Brignac, 30, has seen action in every major league season dating back to 2008, though he’s still yet to accumulate over 1,000 total plate appearances and has only cracked 100 in a single season twice. He’s a lifetime .219/.264/.309 hitter and has fallen below even that line in his 13 games this year with Atlanta. Of course, the utilityman is valued more as a depth option with a reliable glove.
Braves outfielder Hector Olivera has accepted an 82-game suspension, without pay, under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy, the league announced earlier this afternoon. Olivera’s suspension is retroactive to April 30 and will run through Aug. 1. The time he’s served on paid leave from April 30 until now will be retroactively credited toward the suspension, and any pay he has received in that time will be revoked. All told, the suspension will cost him roughly $2.03MM of this season’s $4MM salary. Olivera has accept the punishment and will not file an appeal.
Olivera, 31, was arrested on April 13 and charged with one count of misdemeanor assault and battery. The victim reportedly called 911 the morning of the arrest and told police that she had been assaulted, and she was taken to the hospital with visible bruising. Olivera’s punishment is the strictest yet under Major League Baseball’s newly implemented policy. Aroldis Chapman received a 30-game suspension in his case due to the fact that he was not arrested and criminal charges were never filed. Jose Reyes, meanwhile, received a 51-game ban after criminal charges were reportedly dropped shortly before he faced a criminal hearing. Charges against Olivera, however, have seemingly not been dropped, which is presumably the impetus for commissioner Rob Manfred’s most aggressive suspension to date.
A year ago, Olivera was a highly touted Cuban free agent and agreed to a six-year, $62.5MM contract with the Dodgers that included a gaudy $28MM signing bonus. However, Olivera’s stay in the Dodgers organization didn’t last long, as he was traded to the Braves as part of a three-team, 13-player blockbuster that sent Mat Latos, Alex Wood and Jose Peraza to the Dodgers, with Olivera, Paco Rodriguez and Zachary Bird going to Atlanta. The Braves reportedly held quite a bit of interest in Olivera while he was a free agent, but he quickly fell out of favor in the organization due to defensive questions about his work at third base. Atlanta moved Olivera to the outfield, but he’s yet to deliver much in the way of offense since being acquired. He’s batted .245/.296/.378 in the Majors.
That, of course, is secondary to his off-field troubles. The Braves are troubled enough by his transgressions that they’ve reportedly attempted to trade him. Unsurprisingly, they’ve had little success. How much he’ll factor into Atlanta’s plans moving forward, or whether he will at all, remains to be seen.
The 27-year-old has been roughed up in limited MLB action over the last two years. He’s scuffled this year at Triple-A, too, though Alvarez has recorded 27 strikeouts against ten walks in his 15 1/3 innings and has posted better results in the past.
The Orioles and Braves have struck a deal that sends lefty Brian Matusz and the 76th overall draft pick from Baltimore to Atlanta. Minor league pitchers Brandon Barker and Trevor Belicek are headed to the O’s in the swap.
Ultimately, the move constitutes a draft pick purchase, with the Orioles willing to part with their competitive balance round B selection and its $838,900 assigned pool value in order to offload the commitment to Matusz and add some potentially interesting arms. Of greater consequence than the selection itself, the Braves will boost their bonus pool up to just over $13MM, per the calculations of Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs (Twitter link). They’ll still fall a bit shy of the Phillies to remain in third in total spending capacity this summer.
A 29-year-old southpaw, Matusz is earning $3.9MM this year in his final season of arbitration control. The remaining $3MM or so of that deal will all be assumed by the Braves, who have already designated Matusz for assignment, as MLB.com’s Mark Bowman suggested on Twitter.
Matusz has struggled mightily out of the gates in 2016, allowing eight earned runs in six innings while recording just one strikeout against seven walks. He’s been hurt especially by the long ball, having allowed a three bombs on just ten flyballs.
Of course, the southpaw was much more effective in years past, though he’s generally outperformed his peripherals to do so. Over 2013-15, he put up 151 2/3 innings of 3.32 ERA ball, with 9.4 K/9 against 3.1 BB/9. Even if he won’t get a chance in Atlanta, Matusz seems to be a worthwhile rebound candidate given his solid track record. His fastball velocity is down by just over one mile per hour, and he’s been missing the zone a bit more than usual, but there’s good reason to believe that he’s also been hit with some poor fortune.
Neither of the pitchers acquired by the Orioles opened the year among the top 30 in a deep system, per Baseball America, but both had impressed thus far in 2016. Barker, 23, was off to a very nice start at the Double-A level, working to a 2.00 ERA in 45 frames with 8.0 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9. The righty was a 16th-round selection in the 2014 draft out of Mercer.
Belicek, meanwhile, is also a 23-year-old former 16th-rounder. The Texas A&M southpaw was taken last year, and just earned a promotion to Double-A after an impressive showing at the High A level. In his 28 1/3 total frames this year, he’s worked to a 2.22 ERA with 10.2 K/9 and a ridiculous 32:1 K/BB ratio.
Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com first reported that Matusz was traded (via Twitter).
- The Royals and Phillies are among the teams looking at Braves outfielder Nick Markakis. “The money is an issue there, especially with the Royals,” Cafardo writes; Markakis is owed $10.5MM in each of the next two seasons and roughly $7.25MM remaining on his 2016 salary. Markakis entered Sunday hitting .252/.362/.348 in 185 PA, and his near-total power dropoff over the last two seasons has surely hurt his trade value, as MLBTR’s Connor Byrne pointed out earlier today. While both K.C. and the Phils could use help in right field, Markakis has delivered only replacement-level production this season, with an even 0.0 fWAR.
The Braves have signed a pair of right-handers – Lucas Harrell and Rob Wooten – to minor league contracts, the team announced. Harrell is a client of Frontline Athlete Management, while the Ballengee Group represents Wooten.
A former starter for multiple teams, primarily the Astros, Harrell has pitched to a 4.84 ERA and an underwhelming 1.34 K/BB over 401 2/3 big league innings (62 starts). Harrell’s best showing came in 2012, when he amassed 193 2/3 innings of 3.76 ERA/3.75 FIP/3.89 xFIP pitching as a member of Houston’s rotation and posted a 6.51 K/9, 3.62 BB/9, and 57.2 percent ground-ball rate.
With a 54.2 percent career rate, Harrell has consistently generated grounders, but that wasn’t enough to keep him in the majors after poor showings in 2013 and ’14. Harrell spent last season in Korea and logged a lofty 4.93 ERA in 171 2/3 innings with the LG Twins, though it’s worth noting that the KBO is a tough environment for pitchers.
Harrell returned to the United States earlier this year when he signed a minor league deal with the Tigers. He threw a combined 29 2/3 innings (six starts) at the Double-A and Triple-A levels and put up a terrific 3.34 ERA, but his trend of posting below-average strikeout (6.1 per nine) and walk (4.9) rates continued. The Tigers subsequently released Harrell, who could nonetheless figure into the Braves’ rotation mix at some point this season.
As for Wooten, this will be the reliever’s second stint with the Braves organization this season. The club released him May 9 after he threw 7 1/3 innings of three-run ball for Triple-A Gwinnett. Almost all of his career has been spent with the Brewers organization since going in the 13th round of the 2008 draft. The 30-year-old owns a 4.07 ERA with 8.3 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9 in 185 2/3 Triple-A innings and a 5.03 ERA, 7.0 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 68 big league frames.
Left-handed reliever Sean Burnett has opted out of his minor league contract with the Braves, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet (via Twitter). The 33-year-old is now a free agent, joining fellow southpaw Neal Cotts as an experienced southpaw available to clubs in need of some left-handed help in the bullpen.
Burnett began the season with the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate and struggled a bit, walking six batters and striking out five in 7 2/3 innings, though he was more solid in six appearances with Atlanta’s Triple-A affiliate, firing 5 1/3 shutout innings with five strikeouts and a walk. Overall, he’s sporting a 1.38 ERA and, more importantly, has been healthy enough to take the ball consistently this season. Burnett battled elbow problems in 2013 and 2014, ultimately undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014 and missing the entirety of the 2015 season recovering from that procedure. Prior to those injury struggles, Burnett was a very solid bullpen option with the Nationals and Pirates, posting a 2.85 ERA in 234 innings of relief from 2009-12. He’s also held lefties to a .228/.293/.336 batting line in 315 opportunities over the course of his career.
- Deposed Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez tells MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM that he’s looking forward to other opportunities now that he’s lost his post in Atlanta. (Twitter link.) But he said that he isn’t necessarily looking for another job running a dugout. “I am looking forward to doing something in the game and it doesn’t have to be managing,” said Gonzalez.
- Both Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com and Mark Bowman of MLB.com wrote forward-looking pieces pertaining to the Braves and potential long-term successors for Fredi Gonzalez following the skipper’s dismissal this week. Crasnick lists former Braves infielder Mark DeRosa, currently an MLB Network analyst, as a possibility, noting that a pair of execs with different clubs each mentioned him. Internal candidates include Bo Porter, Eddie Perez and Terry Pendelton, he adds. Furthermore, Crasnick hears that Chipper Jones isn’t interested in managing the Braves in 2017 but is thought to be a big fan of DeRosa. Bowman also mentions DeRosa as a candidate and also casts some doubt on early speculation that former Padres manager Bud Black could be a candidate, writing that the Braves “have never provided any indication that he is currently viewed as a potential candidate.” Bowman notes that interim manager Brian Snitker’s decision to make Pendleton his bench coach positions him to show the front office how he can handle an increased role in the dugout as well.
6:23pm: O’Brien adds further details in a full column on the situation, most notably that Gonzalez’s dismissal took an awkward turn on Monday evening. O’Brien reports that Gonzalez actually learned of his firing last night when he received an email confirming a Tuesday afternoon flight from Pittsburgh to Atlanta, despite the fact that the the Braves’ four-game series with the Pirates runs through Thursday. The Braves weren’t planning on informing Gonzalez of the decision until Tuesday morning, when president of baseball operations John Hart had planned to fly to Pittsburgh to join GM John Coppolella to break the news go Gonzalez in person. Instead, Atlanta officials had to confirm to Gonzalez last night that the decision had been made.
11:45am: The Braves have brought an end to the speculation by officially firing manager Fredi Gonzalez, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was first to report (Twitter link). Gonzalez becomes the first skipper to lose his post this year.
Atlanta has named Brian Snitker as an interim skipper, as MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reported via Twitter. He is expected to keep the position through the end of the 2016 season, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweets. Long the Braves’ third base coach, Snitker had been managing the club’s top affiliate, Triple-A Gwinnett, since 2014. Atlanta has also fired bench coach Carlos Tosca, Bowman adds on Twitter. Terry Pendleton will take over his duties, with Eddie Perez moving to the first base coach job and Marty Reed becoming bullpen coach.
Gonzalez has long been rumored to be on shaky ground, and the organization finally pulled the plug after last night’s loss to the Pirates. Atlanta never expected to contend in 2016, but the team also certainly expected better than its brutal 9-28 start to the season.
The 52-year-old skipper has seen good and bad times with the Braves, but it’s been much more of the latter of late. He was at the helm from 2011-13, racking up 279 regular season wins against 207 losses. Things went south from there, as the Braves fell shy of expectations in 2014 and haven’t sniffed .500 since.
Of course, even when the club was in position to contend, there were plenty of disappointments. While it bounced back from an epic collapse late in 2011, the 2012 team lost in controversial fashion in the Wild Card play-in game after the Nationals ran away with the division. The Gonzalez-led Braves rebounded to take the NL East in 2013, but were bounced by the Dodgers in the first round of the postseason. And a late-season collapse doomed the otherwise-competitive 2014 iteration, spurring greater organizational change.
Gonzalez previously managed the Marlins, but he was let go in the middle of 2010. He had risen through that organization as a coach and manager after never moving above the Double-A level as a player.
It appears that Atlanta will not undertake a search for a permanent replacement during the present season, instead rolling with Snitker for the time being. It seems likely, though, that the Braves will at least begin a soft hiring search sooner rather than later in order to get a jump on the market. That being said, it’s worth noting that the division-rival Phillies ended up installing their own mid-season interim replacement, Pete Mackanin, on a long-term basis.
It certainly doesn’t help the Braves that the Mackanin-led Phils are off to a surprisingly winning (albeit questionably sustainable) start to 2016. If anything, the hope was that Atlanta might overplay projections a bit, with the organization installing numerous bounce-back veterans and possessing numerous young pitchers at and near the majors. With a new park set to open next year, there was at least some possibility that a solid campaign could allow the team to ramp up toward contention as soon as 2017.
Instead, the Braves will keep pushing on with a tough rebuilding process that began in earnest with the firing of GM Frank Wren in September of 2014. John Hart took over as the club’s president of baseball operations, eventually passing on day-to-day general managing duties to young executive John Coppolella. That pair has engineered several bold trades, stockpiling youthful talent in exchange for veterans.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.