When the Braves first scouted Hector Olivera last winter, they envisioned him playing left field. That was an expected hole, with the imminent trade of Justin Upton during the offseason.
Things changed with the struggles of Chris Johnson, and there was a bigger need at third base. Olivera was okay at third base, but he did not look very special and there were questions about his ability to play the position long-term.
So Buster Olney of ESPN has reported the Braves are, in fact, working with Olivera in left field, even having outfield coach Bo Porter work with the soon-to-be 31-year-old Cuban player.
Now, this does not necessarily mean Olivera will never play third base again. The Braves are just keeping their options open.
But it is worth wondering if there could be a free agent third baseman on the market that could interest the Braves.
What about Ben Zobrist, the switch-hitting and versatile player that was on Kansas City’s World Series team? He’s played some (8 games, 5 starts) in his career at third. Or might the Braves want Zobrist for second base and move Jace Peterson to third? That’s unlikely, but again we’re just throwing ideas up against the wall. Zobrist is 35, so what kind of contract would he demand? He would be a veteran position player to compliment Nick Markakis in the lineup.
Would the Braves go after Daniel Murphy, the Mets’ postseason hero? He’s played 86 games at third base in his career. Murphy screams of someone who will be vastly overpaid this winter and never play up to his contract.
David Freese will turn 33 next April. The former Cardinals’ World Series star has been ordinary for the Angels in the last two seasons, hitting .258 with 24 home runs. He could be Chris Johnson, part two.
The free agent market is not great for third basemen. So the Braves may have something else up their sleeve to get a player that can play the hot corner, just in case Olivera is better suited to left field.