The Atlanta Braves should take advantage of the markets and seek their next outfielder via trade, not free agency.
Last offseason, the word was about how free agents struggled to find the deal they desired. This offseason, anyone (outside of relievers) is getting more than projections. The Atlanta Braves should stay away from that market and focus on trades.
So far this offseason, nearly every non-reliever that has signed has exceeded his MLB Trade Rumors projections in either contract length, average annual value, or overall contract value, or multiple aspects:
- Patrick Corbin; estimated 6 years, $129 million; received 6 years, $140 million
- Nathan Eovaldi; estimated 4 years, $60 million; received 4 years, $67.5 million
- J.A. Happ; estimated 3 years, $48 million; received 2 years, $34 million
- Michael Brantley; estimated 3 years, $45 million; received 2 years, $32 million
- Andrew McCutchen; estimated 3 years, $45 million; received 3 years, $50 million
- Josh Donaldson; estimated 1 year, $20 million; received 1 year, $23 million
- Charlie Morton; estimated 2 years, $32 million; received 2 years, $30 million
- Wilson Ramos; estimated 3 years, $36 million; received 2 years, $19 million
- Jeurys Familia; estimated 3 years, $33 million; received 3 years, $30 million
- Joe Kelly; estimated 3 years, $27 million; received 3 years, $25 million
- Matt Harvey; estimated 2 years, $22 million; received 1 year, $11 million
- Lance Lynn; estimated 2 years, $16 million; received 3 years, $30 million
- Garrett Richards; estimated 2 years, $10 million; received 2 years, $15.5 million
- Jesse Chavez; estimated 2 years, $10 million; received 2 years, $8 million
- CC Sabathia; estimated 1 year, $8 million; received 1 year, $8 million
- Kurt Suzuki; estimated 2 years, $8 million; received 2 years, $10 million
The two outfielders that have signed (Brantley and McCutchen) have signed for roughly 10% additional average annual value than projection. Here are some projections on remaining outfielders on the market.
- Bryce Harper; estimated 14 years, $420 million, $30 million average
- A.J. Pollock; estimated 4 years, $60 million, $15 million average
- Nick Markakis; estimated 2 years, $16 million, $8 million average
- Adam Jones; estimated 1 year, $8 million
To put things into perspective, here are the numbers on a Bryce Harper contract with the same level of add-on to estimated numbers that Brantley and McCutchen received for average annual value (rounded up to the nearest million):
- 5 years, $164 million
- 6 years, $196 million
- 7 years, $229 million
- 8 years, $262 million
- 9 years, $294 million
- 10 years, $327 million
- 11 years, $360 million
- 12 years, $392 million
- 13 years, $425 million
- 14 years, $458 million
- 15 years, $490 million
Pollock might be even a more direct comparison as he had a similar $15 million projected average annual value to McCutchen and Brantley. At four years at that rate, he would be in line for a $65+ million deal. Even Markakis and Jones would be nearing $10 million annually.
With the depth of the trade market still available, the Braves could acquire “top end” trade targets like Mitch Haniger, Clint Frazier, Kyle Tucker, Domingo Santana, Nick Castellanos, Starling Marte, or Nomar Mazara. They could also pursue “salary relief” targets like Kole Calhoun, Dexter Fowler, Yasiel Puig, or Wil Myers.
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The Atlanta Braves could still chip in at the bottom of the market, aiming for guys like Carlos Gonzalez, Avisail Garcia, Melky Cabrera, Gerardo Parra, Curtis Granderson, or Hunter Pence. However, each of these players has their own deficiencies as a full-time starter, and it simply continues the point – the Braves are better trading for their final member of the 2019 outfield rather than signing him.