The Braves Trade for a Left Field Platoon in Rosario and Duvall

The Braves could have been buyers or sellers at the start of this trade deadline season; I wouldn’t have been surprised either way. They have struggled to gain traction in a winnable National League East, and despite preseason projections that had them finishing 91–71 and in a tie with the Mets atop the division, they have not spent a single day in 2021 over .500 and entered Friday with playoff odds of just 9.7%.

A big reason for Atlanta’s woes is the outfield, where the team has lost two starters. On June 1, Marcell Ozuna dislocated two fingers on his left hand on a slide; less than a week later, he was arrested in connection to a domestic violence call and was charged with aggravated assault strangulation and misdemeanor battery. It’s unlikely he sees the field again this season (and probably as a Brave as well). A little over a month later, things reached DEFCON 1 when Ronald Acuña Jr. landed awkwardly trying to make a catch and tore his ACL, which required season-ending surgery.

The Braves have tried patching those holes as best they can. Not long after Acuña went down, they sent Bryce Ball to the Cubs for Joc Pederson. On Friday, they tossed some more bodies into the mix, adding Eddie Rosario from Cleveland and Adam Duvall from Miami. In exchange, Cleveland will get Pablo Sandoval, and the Marlins will receive Alex Jackson, who ranked eighth in our preseason Atlanta top prospects list. (The Braves also picked up Jorge Soler from the Royals in a deal announced after the deadline; we’ll have that transaction written up separately later.)

The Braves’ problems in the outfield have extended beyond injuries and possible suspensions: Atlanta outfielders not named Acuña or Pederson have put up a dreadful combined 0.4 WAR across all three positions this season.

Braves Outfield Offensive Production 2021
Ronald Acuna Jr. 360 13.60% 23.60% 0.313 0.414 158 4.3
Guillermo Heredia 268 8.60% 24.30% 0.147 0.312 93 0.6
Ehire Adrianza 160 10.60% 17.50% 0.175 0.339 110 0.4
Abraham Almonte 160 14.40% 19.40% 0.199 0.339 110 0.3
Joc Pederson 56 5.40% 16.10% 0.151 0.327 102 0.2
Ender Inciarte 89 7.90% 24.70% 0.101 0.263 61 0.1
Orlando Arcia 54 7.40% 25.90% 0.143 0.272 67 -0.1
Marcell Ozuna 208 9.10% 22.10% 0.144 0.285 75 -0.2
Cristian Pache 68 2.90% 36.80% 0.095 0.159 -6 -0.7

Rosario and Duvall together represent a decent offensive upgrade over the cavalcade of prospects and waiver wire claims the Braves have called up at various times to fill those roles. The former, who signed a one-year deal with Cleveland in the spring after getting non-tendered by Minnesota last winter, made an appearance in Jay Jaffe’s recent Replacement Level Killers series focusing on the corner outfield positions, but replacements are all about context. And as Jay noted, Rosario has been better since June 1, with a .290/.313/.419 slash, a .313 wOBA and a 94 wRC+. He’s particularly (and oddly) shined against left-handed hitting during that hot streak, slashing .357/.357/.393 with a .328 wOBA and 106 wRC+.

That’s unlikely to hold, though, as Rosario has a career 86 wRC+ against southpaws, and he’s been better against right-handers in his career (a 111 wRC+ and a .337 wOBA). He also grades out poorly in the advanced defensive metrics and has never met a pitch he won’t swing at, and his peripherals don’t suggest bad luck, all of which limits his potential value. But with Duvall, Pederson, Soler and the surprisingly resurgent Guillermo Heredia already on the roster, it’s unlikely Rosario will do more than pinch-hit or perhaps spot Duvall or Soler against tough right-handers.

As for Duvall, who was non-tendered by Atlanta in the offseason but returns after spending four months in Miami, like Rosario, he’s been unexpectedly useful against same-side pitching this season, with a .249/.294/.511 triple slash, .339 wOBA and a 116 wRC+ against righties. But also like Rosario, that’s probably more a result of some small sample fuzziness than any actual improvement on Duvall’s part. His true calling is as the strong side of a platoon, but he’s struggled brutally in that department this year, slashing a meager .176/.231/.388 with a .266 wOBA and 69 wRC+ against southpaws. That’s just about his only tool — Duvall is an indifferent fielder and has close to zero plate patience — so unless he can snap out of that funk, he’ll have a hard time contributing to the Braves’ chase for another NL East title.

As you would expect given Rosario’s struggles, the return for him was light: just Sandoval, who had mostly been a bench mascot and occasional pinch-hitter for the Braves but will take his panda mask to a Cleveland team that has a lot of young talent on the field but only a 2.1% chance of making the playoffs. Soon to be 35, Sandoval has hit .178/.302/.342 in limited time; his role in this deal is to balance salaries, though if nothing else, he’s probably Cleveland’s best bet to pitch in a blowout.

Miami, meanwhile, got an actual prospect of note in Jackson, who was drafted sixth overall in 2014 by Seattle. He’s struggled at times with his defensive development, but there is zero doubt about his power; our last scouting report put a 70 on his raw and a 50 on his in-game. Contact has been his main issue, as he’s run strikeout rates over 25% at every level of the minors and whiffed in 22 of his 50 plate appearances in the majors scattered over the last three seasons. The lost year of development due to the pandemic didn’t help his chances of staying in Atlanta, nor did the glut of young catchers in the system. As a result, he’ll head to the Marlins, who will likely let him continue marinating in the minors with an eye toward having him take over backup duties behind Jorge Alfaro next year.

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2 years ago

Highly confused by Cleveland’s return. Was Eddie costing too much on his 1 year deal? I’m literally baffled by this

2 years ago
Reply to  Kevbot034

Paul Dolan would like to answer that with an emphatic “YES!!!”.

Left of Centerfield
2 years ago
Reply to  szakyl

Rosario is owed about $3 million more this year. But Cleveland is also picking up some of his salary so they’re saving less than that. The good news is that we know that Cleveland will invest any savings right back into the team Oh wait, no they won’t!

Anyway, for me, this wasn’t the most baffling move they made. They also traded Phil Maton and catching prospect Yainer Diaz for Myles Straw. I’m fine with them trading those two away but Straw seems to be a clone of Bradly Zimmer and Oscar Mercado (can’t hit, all his value is in defense and baserunning). Are they trying to corner the market on that type of CFer???

2 years ago

Actually, Zimmer and Mercado wish they could hit and (especially) field like Straw. Look up his projection: he’s a ~3WAR CF with fair OBP. He’s an improvement especially for a pitching first team.

He might be able to cover enough ground to carry a bat-first LF, if they can find one. Or maybe they’re serious about putting Reyes out there?

2 years ago
Reply to  Kevbot034

Well, between moving him and Hernandez, the saved $4M which is about 8% of the roster budget for the *year*.

But there’s also baseball reasons of the “we lost with hik, we can lose without him” kind. Namely they need to see what they can get out of Owen Miller, Yu Chang, and Harold Ramirez. Are they platoon, bench, 4A, or part of the answer for 22?

Plus Rosario is on the IL for an unknown period.

Panda was the weird part but he got waved before he left Atlanta so, yes, moving Rosario was a dump. But the ABs also had something to do with it.