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Revitalizing Free Agents’ Prospects: Yuli Gurriel’s Signing Breathes Fresh Opportunity

The recent acquisition of Yuli Gurriel by the Atlanta Braves on Saturday offers a glimmer of hope for seasoned free agents still on the lookout for teams.

Despite Gurriel’s past achievements as a batting champion, his age of 39 and primary position as a first baseman suggest that he may remain limited to the minor-league contract he inked with the Braves.

In contrast, Matt Olson, the current first baseman for Atlanta, has demonstrated remarkable consistency by playing a full 162 games thrice, notably leading the majors with 54 home runs and 139 RBIs in the 2023 season. At 30 years old, Olson is currently at the pinnacle of his career.

On the other hand, Gurriel’s performance seems to be on a downward trajectory. With eight years of experience in the league, he showcased peak performances in 2021 with a .319 batting average, and in 2019 with 31 home runs and 104 RBIs. However, his batting average dipped to .245 while playing for Miami last season. Known as a contact hitter with low strikeout and walk rates, Gurriel possesses the versatility to cover multiple positions, having played 92 games at third base and 20 games at second base throughout his career.

The challenge Gurriel faces now is that he joins a team with a surplus of talent across all positions. The Atlanta infield, which includes standouts like Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley, and Orlando Arcia, participated in the recent All-Star Game alongside Olson. Furthermore, the presence of Marcell Ozuna, a top home run hitter, diminishes Gurriel’s chances of serving as the designated hitter for Atlanta.

In contrast, Matt Olson, known for his durability and dynamic play, has consistently completed the full 162-game season in the past two years.

The Braves are considering utilizing Olson as a potential bench player to rival utilityman Luis Guillorme, or as a valuable asset for trade negotiations to strengthen their pitching roster before the upcoming July 30 trade deadline.

Meanwhile, Gurriel’s addition enhances the Braves’ depth in the minor leagues and provides insurance against potential injuries in the major league infield. Gurriel, a versatile Cuban player, boasts a Gold Glove win in 2021 and World Series victories in 2017 and 2022 with Houston.

Assigned to the Triple-A Gwinnett team, Gurriel’s contract details were not disclosed by Atlanta, indicating a substantial decrease from his peak salary of $14.4 million in 2017.

Other unsigned free agents, such as Wil Myers, AJ Pollack, Jonathan Schoop, Jean Segura, and a group of pitchers like Zack Greinke, Brad Hand, Aaron Loup, Mark Melancon, Noah Syndergaard, and Vince Velasquez, may also need to accept reduced financial terms to secure playing opportunities.

Alternatively, there is the intriguing prospect of Trevor Bauer, a polarizing figure in baseball, who expressed willingness to sign for the league minimum salary of $740,000 with performance-based incentives. Bauer, a former Cy Young Award winner, faced a significant suspension without pay in 2022 due to alleged violations of MLB’s sexual abuse policy, leading to his release from the Los Angeles Dodgers and subsequent absence from professional play.