Braves Targeting Mid-Late August Return For Ozzie Albies

The Braves have been without Ozzie Albies for a month, as the star second baseman fractured his left foot on June 13. Atlanta immediately placed him on the 60-day injured list, and he underwent surgery a few days later. The club maintained they expected him to play again this season, but they didn’t provide an estimated return date beyond ruling him out for two-plus months.

It seems Atlanta’s hopeful Albies can return around when he’s first eligible. President of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos tells Jeff Schultz of the Athletic the club is “probably looking at mid- to late-August or worst case the beginning of September” for Albies’ return. The two-time All-Star has progressed to 75% weight bearing on the foot, according to the Atlanta president.

Second base has been a major problem for the Braves since Albies went down. Atlanta has gotten a meager .232/.287/.303 showing in 108 plate appearances at the position over the past month. The bulk of that time has gone to utilityman Orlando Arcia, with Phil Gosselin (who has since been designated for assignment) also chipping in. Arcia’s and Gosselin’s struggles reached the point the Braves swung a deal for Robinson Canó and added the veteran to the major league roster on Monday.

Adding Canó shouldn’t prevent Anthopoulos from seeking further upgrades at the position. The veteran had been hitting well in Triple-A but struggled enough with both the Mets and Padres in the big leagues he was released from both clubs. Atlanta’s acquisition cost for Canó was marginal — they sent cash considerations to San Diego in return — and the Braves figure to be willing to move on quickly if he struggles again. However, the possibility of welcoming Albies back four-to-six weeks from now could diminish the urgency to add infield talent closer to the deadline.

That’s particularly true given how thin this summer’s infield trade market appears to be. Of MLBTR’s top 50 trade candidates, only three (Brandon DruryWhit Merrifield and Donovan Solano) are capable of playing second base. Players like César Hernández and Tony Kemp would be available stopgap options but didn’t make MLBTR’s list amidst arguably career-worst years.

Asked generally about the possibility of upgrading before the deadline, Anthopoulos suggested the club had yet to narrow down specific target areas. He expressed confidence in the club’s overall depth and told Schultz they’re prepared to cast a wider net than last season, when the front office responded to Ronald Acuña Jr.’s season-ending injury by striking two weeks early to acquire Joc Pederson from the Cubs. “It’s very different than last year. We’ve had injuries this year, but we have a lot of depth,” Anthopoulos told Schultz. “I would say right now it’s critical to watch the team and obviously our health. It might be one of those things where we don’t have a true glaring area, but we definitely have areas where we can improve. Because once the deadline (passes), we can’t add. But we’re not there yet. We haven’t made any decisions.

The Braves are also expecting a return from reliever Kirby Yates a few weeks down the line. The 2019 All-Star has barely pitched over the past two and a half seasons. He missed most of the shortened 2020 campaign battling elbow issues, then underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2021 that wiped out all of last year. The right-hander signed a two-year deal over the winter with an eye on a midseason comeback, and a return to the big leagues is getting closer into view.

Yates is set to begin a rehab assignment at the club’s Florida complex on Saturday, tweets Justin Toscano of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Pitchers are typically allowed up to 30 days on rehab stints, but that window can be (and often is) extended for players working back from TJS. Anthopoulos told Schultz that Yates’ progress over the next couple weeks could factor into whether they feel a need to add another right-hander to the bullpen via trade. During his last healthy season, Yates tossed 60 2/3 innings of 1.19 ERA ball for the 2019 Padres, leading the majors with 41 saves.

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