With spring training getting closer by the day, the amount of time remaining for teams to make moves is winding down. Consequently, the Atlanta Braves have to decide on their left field situation soon so they can still find help on the market—if they decide to make a move, that is.
This article will assess some of the latest rumors involving the Braves to determine just how likely they are to happen.
One of the popular names linked to the Braves in free agency is Scott Hairston. The veteran outfielder had enough pop to hit 20 homers for the Mets in just 377 at-bats last year. He also offers versatility, as he played every spot in the outfield and has also appeared in 87 career games at second base, most recently in 2011.
Hairston may not be a great fit for the Braves financially, however. According to Buster Olney of ESPN, he is seeking a two-year deal worth $10 million, similar to what Jonny Gomes received from the Red Sox.
The Braves don't seem likely to give Hairston a multi-year deal, especially at that value. This could hurt their chances, as a bunch of teams with bigger payrolls, such as the Yankees and Phillies, are chasing him as well.
Buy or Sell? Hold.
After strong winter ball performances from Juan Francisco and prospect Evan Gattis, it's possible the Braves may not make a move. Talking Chop notes Martin Prado could stay in left field as Juan Francisco plays a bigger role at third base, or Evan Gattis could split time with Reed Johnson in left field.
Francisco is a hitter with power, and the Braves like his potential enough that they dealt for him before the start of the 2012 season. He has always been strikeout prone, but he has shown improvement in winter ball and the pictures of him from winter ball show that he has slimmed down a bit as well.
Gattis is the top power prospect in the system, and was on the fast track to Atlanta before an injury slowed him down last year. He appears to be continuing his tear in winter ball, and at the age of 26, it isn't likely he needs more development time.
This move may not be ideal, but it would give the Braves a chance to see what their two most powerful prospects have in them at the big league level. It would also mean the Braves do not need to overpay for a free agent or give up a boatload of talent via trade.
Buy or Sell? Buy.
There are rumors that the Braves are looking to deal for a veteran such as Dexter Fowler or Emilio Bonifacio to put in left field, according to Dave O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (h/t MLB Trade Rumors). Adding to this is a tweet from Jon Heyman saying that the team prefers a "leadoff type," which Fowler and Bonifacio each could be.
Fowler would be a nice addition for the Braves, as he is from the Atlanta area and is a threat with the bat. He isn't much of a power guy, but the Braves could deal with that as long as he can get on base and play strong defense.
Bonifacio is a speedster who stole 30 bases in less than 300 at-bats last year and 40 bases the year before. He also offers a ton of positional versatility, playing everywhere other than catcher and first base during the last two seasons. Plus, with the crowded outfield situation in Toronto and the fact they have speedsters Rajai Davis and Anthony Gose already, Bonifacio may not be too expensive.
The Braves have been linked to Fowler for the past two offseasons, but a deal hasn't gotten done because the Rockies want a strong return for him. It doesn't appear that the Braves are willing to pay that type of price for Fowler, who is a good but not an All-Star caliber player. Bonifacio is a nice player, but he is more of a second division starter or utility man for a good team rather than a leadoff hitter for a true contender.
Buy or Sell? Sell.
According to Dave O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Braves could make an attempt to lure power-hitting Mark Trumbo away from the Angels. In addition, Danny Knobler reported that the Angels are likely to deal either Trumbo or Peter Bourjos for a pitcher, following the signing of Josh Hamilton.
Trumbo is one of the top young power hitters in the game. He not only made the All-Star Game last year, but he also put on a show in the Home Run Derby. Adding his power to the lineup would really make the Braves dangerous, as he could hit 30-40 homers a year in his prime.
The negative with Trumbo is that, as Jon Heyman reports, the Angels would rather trade Bourjos. Trumbo is also coming off a career season with his batting average being potentially tough to repeat, so his price is likely at an all-time high.
Plus, if the Braves were going to make a real run at Trumbo, they had their chance when they dealt Tommy Hanson to the Angels.
Buy or Sell? Sell.