- Speaking of winter what-ifs, Heyman adds the Mariners, Braves, and Dodgers to the list of teams that had interest in signing Lorenzo Cain before the center fielder inked a deal with the Brewers. Seattle had a clear need for center field help prior to the Dee Gordon trade, though the other two wouldn’t seem to be obvious fits on paper for Cain’s services. The Braves already have Ender Inciarte in center, plus they needed to trade Matt Kemp to make room for Ronald Acuna’s eventual promotion; potentially, Cain could’ve been a fit if Atlanta had managed to trade Nick Markakis (and then convince Cain to shift to right field). For the Dodgers, signing Cain would have run counter to their plan of getting under the luxury tax threshold, plus L.A. would’ve had to give up two draft picks and $1MM in international bonus pool funds as compensation for signing Cain. It’s also possible, of course, that both the Braves and Dodgers merely had a due diligence-type of interest in Cain given that his free agent stint stretched into late January.
- “There’s a growing feeling among talent evaluators” that the Braves will go after Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas in advance of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, according to Cafardo. That may have become even more likely Sunday when the Braves ended their brief Jose Bautista experiment, though they’re bent on giving Johan Camargo a serious look at third base for the time being. Regardless, Moustakas does seem like a strong bet to finish the season outside of Kansas City, which is rebuilding and doesn’t have him under contract beyond this season (there is a $15MM mutual option, however). Moustakas is making a very reasonable salary ($5.5MM) and enjoying a terrific year at the plate, having slashed .294/.333/.528 with 10 long balls in 195 PAs.
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.
Swanson hit the DL earlier this month due to left wrist inflammation. He was off to a solid start, hitting .289/.336/.430 prior to the injury, and the Braves will surely be hoping he can build on those numbers after a somewhat up-and-down start to his major league career. The former number one overall pick produced at about replacement level last season (according to fWAR) after a hot debut at the tail end of the 2016 season.
Swanson’s activation is likely to impact the playing time of Johan Camargo, Jose Bautista or both. Bautista has certainly been unimpressive to this point, posting a .143/.250/.343 slash line and serving as a defensive liability, but it’s fair to think he might get a longer look in the Braves’ lineup. Perhaps, then, Johan Camargo could slide into a utility role while the club waits to see if Bautista can heat up to his career norms.
Wisler has been shuttled back and forth multiple times already this season, most recently pitching 5 1/3 innings of two-run ball while striking out five Marlins. Once highly regarded enough to serve as the key return piece in the Craig Kimbrel trade, Wisler hasn’t lived up to expectations and now appears to be little more than a depth piece as multiple young starters have seemingly leapfrogged him on the depth chart.
The Braves released outfielder Ezequiel Carrera from the organization, per an announcement from the team’s Triple-A affiliate in Gwinnett. Carrera was released by the Blue Jays in Spring Training and joined the Braves on a minor league pact later that month. He’ll now once again survey his options on the open market.
Carrera, 30, was reasonably productive for the Blue Jays in a part-time role from 2016-17, hitting a combined .266/.340/.382 with 14 homers and 17 steals in 635 plate appearances. He has experience at all three outfield slots, though defensive metrics generally view his center-field work in a negative light while looking more favorably on his work in the corners.
This season has been a struggle for Carrera, however. In 93 plate appearances for Gwinnett, he limped to a .146/.228/.220 slash. On the plus side for Carrera, he went 7-for-7 in steals in Triple-A, and much of his difficulty looks to be the product of a .177 average on balls in play. His 21 percent strikeout rate and 10 percent walk rate both suggest that his approach at the plate isn’t markedly different from recent seasons, and given his career .275/.344/.368 line in parts of nine Triple-A seasons, it’s reasonable to expect that he’ll bounce back over a larger sample of at-bats.
The Braves have placed young righty Mike Soroka on the 10-day DL with a right shoulder strain, per a club announcement. The placement is retroactive to May 14th. His scheduled start tonight will instead be taken by Max Fried, who has been recalled.
That’s not the news the Braves were hoping for with a prized young hurler, though perhaps the team is just exercising precaution. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman tweets that the club believes he could be able to return in time to make his next scheduled start, which would presumably mean coming off of the DL after the minimum absence.
Soroka, one of the Atlanta roster’s slate of fascinating twenty-year-old talents, has impressed through three MLB starts. He carries a 3.68 ERA in 14 2/3 innings, with underlying peripherals (9.2 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 42.9% groundball rate) that suggest he’s more than ready for the majors. Though it was not certain when he came up whether he’d stick, it now seems reasonable to anticipate he’ll be in the majors to stay so long as he remains healthy.
For the time being, though, it’ll be Fried who gets the chance. The 24-year-old has made four relief appearances on the year in the majors but also took three starts at Triple-A. At his best, Fried can generate grounders and strikeouts in much the same manner Soroka has, though the southpaw has long handed out too many free passes and is not considered as promising as the man he’ll substitute for.
The Braves have claimed lefty Chad Bell off waivers from the Tigers, per announcements from the teams. He had been designated for assignment recently by the Tigers.
Bell, 29, has been knocked around in 69 2/3 MLB innings over the past two seasons. He has worked mostly as a reliever in the majors but has started for the most part in the minors. Odds are he’ll be seen as a lefty specialist or long relief possibility in Atlanta. Bell will presumably begin his tenure there on optional assignment.
The Braves released infielder Christian Colon from their Triple-A affiliate in Gwinnett recently, per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy. The former Royals and Marlins infielder will return to the open market in search of a new opportunity with another organization.
Colon, 29, was the fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft and has spent parts of the past four seasons in the Majors — most recently logging 57 plate appearances with the Marlins in 2017. Despite being selected out of college (Cal State Fullerton, to be specific), Colon took awhile to reach the Majors but turned in solid numbers in his first couple of seasons upon arriving. In 168 plate appearances from 2014-15, he slashed .303/.361/.382.
However, Colon’s lack of power became more glaring a year later when his fortune on balls in play took a turn for the worst and his strikeout rate escalated from just 12.5 percent to 19.3 percent. From 2016-17, he posted an ugly .213/.279/.264 batting line in 218 PAs between the Royals and Marlins.
Colon got off to a disappointing .204/.278/.204 start with Gwinnett, though that came in a tiny sample of just 55 plate appearances. His overall body of work in parts of seven seasons at the Triple-A level is considerably more encouraging, as he’s batted .287/.350/.384 in 1520 plate appearances. That track record, in addition to his experience at second base, shortstop and third base, should allow him to land with another club in need of some infield depth in the upper minors.
Jackson, 26, has already been up and down this season, making just two MLB appearances while active. It seems he has accepted his outright assignment, meaning he’ll be available if and when a need arises in the future. He has allowed four earned runs with a 13:6 K/BB ratio in his 9 1/3 Triple-A innings on the year.
As for Gohara, this’ll be his second look at the game’s highest level. He endured a rough offseason and spring, marked by injury and personal loss, and opened the year in the minors — first on a rehab assignment and then on option. The results haven’t been to his typical standards thus far, as he has allowed 22 hits (five of them homers), a dozen earned runs, and ten walks against fifteen strikeouts in his 15 2/3 total innings.
Clearly, the Braves believe Gohara can return to his former trajectory. He was outstanding at all levels in 2018, including a five-start MLB run in which he allowed 4.91 earned per nine but also recorded an impressive 9.5 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9. Gohara averaged 97.0 mph with his fastball and posted a 13.4% swinging-strike rate in the majors. It seems clear that the team still views him as a future rotation piece, but he’ll spend some time in the bullpen for the time being, as David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted yesterday on Twitter.
- Braves pitching prospect Mike Soroka’s second career MLB start wasn’t nearly as impressive as his first, as Soroka allowed four earned runs over four innings today against the Giants. Manager Brian Snitker told MLB.com’s Mark Bowman (Twitter link) and other media that Soroka is scheduled to make his next start, with an implication being that Atlanta isn’t planning to demote the 20-year-old anytime soon. Anibal Sanchez is still sidelined with a hamstring injury, and will likely be moved to relief pitching when he returns so the Braves can give Soroka a fuller look in his first taste of the majors.