The Braves are off to a great start this offseason.
They signed B.J. Upton to a reasonable five-year deal, filling two team needs by adding a power-hitting, right-handed center fielder. General manager Frank Wren then dealt Tommy Hanson to the Angels, adding a hard-throwing reliever in Jordan Walden. The trade also freed up about $4 million in payroll space, which could pay dividend in the coming weeks.
With the Winter Meetings set to begin on Monday, Wren should continue to be very busy. Atlanta still has one glaring hole in their lineup to fill, and a bench bat or two could be acquired.
As it stands now, Martin Prado will play either third base or left field next season. Given the lack of options on the market, it only makes sense for Prado to shift to third. And other than Chase Headley of the Padres, there really aren't any better options available.
So who could the Braves target for left field? Let's run down some of the options, and their chances of ending up in Atlanta.
Trade: Justin Upton - Upton, 25, has reportedly been on the trading block for the last two years. He has the talent to become a superstar one day, although he's been a bit inconsistent with the Diamondbacks. He'd be a great fit with the Braves, although Arizona will likely demand Andrelton Simmons to part with their talented outfielder. I'm not sure there's much of a match without a third team getting involved.
Trade: Alex Gordon - Gordon has experienced two great seasons with the Royals, and the team is reportedly open to dealing him if it lands them an established starting pitcher to head their rotation. While the Braves do have pitching depth, they likely lack the ace that Kansas City covets. Still, though, keep an eye on Gordon's name this week.
Trade: Dexter Fowler - The Rockies are looking for pitching, which the Braves have. On the surface, Fowler's numbers look great. Dig a little deeper and you find a guy who has posted a .698 OPS outside of the hitter-friendly Coors Field. I'd say Fowler has a better chance of coming to Atlanta than Upton or Gordon do, although Colorado's reported steep asking price will have to come down.
Sign: Shane Victorino - Braves fans are familiar with the veteran outfielder. Victorino is coming off the worst season of his career, and he turned 32 last week. He could potentially serve as a decent leadoff option for the Braves, but he doesn't fit in with the team's new "younger and more athletic" mold. A couple of media members have been pushing Victorino in recent days, but I just don't see it.
Sign: Josh Hamilton - Just kidding.
Sign: Nick Swisher - Swisher is probably the most attractive left fielder on the free agent market, and he'll be paid like it. He is one of the more consistent players in baseball, posting an OPS between .822 and .870 in each of the last four years. At 32 years old, Swisher likely has a few solid years left in the outfield, although teams will be cautious of overpaying for him. I'd be a big fan of Atlanta signing him assuming the price is right.
Sign: Angel Pagan - Pagan would be a solid fit in Atlanta, but he seems likely to return to the Giants. And given that he's looking for a four- or five-year deal worth $10 million annually, Wren will likely look elsewhere.
Sign: Cody Ross - He would give the Braves some more right-handed pop, and a possible platoon could be in the works should he sign. Atlanta can probably aim a bit higher, although Ross could be a solid backup plan should a few other options not pan out.
There are just the names that have been linked to the Braves in recent weeks. The Winter Meetings are always a crazy time of year. Teams need pitching, and the Braves have plenty of it. Free agents like money, and the Braves have cash to spend. It should be a busy, exciting week for the club.