Filling the left field gap in the Atlanta Braves roster

Sunday, John Heyman Tweeted that the Atlanta Braves would likely decline their $9m option on left fielder Eddie Rosario. While it isn’t official yet, it isn’t a hard decision to understand. While he was one of three finalists for the Gold Glove in left field, he’s one of only three players who qualified under the rules for the award.
The Atlanta Braves are unlikely to pick up left fielder Eddie Rosario's option for 2024,
The Atlanta Braves are unlikely to pick up left fielder Eddie Rosario's option for 2024, / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
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Rosario was great in the 2021 postseason, but the Atlanta Braves caught lightning in a bottle with their patchwork outfield, and that kind of success is fleeting. Eddie's always been a streaky player, but over the last two seasons, his inconsistencies have worsened,

Fangraphs gives Rosario 1.4 fWAR for the season, while Baseball-Reference says his season was worth only 1.1 rWAR. He batted .255/.305/.450.755 with a .322 BAbip, 21 homers, and a league-average 100 wRC+ on the season, but his splits were worse.

No one expected Rosario to hit LHP well, and the Braves limited his exposure to 67 PA (60 AB) against same-sided pitchers. But his .233/.303/.400/.703 line against lefties was better than his .229/.294/.372/.666 line away from Truist Park.

With Rosario gone, Pillar a free agent, and the Atlanta Braves farm system devoid of a realistic replacement, the club can either sign a free agent or trade for a controllable left fielder.

Available Free Agent Options

The list of free-agent outfielders isn’t deep or young, and with age comes an increased risk of injury. Michael Brantley plays at 37, Tommy Pham and David Peralta are 36, Adam Duvall plays at 35, Jason Heyward at 34, and Hunter Renfroe at 32. Teoscar Hernandez is 31, but I expect him to receive a qualifying offer from Seattle.

I wrote yesterday that the Braves are unlikely to sign a free agent with a QO because the signing would cost them $1M of international signing pool money and the club’s second and fifth draft pick.

I’ve already seen calls for Duvall’s return, but he hasn’t played 100 games since 2001 and now looks like a fourth outfielder. The best free agent option is Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

The Case for Lourdes Gurriel

Gurriel is 30 and won’t receive a qualifying offer because his original contract with Toronto had a clause saying that the club waived the right to make one. He was also the best defensive left fielder in the league, finishing the season with 14 DRS and 9.5 UZR.

So, Gurriel is the best defensive left fielder available, batted.301/.363/.452/.815 with a .151 ISO, .352 wOBA and 121 wRC+ against lefties, .247/.289/.467/.756 with a .220 ISO, .321 wOBA and 100 wRC+ against RHP. Fangraphs give Gurriel Jr. 2.1 fWAR on the season, while BBR says his season was worth 3.0 rWAR.

Gurriel isn’t the best outfielder in the league, but he is the best defensive left fielder available, isn’t an automatic platoon player, and didn’t vanish in postseason play.
Mark Feinsand ranked Gurriel Jr. 14th in his list of top 25 free agents, saying:

"Gurriel ranked in the top quarter of the league in hard-hit percentage and strikeout percentage, while his defensive metrics were solid."

I expect Gurriel to ask for four and take three with an option at $39M. At that price, the Atlanta Braves will have competition for his services; much will depend on where he wants to play.

I’d prefer to make a trade and have two candidates in mind: Randy Arozarena.