Braves acquire power-hitting outfielder Adam Duvall from Reds

The Atlanta Braves found their right-handed power bat before the non-waiver trade deadline.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos’ front office acquired power-hitting Reds outfielder Adam Duvall in exchange for pitchers Matt Wisler and Lucas Sims and outfielder Preston Tucker on Monday night. Duvall is Atlanta’s third trade acquisition in four days, joining Jonny Venters and Brad Brach, but the first involving a Braves player in the return package.

“It’s just a way to make our team better,” Anthopoulos said. “A little more depth, a little more experience.”

A 29-year-old outfielder and former 11th-round pick, Duvall has struggled this season in Cincinnati after back-to-back 30-homer seasons. In 370 plate appearances in 2018, Duvall is slashing .205/.286/.399 with 15 home runs and a career-worst 82 weighted runs created plus. His road splits have been even worse: He’s hitting 36 percent below league average outside of Great American Ballpark’s hitter-friendly confines.

The power is real, though. Since the start of the 2016 season, he’s tied with Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo for total home runs, the fifth-best mark among current the National League hitters behind only Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, Paul Goldschmidt and his new teammate Freddie Freeman. For additional context: That’s one home run ahead of Bryce Harper and four ahead of now-former teammate Joey Votto. However, the swing-and-miss numbers are also real: Only four qualified position players own a higher strikeout rate over the past three years.

Anthopoulos said the move frees up the Braves to relegate Gold Glove center fielder Ender Inciarte to a bench role against left-handed pitching. Among players with at least 100 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers this season, Inciarte, the team’s everyday leadoff hitter last season, ranks last in the National League and third-worst in the majors in offensive production. For his career, Duvall is hitting 8 percent above league average against lefties, including 23 home runs in 454 plate appearances.

Defensively, the Braves newcomer provides a plus glove who has accounted for 38 defensive runs saved in left field since 2016, finishing as a Gold Glove finalist each of the past two years.

“I think you guys know defense is something that we feel, as a baseball (operations) group, is really important, and this is another really good defender,” Anthopoulos said.

Duvall, who will enter his first year of arbitration this offseason, is under club control through 2021.

Duvall’s struggles drove his price down to two pitchers who were likely never going to secure a long-term roster spot in Atlanta and an outfielder who couldn’t stick on the Braves’ major-league roster despite a fast start in 2018. Additionally, the trade clears up two extra spots on the Braves’ 40-man roster.

A centerpiece of the Craig Kimbrel trade in 2015, Wisler was unable to translate prospect hype into major-league production for Atlanta, capping his tenure with a 4.93 FIP and 0.5 WAR across 324 2/3 innings despite sporadic standout performances. Sims, the franchise’s first-round selection in 2012 ahead of young arms Marcus Stroman, Lance McCullers and Jose Berrios, owns even worse career numbers in the majors. With the arrival of the next wave of Braves pitching with Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard, Luiz Gohara and Max Fried — not to mention Kyle Wright and Touki Toussaint now pitching for Triple-A Gwinnett — the window for Wisler and Sims in Atlanta had closed.

The Braves acquired Tucker from the Houston Astros this past offseason and his surprise production helped bridge the gap to Acuña, he’s slashed .182/.270/.364 since May 16.

“It was going to be a bit of a crunch for us in the (40-man roster) in the offseason. (Tucker) and Matt (Wisler) are both going to be out of options at the end of the year. I can’t sit here and tell you that they would’ve survived the roster, and that’s no indictment on them. It’s just a reflection of we have so much talent coming and a lot of guys to protect.”

In their three deadline deals to date, Atlanta’s front office has yet to part with a single bona fide prospect from one of the top farm systems in baseball while incrementally adding pieces to a potential playoff contender.