Why Nationals outfield slugger is Braves ‘perfect deadline addition’

Losing the defending National League MVP is a tough pill to swallow. But the Atlanta Braves are soldiering on with the 2024 season, and it’s clear they need help in their outfield.

Fortunately, a solution exists that works out perfectly for Atlanta, but for their division rivals as well. The Washington Nationals have an impending logjam in their outfield, making one of their most productive hitters expendable.

In his list of top trade deadline additions for all Major League Baseball contenders, ESPN’s Jeff Passan identified the Nationals’ Lane Thomas as the best match for the Braves and their current need in the outfield.

“As painful as it would be for Washington to send Thomas to a team it trails in its division by only six games, he is a free agent after next season,” Passan said. “Atlanta could either keep him as an Acuna insurance policy or move him again in the winter.”

Thomas, 28, has come on strong this season after returning from an early knee injury. His season OPS is .717, still above league average, but in the 27 games since coming off the injured list, that OPS is .889. Thomas has also played right field in 46 of the 49 games he has played this season, making him an ideal temporary replacement for Acuña.

For most teams, trading a productive outfielder under 30 isn’t a consideration, but the Nationals are about to have an embarrassment of riches in their outfield.

MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 overall prospect James Wood has been destroying Triple-A pitching and could be called up any day now. And his Rochester Red Wings teammate, 2023 second overall draft pick Dylan Crews, won’t be far behind.

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But while Thomas is expendable for the Nationals, he’d be a crucial addition for the offense-starved Braves. We’ve already seen general manager Alex Anthopoulos reconstruct an outfield and win a championship, and Thomas just might help him do it again.

More MLB: Braves could acquire White Sox ace In Blockbuster Deal to boost rotation

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