Braves Notebook | Welcome Sean Rodriguez

Braves add versatile super-sub on multi-year deal…

The Atlanta Braves completed some more holiday shopping on Thursday, adding veteran utility man Sean Rodriguez on a two-year deal worth a reported $11.5 million. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports was the first to report the news.

A fiery competitor, Rodriguez, 31, is a nine-year veteran who spent the last two seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, becoming a valuable platoon player thanks to his extraordinary versatility. He made starts at all four infield positions and logged innings in all three outfield spots as well, carving out a niche as a super-reserve in 140 games last year.

Rodriguez also enjoyed the finest offensive season of his career in 2016. He set career-highs in several offensive categories, batting .270/.349/.510 and slugging 18 home runs in just 300 at-bats. His fine season at the plate and ability to play all over the diamond had at least half a dozen clubs in pursuit, including the Pirates, Dodgers and Blue Jays according to Chris Cotillo at SB Nation.

With this signing, Atlanta has added a reliable veteran who could see time at several positions and could garner regular at-bats if he continues to produce at his 2016 rate. The Braves already have Jace Peterson and top prospect Ozzie Albies in the mix at second base, but Rodriguez is a fine fielder at the position and would fit in nicely against left-handers, against whom he has posted a career .755 OPS and turned in a .286/.415/.519 slash line in 2016. Rodriguez could also see time at third base, where Adonis Garcia is Atlanta’s incumbent.

From a pure value standpoint, John Coppolella and company appear to have identified a potential break-out candidate and a late bloomer at that. Ronnie Socash over at Beyond The Boxscore highlighted the changes Rodriguez made in 2016 that could be a sign of things to come for Atlanta in 2017. That’s your recommended reading on Rodriguez.

Braves miss out on free-agent catcher Jason Castro…

Atlanta continues its search for a catcher to pair with Tyler Flowers, though it remains possible that Flowers and Anthony Recker could end up sharing the job again in 2017. The Braves were one of several clubs interested in former Astros backstop Jason Castro, who signed a three-year, $24.5 million deal with the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday.

Castro, 29, has been lauded for his pitch-framing and overall ability behind the plate, though his offense has fallen off since his All-Star season of 2013. He has batted just .215 over the last three seasons, but averaged 12 home runs per season. Minnesota was in the market for a new catcher after parting ways with Kurt Suzuki and ponied up the money and a third year to get a deal done with Castro.

While Atlanta could pursue former Georgia Tech star Matt Wieters, the price may end up being more than the Braves are looking to spend in both years and annual value. After all, his agent, Scott Boras, is not known to take the path of least resistance for his clients or deal in hometown discounts. Wieters, 30, is a four-time All-Star and two-time gold glove winner who has spent his entire eight-year career with the Baltimore Orioles. Injuries cost him significant time in both 2014 and 2015, but he remains the biggest name in a relatively thin free-agent crop of catchers. Unlike Castro, Wieters is not noted for his pitch-framing metrics, something that ESPN’s Buster Olney pointed out that clubs are aware of as they mull potential offers.

In addition to the remaining free-agents, former Brave Brayan Pena could make some sense for Atlanta. The soon-to-be 35-year-old was designated for assignment by the Cardinals to make room for reliever Brett Cecil this week. Pena was limited to just nine games last season thanks to knee surgery. Prior to that, he served as the Reds primary back-up catcher for two seasons. A switch-hitter who has played parts of 12 seasons in the big leagues, Pena is well-respected in the organization and would come relatively cheap. Any club that signs Pena could do so for the major league minimum, with St. Louis on the hook for the remainder of his $2.5 million salary, assuming he clears waivers and is not traded.

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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