this team’s outfield currently consists of Ronald Acuna and a bunch of 4th outfielders. Because there are holes that any pitcher would be happy to pitch through in this lineup. That doesn’t even include the fact that Freddie Freeman can often be pitched around right now.
Regardless of “who” can be acquired, Anthopoulos has the rare chance to fix a problem that might linger for the next 3 seasons after this… and it will linger if he does nothing.
To act now would honor the talent this club has already available. It would restore confidence. It would be rejuvenating. If done quickly, it may help to support them through this nasty part of the schedule.
In recent trade deadline actions, the Braves have been holding onto their prospects and doing little to bolster a lineup that could be highly dangerous.
Suppose they had made an impact deal last year… could that have been the difference between an NLCS loss and a World Series victory? It’s easy to conjecture such an outcome. Shouldn’t that be a lesson for this year?
[CLARIFICATION: I have been urging the Braves to act immediately based on the expectation that Ozuna would be placed on the Restricted List almost immediately — and salary could be withheld from him at that point. For reasons detailed in a new post from our Fred Owens, this has not happened yet, and while we do expect such a procedural move, it cannot happen as quickly as I have implied. I apologize for the confusion created. ]
So now there’s a new opportunity to make that happen. We will be watching.