The Atlanta Braves are one of the elite teams in the National League but the group was dealt a massive blow with Nick Markakis heading to the IL.
The veteran OF was hit in the wrist by a pitch Friday night in the Braves 9-2 win over the Phillies and it was clear from the reaction in the Atlanta locker room after the game the outlook wasn’t great for Markakis. And as it turns out, the 35-year-old vet has a fractured wrist.
While it won’t be easy for Atlanta to replace Markakis’ presence in the dugout and clubhouse, they do have former Reds OF Adam Duvall who had back-to-back 30 home run campaigns for Cincinnati in 2016-17. He’s been in Triple-A for all of 2019 hitting .259 with 19 home runs and a .931 OPS. But the loss of Markakis will be felt throughout the clubhouse as the veteran’s season may be over.
Here’s 1B Freddie Freeman speaking to how important a guy like Markakis is to this team.
The good news is that this does allow demoted OF Ender Inciarte a chance to earn a roster spot after a disappointing campaign, but the 28-year-old is only two seasons removed from an All-Star 2017 where he scored 93 runs leading off for the Braves. OF’s Matt Joyce, Charlie Culberson, and Johan Camargo could also split time in RF while the Braves try and find a replacement for Markakis.
The Braves could also switch their focus from starting pitching to adding an outfielder like Nicholas Castellanos from the Tigers, who is a free agent after this season. Adding a veteran bat like Castellanos could actually be seen as an upgrade at the plate, but defensively, Castellanos is one of the worst fielders at the position.
Atlanta was linked to Toronto this week partially because of their interest in starter Marcus Stroman, but Jon Morosi reported Saturday morning the Braves we’re also talking to the Blue Jays about relievers and a versatile bat.
It’s safe to assume that’s in regards to RHP Ken Giles and 2B/Utility player Eric Sogard, both of which would fit well on Atlanta’s roster. But Sogard now makes plenty of sense for the Braves, fulfilling a similar role Markakis held as a high-OBP player and adds some flexibility to the Braves roster being able to play at 2B or in the OF.
The Braves still holds a 5.5-game lead in the NL East but both the Nationals and Phillies have closed the gap some and are playing much better baseball as of late. And with the July 31st trade deadline fast approaching, Atlanta may want to play it safe and add depth now before it’s too late.