MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports the Braves are deciding what path to take with Smith, who slashed .238/.316/.365 with 16 steals in 72 games with Atlanta in 2016. He missed almost three months with a broken thumb.
With Matt Kemp, Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis set as their outfield starters, the Braves must decide whether to use the 23-year-old Smith in a backup role or have him play on a regular basis at Triple-A Gwinnett.
Braves president of baseball operations John Hart hinted Smith could be ticketed to the minors, telling Bowman:"[Smith] is a talented player, but he still needs more development. Mallex is interesting because he can do a lot of things for you. He can [play] all three outfield positions and he can run. But the question we are asking ourselves is, 'Are we doing him a disservice and ultimately ourselves a disservice by making him a role or bench player?'"
The Braves still see value in the fleet-footed Smith, who has stolen 230 bases over five minor league seasons. Atlanta made a play for Orioles reliever Brad Brach at the winter meetings, but the deal reportedly hit a snag when Baltimore asked for Smith.
-- Doug Mittler