Braves sign Laureano to Minors deal, add depth after Acuña injury

May 29th, 2024

ATLANTA -- Seeking outfield depth in the wake of Ronald Acuña Jr.’s season-ending injury, the Braves signed veteran to a Minor League deal on Wednesday, manager Brian Snitker confirmed. The 29-year-old Laureano, who was released by the Guardians on May 25, will report to Triple-A Gwinnett.

A right-handed hitter who displayed big power and arm strength early in his career with the A’s, Laureano has had a difficult time replicating that production since serving an 80-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs in 2021.

Laureano was a .263/.335/.465 hitter who homered every 22.7 at-bats before the suspension. He’s produced just a .211/.293/.360 line since, with one homer every 33.8 at-bats. He’d hit just .143 with one homer in 31 games for Cleveland this season before his release.

The Braves were dealt a major blow on Sunday, when Acuña tore the ACL in his left knee running the bases in Pittsburgh. The reigning National League MVP needs surgery and will miss the rest of 2024.

Acuña is one of the most irreplaceable players in baseball, and so far, the Braves have leaned on their internal depth in an attempt to cover the void. The question is whether that’s enough. The club moved veteran outfielder Adam Duvall from a platoon in left field with Jarred Kelenic to everyday right-field duty, but both players struggle against same-side pitching, and they risk being overexposed facing those hurlers on a regular basis.

The Braves called up rookie J.P. Martinez to take Acuña's roster spot, and outfielder Forrest Wall has been playing well at Gwinnett, but the team views neither as an everyday option at this point.

As for Acuña’s customary place in the leadoff spot, Snitker is adopting a day-by-day approach for now. So far, it’s been Ozzie Albies (twice) and Michael Harris II (once) in that spot atop the lineup.

This isn’t the first time the Braves have lost Acuña to a season-ending knee injury. In July 2021, he tore the ACL in his right knee, missing most of that year and some of the next season. The Braves responded by acquiring Jorge Soler at the Trade Deadline. He went on to win World Series MVP honors as Atlanta claimed its first championship in 26 years.

Given his recent struggles, it’s unlikely Laureano will provide Atlanta with that kind of impact. But bringing him on for depth is essentially a no-risk move. The Guardians are on the hook for the rest of the $5.5 million Laureano is owed this season, and the Braves will only need to pay him the prorated minimum if he reaches Atlanta.