ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves haven’t closed the door on adding a free agent, preferably on a short-term deal.
General manager Alex Anthopoulos said Saturday he’s still considering free-agent options at third base, the outfield and in the bullpen. He said he’s not looking to add a long-term contract that would block the path of outfielder Ronald Acuna or third baseman Austin Riley.
“I would say our focus, unless it’s somebody we really believe in, would be on a shorter term deal because we don’t want to block a Riley, we don’t want to block an Acuna,” Anthopoulos said.
Acuna and Riley will be closely watched in spring training as non-roster invitees.
Anthopoulos helped to clear Acuna’s path to the major leagues by trading outfielder Matt Kemp to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Dec. 16.
Acuna, 20, is the star of a rebuilding process otherwise built around pitching. He was the most valuable player of the Arizona Fall League and Baseball America’s minor league player of the year.
The Braves had interest in Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich, who was traded to the Brewers on Thursday. Anthopoulos would not include Acuna in talks with Miami.
“We’ll find out if we’re right as an organization,” Anthopoulos said. “I’ve never seen him play, but we have people who really feel strongly about him. It would take a lot to trade him.”
Anthopoulos said no player is off-limits, but the Braves see Acuna, with his power, speed and strong defense, as a long-term fixture in their outfield.
“If you think you have a middle-of-the-diamond guy who has a chance to be a middle-of-the-order bat with six years of control and cost control and all that kind of upside, that’s a really tough guy to move,” he said.
Barring a trade or free-agent addition, Johan Camargo and Rio Ruiz are expected to lead the competition at third base.
Camargo was a surprise as a rookie in 2017, hitting .299 while showing versatility with his defense at shortstop, third base and second base. He kept surprising manager Brian Snitker this winter.
“I’m sitting there watching Camargo hit a walk-off the other day in the Dominican,” Snitker said Saturday at the team’s ChopFest for fans at SunTrust Park. “I look and I’m like, ‘Man this kid has gotten bigger again,’ and I loved what I saw out of him last year, the skill set.”
Snitker and others have lobbied for Anthopoulos to protect paths for the Braves’ prospects.
“I don’t think you turn your back on an acquisition that’s going to help you, but you talk about a guy like Austin Riley, it’s exciting to get him into camp,” Snitker said.
NOTES: Anthopoulos said LHP Scott Kazmir, obtained from the Dodgers with right-hander Brandon McCarthy, infielder Charlie Culberson and cash in the Kemp trade, was “encouraged” by his offseason work after missing the 2017 season with hip and left arm injuries. “One thing is you don’t want to bet against him,” said Anthopoulos, who left the Dodgers’ front office to take the Braves job. … Former Braves coaches Terry Pendleton and Eddie Perez are expected to begin the season as roving minor league instructors. Anthopoulos said their roles “are going to evolve a little bit.” … After talk of SS Dansby Swanson and 2B Ozzie Albies switching positions, Anthopoulos said no changes are planned this year.
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