SAN DIEGO -- The Braves surely are exploring unpredictable avenues, but they've been clear about their hopes to supplement their lineup with power. The addition could come at third base or the outfield; it could be re-signing Josh Donaldson or bringing in an alternative.
"It's fair to say we'd like to do something for the middle of the order," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said during the winter meetings in San Diego. "I can't guarantee we'll be able to accomplish that, but we'd like to add a middle-of-the-order bat if we can."
If the Braves miss on Donaldson, it's still hard to see them overpaying a Marcell Ozuna or Nicholas Castellanos, players with strong bats but not strong defenders who could receive deals that are above their perceived value.
Should they lose their slugger, they might be forced to pivot to the trade market, where there are several All-Stars potentially available. They are willing to add an outfielder to address their power shortage, which would lead to a Johan Camargo versus Austin Riley competition for the third-base job in spring, Anthopoulos said.
Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor and Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant could be obtainable. Note that the Braves almost certainly would have to relinquish one of their "big three" prospects -- starter Ian Anderson and outfielders Cristian Pache and Drew Waters -- to add either.
As unlikely as either addition might be, the Braves have been speculatively linked to both by attendees at this week's winter meetings. But to this point, there's no evidence the team has had talks with the Indians or Cubs. One or both could become more serious if Donaldson signs elsewhere.
Here's a look at the three known big-name options:
-- Braves free-agent third baseman Josh Donaldson: ?A reunion with Donaldson still makes sense, even after the Braves have spent freely through the first six weeks of the offseason. Retaining Donaldson likely would wrap their offseason spending, given that he'll command north of the $23 million average annual value he received on his previous one-year deal with the team.
Buzz around the winter meetings is that Donaldson is popular enough to land a three-or-four-year contract. That vanquishes any far-fetched hopes of the Braves retaining him on a shorter, higher AAV contract. Additionally, two of Donaldson's suitors reside in the National League East: The Phillies and Nationals have been connected to the 34-year-old, while the Dodgers, Rangers and others are interested.
In other words, Donaldson's market includes several big-market clubs and willing spenders. The Braves might keep him -- they've publicly expressed their desire to do so on multiple occasions -- but they'll have to win a bidding war.