The Braves will non-tender infielder/outfielder Charlie Culberson prior to tonight’s deadline, Robert Murray reports (via Twitter). MLB.com’s Mark Bowman tweeted not long before that the organization was considering such a move. Culberson will immediately become a free agent who is eligible to sign with any team.
It’ll go down as an unpopular move among Atlanta fans, as Culberson has not only distanced himself from a woeful slump to begin his Braves tenure in 2018 (.203/.266/.339 through his first two months) but also emerged as something of a fan favorite after excelling in some clutch situations in 2018. Overall, his 2018 campaign resulted in a productive .270/.326/.466 batting line through 322 plate appearances.
However, Culberson was limited to just 144 plate appearances in 2019 despite appearing in 108 games, and he wasn’t particularly productive when he did step to the plate, hitting .259/.294/.437 (83 OPS+, 85 wRC+). His 2019 season was cut short in September by a fractured cheek bone suffered upon being hit by a Fernando Rodney fastball, but there’s no indication to this point that he’s expected to miss time in 2020. Still, this year’s downturn in production landed him on our list of non-tender candidates late last week.
In all, Culberson posted a respectable .267/.316/.457 batting line in 466 plate appearances as a Brave, but the team apparently wasn’t comfortable with what he might earn in arbitration. (MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz had projected a $1.8MM salary.) Any club that picks him up would be able to sign him to just a one-year pact and still control him through the 2021 season via arbitration.