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The Braves claimed a former Phillies reliever and outfielder on Friday.
Amid rumors that the Atlanta Braves are interested in stealing away star free-agent J.T. Realmuto from the Philadelphia Phillies, the National League East division rival went ahead and added two recently cut players who formerly donned red pinstripes on Friday.
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According to the Braves team transactions page, they claimed RHP Victor Arano and outfielder Kyle Garlick off waivers from the Phillies, filling the last two openings on their 40-man roster. Arano, 25, and Garlick, 28, were designated for assignment on Monday to clear room on the Phillies 40-man roster for infielder C.J. Chatham and reliever Archie Bradley.
Arano pitched 73 games for the Phillies across the 2017-19 seasons, going a combined 3-2 with a 2.65 ERA, 1.138 WHIP, and 80-23 strikeouts-to-walks ratio spanning 74 2/3 innings and 17 games finished. The Mexico native underwent elbow surgery in 2019 and missed the entire 2020 season with a shoulder injury.
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The Phillies acquired Garlick from the eventual World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers last February for minor-league left-hander Tyler Gilbert. The California native outfielder showed signs of some power in his rookie season with the Dodgers in 2019, slashing .250/.321/.521 with four doubles, three home runs, and six RBI across 30 games and 53 plate appearances.
ATLANTA — After George Springer and Michael Brantley agreed to their respective deals this week, there was reason to reassess who the Braves might get with their pursuit of a power hitter. But thoughts of J.T. Realmuto entering the conversation seemed unlikely.
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So, on Thursday morning, it was somewhat surprising to see FanSided’s Robert Murray report the Braves are “circling on free agent J.T. Realmuto.” But given the scarcity of power hitters available, this option does make sense, despite the fact Atlanta veteran catcher Travis d’Arnaud has another year remaining on his contract.
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Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos didn’t allow Johan Camargo’s presence to deter him from signing Josh Donaldson two years ago. Like when Donaldson signed, the primary need is to land an impact bat.
So, the fact the target was assumed to be either a left fielder or a third baseman doesn’t erase the possibility Anthopoulos would add a catcher, especially when given a chance to land Realmuto, who currently stands as the premier option at a premium position.
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With Springer now a Blue Jay and Brantley back with the Astros, Realmuto is one of the most attractive, non-DH, impact bats on the free-agent market. The next-best options in terms of position players would be 36-year-old third baseman Justin Turner, Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig and Adam Duvall.
If the universal designated hitter will once again be used, it may make more sense to go with Marcell Ozuna or Nelson Cruz. But as Anthopoulos attempts to construct his roster without any clarity about the DH plans, he has no choice but to at least evaluate how Realmuto might fit.
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman recently reported that the Phillies have offered Realmuto a five-year deal worth approximately $110 million. The Braves have the financial means necessary to make a similar offer.
But does it make sense to commit $22 million per year to a soon-to-be 30-year-old catcher when rising prospects William Contreras or Shea Langeliers could be ready to replace d’Arnaud, who is entering the last season of his two-year, $16 million deal?
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It begins to make more sense when you start to evaluate the lineup with the assumption it will not include a DH. Using current pieces, you might come up with a projection that looks like this: Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies, Freddie Freeman, d’Arnaud, Dansby Swanson, Austin Riley, Ender Inciarte and Cristian Pache.
After spending the past two years watching Freeman benefit from Donaldson and Ozuna hitting behind him, the Braves recognize the potential importance of adding another power hitter, preferably one who hits right-handed.
As things currently stand, Realmuto is one of the few available players who fits that description. So, maybe that the Braves are “circling” on the free-agent catcher shouldn’t be too surprising.
DH ruling may not be deciding factor on Ozuna
In a recent MLB.com story, four of six writers polled predicted Ozuna will end up back with the Braves, even if the universal DH is not used again. That’s certainly not ridiculous given the Braves signed the veteran outfielder to a one-year, $18 million deal last year, long before anyone could have guessed National League teams would be using the DH.
When the options are limited and you’re evaluating arguably the top option, it might be easier to overlook Ozuna’s defensive shortcomings. But if entering what would almost certainly be a multiyear deal, you may want to at least have strong confidence the universal DH would exist by the start of 2022.
Donning red pinstripes in 2020, however, Garlick struggled to produce similar numbers — slashing only .136/.174/.182 with a double and three RBI spanning 23 plate appearances.
Arano and Garlick are not the only former Phillies players now on the Braves 40-man roster. They join right-handed starting pitcher Charlie Morton, southpaw starter Drew Smyly, catcher Travis d’Arnaud (once dealt to acquire Roy Halladay), and Ender Inciarte (former Rule 5 Draft pick).
And, on the Braves coaching staff, former Phils notably include pitching coach Rick Kranitz, catching coach Sal Fasano, and batting practice pitcher Tomas Perez.
Hopefully, Realmuto does not join this list in the coming weeks as spring training gets underway.