Ender Inciarte will ‘compete for a job’ with Braves in spring training

Braves outfielder Ender Inciarte on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Combined ShapeCaption
Braves outfielder Ender Inciarte on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 in Atlanta. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Ender Inciarte went from three consecutive Gold Gloves in 2016-18 to being completely phased out of the Braves’ outfield mix during the truncated 2020 season.

Inciarte, 30, played in 46 games last season, hitting .190/.262/.250. It continued his downward trend at the plate over the past three years. Over the course of the season, Ronald Acuna played a bulk of games in center field – where Inciarte once was entrenched – while more productive offensive players filled the corner spots.

Top outfield prospect Cristian Pache shined in the postseason, putting him on track to likely start regularly in center. Acuna would shift back to right field on an every-day basis. Left field is reserved for a to-be-determined power hitter, a search that currently tops the Braves’ to-do list.

Inciarte, while left without a seat in this game of outfield musical chairs, is still on the roster because of his contract. He’s set to earn $8 million next season before the Braves have a $9 million club option ($1.025 million buyout) for 2022. The Braves don’t seem inclined to eat the money, so unless a trade suitor emerges, Inciarte will be on the roster to start the season.

“I’ll be honest with you, he’s still our player, so he’ll come to spring training and compete for a job,” manager Brian Snitker said last week. “We’ll see where it lands. We have a lot of good options on our club. Ender is a proven major-league player, so he’ll come to spring training, compete for a job, and we’ll see how it goes.”

The likeliest outcome is that Inciarte continues as an expensive bench player in 2021. While his defense could still provide late-inning value, he won’t help a team determined to upgrade its bench offense. Since recording 201 hits during his All-Star 2017 campaign, Inciarte has hit .251/.321/.367 across 267 games. He’s played only 111 of 222 possible games over the past two seasons.