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Braves Intrigued By The Idea Of ���what If��� With Signing Of Jose Bautista

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The short-lived Jose Bautista experience ended Sunday when the Braves released the struggling veteran and named Johan Camargo their starting third baseman.

Thirty-two days after signing Bautista to a minor-league contract and 16 days after bringing him up from Triple-A, the Braves cut their losses by releasing the 37-year-old former home-run champion and opting to go with Camargo as their third baseman for the immediate future.

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Bautista hit .143 (5-for-35) with one double, two homers, five RBIs, five walks, 12 strikeouts and a .593 OPS in 12 games for the Braves, including 1-for-11 with seven strikeouts and seven runners left on in his last four games.

» Mark Bradley: Signing Buatista was an intriguing idea

“We brought him in to potentially be a guy that could be a middle-of-the-order bat for us,” said Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who had a close relationship with Bautista from their years together with the Toronto Blue Jays, where Bautista led the American League in home runs in 2010 and 2011. 

“And that’s not to say it wouldn’t come in time, but we were just at a position with where we are in the standings and competitive, and with what we saw in Camargo, that we decided the best thing for the team was to play Camargo every day. 

“(Bautista) wasn’t brought in to be a bench guy or a platoon guy. The hope was that he would come up and be that guy that could provide a spark and be a middle-of-the-order guy.”

When shortstop Dansby Swanson came off the disabled list Saturday, the Braves knew they needed to make a decision about Bautista, since Camargo would need to either play third base or move back into a utility role. The Braves already had veterans Ryan Flaherty and Charlie Culberson as utility players and Preston Tucker as a pinch-hitter and backup corner outfielder.

At the team’s previously scheduled six-week roster review Saturday afternoon, Anthopoulos said the decision was made by the entire staff that Camargo should be the primary third baseman – a decision made before Camargo went 2-for-2 with two key run-scoring hits and a walk in Saturday night’s win against the Marlins.

“We went through the whole roster, we just decided as a group that we were going to give Camargo every-day at-bats against righties and lefties,” Anthopoulos said. “Even though, since Dansby has been hurt, (Camargo’s) numbers as a starter (at shortstop) weren’t great, there was a lot of underlying things that gave us reason for optimism. His exit velocities were up, his decision-making’s been good, his walk rate’s been good. There’s just been a lot of bad luck.

“And we felt like, coming out of that meeting, that we were committed to giving Camargo every-day at-bats, at least for the time being, to see how that goes. So knowing that, ultimately it was going to take away playing time for Jose.”

Anthopoulos met with Bautista late Saturday after the game and explained the situation to him.

“I just talked to Jose and explained to him that there weren’t going to be at-bats; that’s not fair to him, it’s hard for him to get better and get his timing down if there’s not going to be at-bats,” said Anthopoulos, who had the tough task of releasing a player he knows well and respects.

Anthopoulos wanted to be the one to talk to him and explain the whole situation, the team’s thinking, and why it made sense for Bautista to look elsewhere.

“Any time you’re going to make a move like this with the roster, it’s not an easy conversation to have with all players,” he said. “That being said, having a candid, honest, open conversation, that’s the way things should be done, that’s what’s expected. 

“Jose was great. He worked his butt off when he was here. Total pro. Just tough for him, not having a spring training, coming into a team that was competitive and trying to hit the ground running, it’s just tough in terms of if you still need some ABs or timing or things like that, it’s a tough spot to be in when you’re in the position we’re in.”

Bautista had played almost exclusively in the outfield since 2011, but the Braves have no outfield need with three players who play virtually every inning of every game in rookie Ronald Acuna, two-time Gold Glove center fielder Ender Inciarte and veteran right fielder Nick Markakis. 

At the time they initially began talks with Bautista, they thought they’d need to add right-handed power to protect Freddie Freeman, but Markakis has had an offensive resurgence -- .341 with seven homers and .935 OPS before Sunday -- and second baseman Ozzie Albies was tied for the National League home-run lead with 13 before Sunday.

It didn’t make sense to continue playing Bautista, a below-average defensive third baseman who wasn’t providing the power the Braves hoped he could.

“He was willing to do anything, which is what I expected, he’s said that from Day 1, in terms of, whatever the team needed,” Anthopoulos said. “The more we talked through it -- what was right for him, what was fair to him -- if there weren’t going to be at-bats here, how was he going to get his timing down, how was he going to get better, how was he going to get the reps if Camargo’s getting all those at-bats? And obviously Markakis and Acuna and Inciarte are playing every day in the outfield. 

“There were no at-bats, and that’s not fair to have him sit on the bench and not get better. So we talked through it and kind of came to the decision, hey, what’s the best plan for him, what’s the best path. So we said, let’s give him an opportunity to see what’s out there (with another organization). We told him, if he doesn’t think he has the right fit or anything like that at all, we’d be glad to have him back to get his at-bats and try to get his timing down at (Triple-A) Gwinnett. That’s an open offer to him.

“But first thing for him is to see what’s out here and get that playing time, which is the right thing for him. That was always the plan (with the Braves), what he wanted, and unfortunately things changed.”


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Source : https://www.ajc.com/sports/baseball/braves-release-veteran-jose-bautista/ImeasnoV3Tkyvcwu1VEKBJ/

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