Atlanta Is Better Off With In-House Talent, Or A Homecoming, To Replace Acuña

The big "Atlanta Braves" sign at the entrance to Truist Park

By John A. Tures, Professor of Political Science, LaGrange College

When Ronald Acuña went down in a heap trying to get back to second base, perhaps the entire Southern region joined him by wincing in pain. It could hurt even more if the Braves try to sign some high-profile free agent or part with valuable prospects to get one in a trade. With two exceptions, the Braves should look at in-house talent for a solution and should look for reunions only if those minor leaguers can’t cut it.

Acuña’s injury seemed to dominate the discussion last Sunday. My wife, who suffers from a series of knee and ankle problems, pumped her fist in the air as we watched the terrible events of the Braves-Pirates game unfold with horror. “Solidarity, Ronald,” she exclaimed as others carried him off the field. “I feel your pain.” For someone who married into the Braves family, it showed how much lifelong fans, and new transplants, feel about the dynamic outfielder who had been embraced by the region for his enthusiasm as much as his awards and records.

Parking outside of Truist Park the next morning to drop my son off at a job-shadowing event as news broke that Acuña would be gone for the year, and not a month as originally hoped, the pouring rain cast a pall on the normally joyous section of Cobb County I call “Baseball Disney.”

With injuries to Acuña, Spencer Strider, and injured reserve stints for Ozzie Albies, Sean Murphy, and Austin Riley (de facto) the fact that the Braves are third in the NL shows why Brian Snitker and his staff are among the best in the business. But we may need some more wizardry from A.A. and his team of scouts to get back to the ‘ship. Here are three ways they could do it.

Home-Grown Hope: The best option is an in-house solution, such as J. P. Martinez who they got into our minor league system from Texas, with Forrest Wall waiting in the wings. Martinez has the edge, while Wall had a great Grapefruit League stint. Thankfully, with Jared Kelenic and Adam Duvall in the field, there’s a little less pressure on Martinez or Wall to produce right away.

Homecoming Reunion: If the Braves duo of Martinez and Wall can’t cut it, it may be time to bring some guys back from the last World Series season. My preference is for getting Eddie Rosario back from the Washington Nationals, but there’s also Joc Pederson out there, laboring with the Arizona Diamondbacks who look a lot less like the contenders they were last year at the end. We’d have to part with a prospect perhaps, but both potential partners need someone. I wonder if we can somehow get Robbie Grossman back, who had a lot of success in spots in Atlanta.

Home Improvement Projects From Other Teams: CBS Sports touted five candidates to replace Acuña. These should only be considered if home-grown talent can’t produce, and the homecoming reunion can’t be an option. Jesse Winker of the Nationals has some of Kelenic’s limitations, without any proof that he can match the strengths. The report on Brent Rooker of the A’s being streaky didn’t inspire much confidence. Bryan de la Cruz was noted, and the Marlins are in deal now mode, but unless we can do more for him than Miami’s staff could, he doesn’t seem worth it. Taylor Ward of the Angels has above-average numbers, but the best option may be Tommy Pham. Formerly of the San Diego Padres, now toiling with the White Sox, he’s hitting over .300, even as he hits 36 in age. He seems like a good rental candidate, provided the price is not too steep.

It doesn’t have to be all gloom and doom for the Bravos. After all, look at the 1995 and 2021 seasons. They weren’t exactly the most dominant franchise years in the regular season for Atlanta. It was in the postseason where the Braves proved their mettle, and snuck up on other teams, the way the Phillies did the last two years, or the Cardinals did a few seasons ago. But the Braves Brass need to get this right, or else just getting a Wild Card spot might not be in the cards.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. His views are his own. He can be reached at His “X” account is JohnTures2.