With focus on defense, Braves reunion with Martin Prado could fit plan … and not block Austin Riley

ORLANDO — For multitude of reasons — leadership in a young clubhouse, filling a need at third base and taking advantage of the Marlins’ cost-cutting measures — an Atlanta reunion for Martin Prado would make sense.

Then there’s new general manager Alex Anthopoulos’ stating Monday that his priority is an improved defense that was 27th with minus-43 defensive runs saved, making acquiring Prado that much more of a match.

“If we can improve in just one area defensively, we’re going to make 12 or 13 guys on that [pitching staff] a lot better,” Anthopoulos said. “I can’t tell you it’s going to get done. There are some hoops to jump through to do some of those things.”

Prado, mentioned by MLB.com Marlins writer Joe Frisaro and in our Winter Meetings preview, has two years and $28.5 million remaining on his deal. That timeline may be right in line with the Braves waiting on the arrival of Austin Riley, the team’s ninth-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline.

Any deal would likely have to include Miami eating a chunk of that money), and it comes with the caveat that Prado is coming off a season in which he played just 37 games with hamstring and knee issues.

That resulted in a career low .250/.279/.357 slash line and 70 OPS+, but despite that, Prado was a plus defender for the seventh straight year with a 1.4 defensive WAR.

He had three defensive runs saved in 280 innings at third base in 2017, while the Braves were a collective minus-2 using nine different players. Only one that’s still on the roster was better than zero DRS, and that’s the guy who usually mans first base in Freddie Freeman (three DRS).

Johan Camargo was at zero DRS in 286 innings, and without adding help at third, he can certainly fill the starting role. Along with those innings at third, Camargo played in 205 1/3 at shortstop and another 57 at second.

But with the expectation that aiding the defense also means helping shortstop Dansby Swanson — minus-7 DRS — find his footing, Camargo’s biggest and best contribution may come in being the infield utility piece that could supplement both a potential aging third baseman and Swanson.

The Marlins are already in the midst of a fires sale. They’ve moved reigning National League Most Valuable Player Giancarlo Stanton and his $295 million contract — his new team, the Yankees, are responsible for $265 million of that — and two-time All-Star Dee Gordon and his remaining $38 million.

Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney and Facebook. His books, ‘Tales from the Atlanta Braves Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Braves Stories Ever Told,’ and ‘The Heisman Trophy: The Story of an American Icon and Its Winners.’ are now available.