Braves reuniting with '21 World Series winner Duvall

March 14th, 2024

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- One month after saying would be their everyday left fielder, the Braves have decided to have him platoon with .

This development unfolded on Thursday afternoon, when the Braves announced they signed Duvall to a one-year, $3 million deal. Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos said he and Braves manager Brian Snitker had already informed Kelenic of the plan for Duvall to play left field against left-handed starters.

“This is just a really good opportunity to bring someone in who fits our clubhouse and he’s a very strong right-handed bat,” Anthopoulos said.

Duvall became a popular clubhouse figure as he experienced two stints with the Braves from 2018-22. His return to Atlanta at the 2021 Trade Deadline helped the Braves win the World Series a few months later.

So, with Opening Day two weeks away and Duvall still on the free agent market, the Braves reunited with an old friend. This reunion also creates some insurance for Kelenic, who has gone 3-for-34 with four walks, nine strikeouts and no extra-base hits this spring.

Anthopoulos said Kelenic’s production within this small sample size didn’t influence the decision to sign Duvall.

“It’s about Adam Duvall,” Anthopoulos said. “It’s an opportunity to get him back. Jarred has looked great. He’s been great defensively. He made an unbelievable play in center field and had a nice game last night. We’re very excited about Jarred.”

There has never been any reason to wonder what the Braves think of Kelenic’s upside. Once they took on some bad contracts and shuffled most of them elsewhere, they essentially paid $17 million to gain five years of control of the young outfielder, who was MLB’s No. 4 prospect as recently as 2021.

A couple rough weeks during Spring Training certainly hasn’t erased the optimism the Braves had when they acquired Kelenic from the Mariners. But it certainly may have enhanced the attractiveness of creating a platoon for the upcoming season.

Kelenic hit .253 with 11 homers and a .746 OPS last year. He got off to a good start, but faded before fracturing his foot when he kicked a water cooler in frustration in July.

Here are some of his splits from last year:

Vs. RHP: 324 PA, .251 BA, .738 OPS, 7 HRs (41 AB/HR), 105 Ks (32.4% K rate)

Vs. LHP: 92 PA, .259 BA, .774 OPS, 4 HRs (21.3 AB/HR), 27 Ks (29.3% K rate)

These numbers don’t necessarily scream for the need to platoon. But Duvall’s presence could at least take some pressure off Kelenic as he adjusts to a new team and new environment.

“We were just talking about [Duvall] yesterday,” said Braves pitcher Chris Sale, who struck out six in Atlanta's 3-1 loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday. “It’s crazy it took this long, but he’s obviously a great addition.”

Even if Kelenic had thrived over the past few weeks, there was seemingly a need for the Braves to improve their outfield depth. Duvall certainly brings more potential value than Forrest Wall, Jordan Luplow or Eli White, who had previously stood as the top candidates for the backup outfielder spot.

“You’re bringing in a guy who has led MLB in RBIs and won a Gold Glove,” Anthopoulos said. “It’s a rare opportunity. I didn’t think we’d be sitting here in March with an opportunity to get a guy like this. It just solidifies us.”

Duvall hit 38 homers and tallied 113 RBIs while playing for the Marlins and Braves in 2021. Wrist injuries have limited him the past two seasons. But he tallied 21 homers over just 92 games with Boston last year.

The Braves are planning for Duvall to be on the Opening Day roster. He will take live batting practice as frequently as possible over the next couple weeks. His first start of the regular season would likely come in the third game, when the Phillies are expected to start left-hander Ranger Suárez.

“[Duvall] is a good guy inside the stadium and outside the stadium,” Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. said. “I’m happy.”