Braves Notebook | Jose Bautista To Atlanta?

From the Rumor Mill: Whither Jose Bautista?

An interesting tidbit from Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe made the rounds on Sunday. Amidst a deep dive into the perils of CBA negotiations affecting this year’s crop of free agents, Cafardo sized up the fit for the Red Sox and free agent outfielder Jose Bautista. More interesting was the list of other possible landing places.

The 36-year-old slugger makes sense for Boston, a team in the market for a new designated hitter with David Ortiz calling it a career. Cafardo notes that among the teams that could be interested in Bautista are the Rangers, Astros, Orioles, Cardinals, Giants and, of course, the Braves. As one might imagine, that last one is curious to say the least. Speculative might be the best word to describe it. Atlanta, like every other club, will explore numerous options and scenarios that never come to fruition, with many never seeing the light of day. Given a crowded outfield and no need for a DH, it seems highly unlikely that the Braves would embark on a complicated mission to bring Bautista on board.

There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of Atlanta’s viability as a suitor for Bautista’s services. He is advancing into his late 30’s and was banged up last season, playing just 116 games. Not only will Bautista not come cheap, but he also has draft pick compensation attached to him after the Blue Jays extended a qualifying offer (which he is expected to formally reject on Monday). Though Atlanta’s first pick in the draft is protected, the club is understandably hesitant to sacrifice a top pick at this time. Additionally, the Braves would have to move a starting outfielder to open up a spot for Bautista. Though he has reportedly expressed a willingness to play either corner infield spot in addition to the outfield, it is hard to imagine Bautista becoming a full-time infielder in the National League. Atlanta has first base covered quite well with Freddie Freeman and Bautista has made just two starts at third base in the last five years. In fact, he has not played the position at all in three seasons. The last time Bautista played every day at the hot corner was 2008. Add all of that together and it is hard to imagine that Atlanta would be in the market for Bautista.

Minor League Moves:

The Braves signed righty reliever Jordan Walden to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training on Saturday. Walden, 29, made just 12 appearances for St. Louis after being traded to the Cardinals along with Jason Heyward in the winter of 2014. Shoulder injuries cost Walden the entire 2016 season. He became a free agent when the Cards declined his $5.25 million option last week. Walden, who was an All-Star with the Angels in 2011, holds a 3.00 ERA with 10.8 K/9 in 222 career innings. The move is an excellent low risk, high reward signing for Atlanta as a healthy Walden could make the bullpen that much stronger.

Atlanta also made a couple of minor league catching moves, signing free agent David Freitas on Sunday. Chris Cotillo of SB Nation first reported the deal. Freitas, 27, spent the last two seasons in the Cubs system and has seen time in four different organizations. Originally a 15th round pick by the Nationals in 2010, he was traded to the Athletics for Kurt Suzuki in 2012 and then to Baltimore as part of the Jim Johnson trade in 2013. Freitas batted .295 with six home runs in 91 games between Double-A and Triple-A for Chicago in 2016. He has a .273/.361/421 career line in 2,402 plate appearances over seven seasons… The Braves also re-signed catcher Braeden Schlehuber. The 28-year-old has been in the organization since 2008, when Atlanta selected him in the 4th round out of the College of Southern Nevada. Schlehuber hit .236 with 14 RBI in 40 games for Gwinnett last season and is a .219 career hitter in 607 games in the Braves organization.

Prospects wrapping up Arizona Fall League:

A handful of Braves minor leaguers are finishing up their time with the Salt River Rafters of the AFL. Infielder Dylan Moore was added to the roster after Ozzie Albies suffered a broken elbow in September and has made the most of the chance. Moore, 24, was acquired from the Rangers in the three-team trade that sent Jeff Francoeur to the Marlins. After a fine season in A-Ball with three clubs in which he batted .269/.379/.441 with 14 homers and 42 stolen bases in 128 games, Moore is hitting .342 with two home runs and six RBI in 10 games in the AFL. With some positional versatility to go along with a decent power and speed combo, he’ll be an intriguing name to watch in 2017. Also of note out in Arizona, outfielder Dustin Peterson is batting .333 in 16 games, while second baseman Travis Demeritte is hitting just .235, but has three homers and 10 RBI in 19 games.

Grant McAuley covers the Braves and MLB for 92-9 The Game. You can subscribe to the “Around The Big Leagues” podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher. Follow Grant on Twitter.

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