If the Texas Rangers are looking for a defensive upgrade in center field next season, Ender Inciarte of the Atlanta Braves makes sense as a trade target.
Options are starting to run low for the Texas Rangers who are still looking to add another piece to their big league roster before the start of the 2020 season. As of now, the logical fit seems to be adding an outfielder, particularly one that can play center field regularly. The Rangers currently plan to have Danny Santana man center next season but while his bat is certainly a plus, his defensive numbers weren’t inspiring in the outfield last season.
The free agent market is limited with Kevin Pillar headlining the possibilities for center field. On the trade market, the two names that seem the most reasonable are Jackie Bradley Jr. of the Red Sox, a player we’ve looked at, and Ender Inciarte, currently with the Atlanta Braves. Inciarte seems like a player that the Braves would want to move on from this offseason considering their stacked outfield at the big league level as well as Christian Pache and Drew Waters, two elite prospects waiting for their MLB chance.
After playing in 115-plus games each year since 2014, Inciarte only made 65 appearances for Atlanta last season after struggling through most of the year with a series of injuries. The Braves put together an impressive season despite being without Inciarte for large portions of it putting him potentially on the outside looking in for their outfield crew. As of now the Braves outfield mix is likely to include…
- Ronald Acuna Jr.
- Marcell Ozuna
- Nick Markakis
- Adam Duvall
- Austin Riley
- Christian Pache (#13 overall prospect per MLB Pipeline)
- Drew Waters (#26 overall prospect per MLB Pipeline)
- Ender Inciarte
Both Pache and Waters have more or less proved they’re ready for the big leagues meaning the Rangers could capitalize and bring Inciarte to Arlington.
The 29-year old is known as a glove first outfielder winning three consecutive Gold Gloves from 2016 through 2018. He finished the 2019 season with a 1.4 UZR/150 which was down compared to his career 6.3 UZR/150, but may have been affected by injury. He would certainly be a defensive upgrade over Santana and would soften the blow of losing Delino DeShields this offseason.
Inciarte’s bat has never been his strong suit despite his 2017 season where he hit .304 with a .759 OPS in 157 games, earning an All-Star nod. Last year Inciarte hit .246 for the Braves with a .740 OPS but posted an 89 OPS+, tied for the lowest of his career.
He hails from Maracaibo, Venezuela, the same city as Rangers’ second baseman Rougned Odor. Inciarte is due $7 million this season, $8 million in 2021 and has a club option for $9 million in 2022 with a buyout near the $1 million mark. That’s a fairly tame contract to invest in, especially if Inciarte can revitalize his bat and keep up his stellar defensive play.
The knock on his fit with Texas is that he’s a left-handed hitter which the Rangers already have an overstocking of heading into 2020. He would also knock Danny Santana out of an everyday spot in the lineup. However, a possible solution is to put Inciarte in center and move Santana to first base which would take Ronald Guzman’s left-handed bat out of the lineup to even things out and keep Santana playing everyday at a defensive spot he might perform better at.
To acquire Inciarte, the Rangers shouldn’t have to give up much as he’s still a somewhat significant salary investment for a player that is coming off a down year. He probably would cost more than Jackie Bradley Jr., but also has more upside that could play for a Rangers club looking to outperform expectations.