With the free agent outfielder market shrinking, the Atlanta Braves face the prospect of having to fill a gaping hole in their lineup (whether it be in left field or third base, with Martin Prado ably filling the other) via either a trade or with an internal option.
While bringing in someone from the outside is probably optimal with few attractive options on the current roster, the team could feasibly stand pat and fill the hole within the current construct of the team, as MLB.com's Mark Bowman writes in his latest blog from the Winter Meetings in Nashville.
B.J. Upton is already on board to fill the open center field spot, a rare big-time free agent signing by Atlanta. Prado, who has been stellar in left field the last two seasons, could stay in left while Juan Francisco takes much of the bulk at third base left by the retiring Chipper Jones. But, as Bowman writes, Braves general manager Frank Wren would much prefer to bring in a left fielder in a trade and move the versatile Prado to third.
One name mentioned is Emilio Bonifacio, who was acquired by the Toronto Blue Jays from the Miami Marlins last month. Bonifacio could fill the void at the top of the lineup and in left, but he's not expected to come cheaply.
Bowman also throws out a familiar name to Braves fans -- Mark DeRosa, who could serve a utility role and is friends with catcher Brian McCann. The Braves also have speedy part-timer Jose Constanza, or could turn to minor leaguer Evan Gattis.
The Braves have options on the current roster should no current free agent entice them or if Wren can wrangle a trade. But as Bowman points out, that's certainly a backup plan this early in the offseason.