The Bautista experiment was a short-lived one for Atlanta, which signed the former superstar to a minor league deal on April 18. The move reunited Bautista with Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who was the Blue Jays’ GM for some of the slugger’s highly successful tenure in Toronto. Bautista was primarily an outfielder during that period, but the Braves signed him to line up at third – a position he hadn’t played extensively since 2011.
To the 37-year-old Bautista’s credit, he worked his way to the Braves rather quickly, as they selected his contract on May 4. However, the six-time All-Star was unproductive in his two-plus weeks with the first-place club, hitting .143/.250/.343 with a 30 percent strikeout rate over a small sample of 40 plate appearances. And unsurprisingly, he also drew negative marks (minus-2 Defensive Runs Saved, minus-0.3 Ultimate Zone Rating) in his return to the hot corner, albeit over just 61 innings.
Although Bautista did display some of his signature power (two home runs, .200 ISO) as a Brave and post a respectable 12.5 percent walk rate, it’s fair to wonder if he’ll ever receive another big league opportunity. Not only has Bautista’s once-great offensive game fallen off a cliff since the end of the 2016 campaign, but he no longer seems capable of providing any value in the field or on the bases. Nevertheless, Bautista isn’t ready to retire, according to Anthopoulos, who added that the Braves would welcome him back at the Triple-A level if he’s interested in returning to Gwinnett (via David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution).
With Bautista out of the picture in Atlanta, the club will turn to Johan Camargo as its everyday third baseman, Anthopoulos revealed (per O’Brien). Along with the 24-year-old Camargo, who has logged above-average offensive results since debuting last season, the Braves have Ryan Flaherty, Charlie Culberson, Phil Gosselin and Rio Ruiz on hand as 40-man fallback options. The most talented third baseman in the organization may be 21-year-old prospect Austin Riley, who just ascended to Triple-A and could perhaps reach the majors at some point this season.
In the event Riley doesn’t debut this year and the Braves don’t receive quality production from their veteran third basemen in the coming months, they may opt for an upgrade via trade. The up-and-coming Braves look as if they’ll remain in contention through the July 31 trade deadline, even though it’s still a ways off, and there should be some significant talent available then. Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson (whom Anthopoulos previously acquired in Toronto), Adrian Beltre and Mike Moustakas are among those who could pique the Braves’ interest in the next couple months.