It’s been almost six weeks since the Braves made the huge trade with the Diamondbacks at the winter meetings. The headliners in the deal were Shelby Miller going to Arizona and last year’s top overall draft pick Dansby Swanson coming to Atlanta.
But there’s another player the Braves got that is still attracting attention. Ender Inciarte is a 25-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder. He’s under Atlanta’s control for another five seasons, and that’s a main reason other teams continue to call to see if the Braves would trade Inciarte before the season starts.
Inciarte was by no means a throw-in, as the Braves wanted a bat ready for the 2016 lineup. They had originally asked for A.J. Pollock, who was an All-Star last summer. After the trade, Atlanta general manager John Coppolella admitted more teams had actually called about Inciarte than had asked about Miller.
And the rumors have not slowed down. Just this week Houston was mentioned as having interest in Inciarte. The Cubs and Indians have also been linked to Inciarte over the past month.
The Braves say they are listening but prefer to keep Inciarte. That’s exactly what they said about Miller, and their haul was mindboggling. If they can get a team desperate enough, they should trade Inciarte.
Inciarte looks like a good player. He hit .303 last season and has hit .292 in his two seasons with Arizona. Inciarte steals about 20 bases a season, but he has little power. There is value for him in the field, as he’s regarded as a tremendous defensive center fielder.
Having not seen Inciarte play much, it’s hard to gauge how good this guy is. But the fact so many teams want Inciarte shows he has significant value. And considering the situation the Braves are in, it makes it even more intriguing to think what they could get for Inciarte in a trade.
The Braves are still in transition. Well, they’re rebuilding. They hope to be better this season than the 67 wins they had a year ago, and the goal is to contend next year when they enter Sun Trust Park. But this year may still be a struggle.
So if the Braves can get significant value for what looks like a nice player, not a great player but a nice player, they should do it. They still need to accumulate as many young players as possible. The Braves need power hitters for the future, and if they can spin Inciarte into a player with more power potential, they need to do it.
Plus, there is another option for center field. Mallex Smith will turn 23 in May. He’s a speedy outfielder the Braves got in the Justin Upton trade 13 months ago. Last year between Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett, Smith hit .306 with 57 stolen bases.
Smith might be a legit leadoff man for the future, but he needs a bit more time in Gwinnett to start 2016. But Smith could be ready in mid-season. The Braves have veteran Michael Bourn around, and Bourn could hold down center until Smith arrives.
So if Inciarte could be traded for a power corner outfielder, and if Smith can be a suitable player in center, the Braves would be much better off with their future lineup.
This is all about maximizing assets. The Braves have a player who is attracting a lot of interest. Maybe they’ll regret trading Inciarte if he’s really this good. But with where this organization is right now, getting more talent for the future is the primary goal, which should make this decision of whether to keep Inciarte or trade him away very interesting.
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