2:22pm: The Braves announced that Freeman has indeed been placed on the disabled list, though their release indicates that Freeman will miss “approximately 10 weeks.” The Braves added that Ruiz has been recalled from Triple-A to replace Freeman on the roster.
1:33pm: As the Braves feared, first baseman Freddie Freeman suffered a fractured wrist in last night’s game when he was hit on the left wrist by a 94 mph fastball from Aaron Loup, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Freeman is expected to miss at least eight weeks with the injury, though Rosenthal adds that he won’t require surgery to repair the injury.
The Braves, of course, aren’t contending for a division title (their current second-place status notwithstanding), but the injury derails an MVP-caliber season for the face of the franchise in Atlanta. Freeman has posted a sensational .341/.461/.748 batting line with 14 home runs, 11 doubles and a triple through his first 164 plate appearances of the season. Dating back to Opening Day 2016, in fact, Freeman’s park-adjusted offensive performance (162 wRC+) trails only Mike Trout among active players with at least 300 plate appearances.
[Related: Updated Atlanta Braves depth chart]
Looking to the Braves’ roster, it’s not clear who exactly will replace Freeman at first base. Atlanta’s bench doesn’t include any big leaguer with significant experience at the position, as the team’s four reserves are currently catcher Kurt Suzuki, infielder Johan Camargo and utilitymen Emilio Bonifacio and Danny Santana. First base options in the upper minors are scarce as well, though third base prospect Rio Ruiz worked out at first base during Spring Training, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently noted (on Twitter). Theoretically, Ruiz and fellow infielder Jace Peterson (who played first last night following Freeman’s exit) could share duties there in the short-term.
FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported earlier today that the Braves were already discussing potential outside additions, though options aren’t exactly plentiful. The free-agent market doesn’t offer many options, either, though veterans James Loney and Ben Paulsen were released by the Tigers and Twins, respectively, earlier this month. Atlanta had Ryan Howard playing with its Triple-A affiliate on a minor league deal earlier this month, but he struggled at the dish and was also released. Fellow veteran Justin Morneau remains unsigned, but he hasn’t been playing regularly since suiting up for Team Canada in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
As far as the trade market goes, the Braves likely don’t want to part with any significant prospects to fill a relatively short-term gap in what doesn’t look to be a winning season. Speaking from a purely speculative standpoint, Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams was shopped this past offseason and still doesn’t have a clear path to regular at-bats in St. Louis. Veteran Pedro Alvarez is currently with Baltimore’s Triple-A affiliate, though he’s struggled to a .174/.265/.289 batting line thus far. There are also numerous players with MLB experience that are currently on minor league deals and performing reasonably well at Triple-A, including Ji-Man Choi (Yankees), Efren Navarro (Tigers), Matt Hague (Twins) and Christian Walker (D-backs), the latter of whom was briefly property of the Braves this offseason. Certainly, none of the names listed will generate much excitement among Braves fans, though any could picked up as a depth option at a reasonably low cost.