Earlier this morning, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reported that the Braves would option struggling catcher Christian Bethancourt to Triple-A Gwinnett (Twitter link). While the corresponding move was not reported at the time, Atlanta has since announced that it will select the contract of Ryan Lavarnway to take Bethancourt’s place. Bethancourt, 23, has batted just .208/.231/.297 in 2014 plate appearances this season. While his elite arm behind the plate would be enough to outweigh a reasonable amount of offensive struggles, that batting line translates to the seventh-worst wRC+ in all of baseball among players with 100 PAs. Via David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, president of baseball ops John Hart likened the Bethancourt demotion to the 2014 demotions of Kolten Wong and Mike Moustakas. Each, like Bethancourt, was a former Top 100 prospect that had struggled in the Majors but has taken a step toward stardom since returning to the bigs. The Braves will hope that’s the outcome for Bethancourt, but in the meantime, they’ll hand his role to Lavarnway. The 27-year-old Lavarnway is a former Top 100 prospect himself, but he’s never replicated the promise he showed in a 2013 cup of coffee when he batted .299/.329/.429 in 84 PAs with Boston.
Here’s more from the NL East…
- Via the Record’s Matt Ehalt, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said today that a realistic target date for David Wright’s return will be the All-Star break (Twitter link). The Mets captain has missed all but eight games this season, most of which has been due to a recent diagnosis of spinal stenosis. New York has been said to be looking to acquire a versatile bat that can play third base in the short-term and then move elsewhere once Wright is again healthy.
- The Mets recently discussed a scenario in which Noah Syndergaard would switch to a relief role in an effort to aid what has been a fragile bullpen, report Mike Puma and Zach Braziller of the New York Post. In that scenario, Steven Matz would have been recalled to take Syndergaard’s spot in the rotation. However, the team has decided against that decision and will remain committed to using Syndergaard as a starter. The story does seem to lend further credence to recent reports that the Mets are itching to get Matz to the Majors. They’ve reportedly discussed Jon Niese and Dillon Gee with other teams, though neither has generated much interest.
- While many Phillies fans have given up hope on Domonic Brown, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Daily News feels the organization is doing the right thing by giving him a perhaps final shot at proving he’s been anything more than he has shown to this point. Brown, 27, has scarcely hit in the Majors, save for a blistering two-month stretch in 2013, but he still has more growth potential than alternative Phillies options such as Jeff Francoeur and Ben Revere. Brown explained to Murphy his offensive struggles in the minors this season — specifically feeling a lack of strength in his legs early on after returning from an Achilles injury. Brown’s production improved as the strength returned, and he’ll now get some opportunities to force his way into the lineup with regularity, manager Ryne Sandberg implied. Still, Brown is out of options after this season, so Murphy rightly points out that this could effectively be Brown’s last legitimate chance in Philadelphia.