With the stroke of a pen and an entry in the transactions log, the Atlanta Braves are signaling the end of the Ender Inciarte era.
The effortless gliding to the precise spot in the outfield has been the lingering memory of Ender Inciarte during his tenure with the Atlanta Braves. Short of accepting a minor league role, though, that era appears to be over.
Ender Inciarte became a member of the Atlanta Braves as part of a then-shocking trade during the Winter Meetings of 2015. It came after a now-infamous lunch meeting that John Coppollela had with then-Arizona General Manager Dave Stewart.
It was a deal that would define both men, though both are now out of baseball front offices for entirely different reasons.
Wednesday, December 9th, 2015. The Diamondbacks were in the market for quality starting pitching so that they could go toe-to-toe with the Dodgers. The Atlanta Braves had what they were looking for:
"Atlanta traded [RHP Shelby] Miller and Minor League reliever Gabe Speier to Arizona in exchange for outfielder Ender Inciarte, right-hander Aaron Blair and shortstop Dansby Swanson, who was the top overall selection in the 2015 Draft."
The Braves’ timing couldn’t have been any better, as the snake-bit Miller has been unable to throw as many innings since this trade (185 in 5 seasons) as he did for Atlanta while posting a 3.02 ERA in 2015 alone (205.1 innings).
Atlanta received two everyday players in return in Dansby Swanson and Ender Inciarte. While Swanson’s major league performance has now nearly matched the Wins Above Replacement that Miller amassed over their respective careers (7.2 vs. 7.5 respectively), Ender Inciarte out-shown both… combined (18 bWAR in 6 seasons).
3 years after that trade, BaseballAmerica rightly tagged Inciarte as the “prize” of this Arizona deal.
Along the way, Inciarte won three Gold Gloves and made an All-Star appearance in 2017. But it was after that season’s .304 batting average and 201 hits that things began changing precipitously.
In 2018, his average fell by nearly 40 points to .265, then .246 in 2019, .190 in 2020, and barely better here in 2021 at .215.
Various factors have led to this point, Heredia providing surprisingly good support being chief among them. Inciarte’s contract is for $8 million this season and there is a 2022 option that comes with a $1 million buyout.
So with no place to play him and the need to create a space on the 40-man roster in the (likely) event of some sort of trade in the coming days, the Front Office felt that it was time for him to go.
The Braves have had multiple excellent center fielders in their history… Marquis Grissom and Andruw Jones are prominent among that luminous list… Inciarte’s defense will be remembered as being right in that same league.