As the Hot Stove heats up and the contracts of Chipper Jones and Michael Bourn come off the books, the Atlanta Braves have a few bucks to spend this offseason on the left field and center field positions.
With the Washington Nationals hot on the trail of Michael Bourn, it seems unlikely that Atlanta would be able to shell out the necessary moolah to lure the services of the 30-year-old speedster, stalwart defender, and leadoff hitter extraordinaire.
Also, the name "Josh Hamilton" has been thrown around a fair amount in Braves Country, but considering General Manager Frank Wren's comments regarding his payroll preferences, bringing in Hamilton would be more of a fantasy than a possibility.
Regardless, Atlanta is likely to add a couple of impact pieces to the lineup this offseason, whether through trades or free agency.
A veteran center fielder with 98 steals to his name over the past three seasons, Pagan could comparably fill Michael Bourn's clubhouse and offensive void.
At the plate, the switch-hitter can be expected to deliver around 10 homers and 30 steals with a .340 OBP to boot.
It's his defense in center that is the question. Fangraphs loved his 2010 season, hated his 2011 season, and was indifferent towards his 2012 season in center, so what he can bring to Atlanta defensively is still a variable. He has the speed and veteran knowledge to be a good defensive center fielder, though.
Also unknown is his price. He put up two incredibly valuable seasons in the past three years, and so his value could be inflated somewhat. However, for a three-year deal, Pagan's contract would not be a long-term burden on the Atlanta checkbooks, and would definitely be worth signing.
Pagan is also rumored to be at the top of Atlanta's wish list according to AJC blogger David O'Brien.
A definite option on the trade market with Ben Revere begging his turn at center field, Span would provide Atlanta with less power than Pagan, but is a couple years younger and still provides comparable offensive value.
Perhaps my favorite option in center field, the Braves could expect Span to steal 20 bases with a .340 OBP (with the potential for a higher clip).
It's Span's total value, though, that makes him such a prime candidate to take over center field for Atlanta, as he has a low strikeout rate and flashes a very good glove in center field.
O'Brien also mentions Span at the top of Atlanta's wish list, and if the Braves were to trade for him, he would be under control potentially through 2015 without costing too much collateral.
Nick Swisher would definitely give Atlanta a clubhouse facelift, to say the least.
The high-energy corner outfielder has confidence and swagger to boot, and after spending the past few years in the Bronx, the tough-nosed Swisher would be quickly accepted into Braves Country.
A switch-hitter with 25-home run power and a very high on base percentage (career OBP of .361), Swisher would fit into the five-hole between Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann very nicely.
Swisher isn't exactly Martin Prado in left field but he is athletic enough to be league average.
While Swisher is looking for a Jayson Werth contract, don't expect him to get it. However, if he is too pricey, Atlanta will drop out of the Swisher sweepstakes.
While Swisher would provide swagger for the Braves, Ross would provide many laughs.
He's neither the offensive or defensive caliber player that Swisher is, but he would be a relatively low cost option in left field, as well as a right handed bat with power. Fenway Park may have boosted Ross' stats last year, but he could still supply power at a low cost in Turner Field.
If Atlanta went after Ross, the Braves would be bringing in a majorly positive clubhouse influence, a right handed bat with power, and would still have plenty of resources available for either center field or another move.
Another positive clubhouse influence, Hunter is no longer the wall-climbing, acrobatic, Gold Glove center fielder he once was, but he is still a very good corner outfielder—the best defensively on this wish list, in fact.
He shouldn't be counted on to hit .313 now that he's on the wrong side of 35, but Hunter should still provide a decent average with a healthy OBP and 20-home run power to boot.
He won't be inexpensive, but for a two-year deal, Hunter might consider ending his career in Atlanta, chasing a championship just a plane ride away from his hometown in Arkansas.