Braves release Bautista; Camargo to play third

May 20th, 2018

ATLANTA -- Once Saturday afternoon's staff meeting led to the decision to have serve as the Braves' everyday third baseman, general manager Alex Anthopoulos approached and came to the agreement it was best to end what proved to be just a two-week experiment.
Before Sunday afternoon's game against the Marlins, Anthopoulous revealed that Bautista has been released and can attempt to extend his career elsewhere. The 37-year-old spent the past two weeks creating regular reminders he is not close to what he was when he won consecutive American League Hank Aaron Awards, earned six All-Star selections and had four top-10 finishes in MVP balloting.
Now that shortstop Dansby Swanson is back from the disabled list and Camargo has a chance to play third base on an everyday basis, the Braves simply couldn't afford to provide Bautista the regular opportunities he needs to prove he might still have something left to offer.
"We agreed if there's not going to be playing time and there's not going to be at-bats here, that's not right for him," Anthopoulos said. "He needed to get going. We just agreed it was best to give him that chance to get that playing time."

This wasn't necessarily an enjoyable responsibility for Anthopoulos, who developed a strong friendship with Bautista when he served as his GM in Toronto. But as is the case with most decisions he and his peers make, it was best to remove any emotional attachment from the equation and look at the reality that the once-feared slugger hit .143 (5-for-35) with two home runs and 12 strikeouts since joining Atlanta on May 4.
"This is about the Braves at all times," Anthopoulous said. "I think everybody understands that."
After Bautista remained unsigned throughout Spring Training, Anthopoulos took a chance by giving him a Minor League contract in April with the understanding he would need to play third base, a position he had not manned on an everyday basis for more than a decade.
As expected, Bautista's range was limited. More importantly, his bat didn't come close to compensating for his defensive limitations at the hot corner. The former Blue Jays outfielder has batted .136 with a .522 OPS against right-handed pitchers since last year's All-Star break. The tremendous power he once had was not witnessed, as he produced a 100-plus mph exit velocity with just five of the 23 balls put in play for Atlanta.
"We took a shot," Anthopoulos said. "There was a lot of upside for us if it clicked. We felt that was the reward at the end of it, but we certainly didn't feel like there was any downside."

Now, the Braves will turn to Camargo, who is arguably the best defensive infielder within the entire organization. The slick-fielding switch-hitter was projected to be Atlanta's everyday third baseman until he missed the final two weeks of Spring Training with an oblique strain that sidelined him through April's first couple of weeks. This led to the signing of a few days before Opening Day.
When Camargo returned from the DL, Flaherty remained a fixture at third base, primarily because he ranked among the league leaders in batting average throughout April. Bautista then arrived the same day that Swanson's move to the DL led Camargo to spend two weeks as Atlanta's shortstop.
"Everything happens for a reason," Camargo said. "God has a plan, and I think [my injury in Spring Training] was another trial, another test for me to kind of go through, and now this is the moment we are in right now and just kind of move forward."

With highly touted prospect Austin Riley (No. 8 per MLB Pipeline) now with Triple-A Gwinnett and one step away from beginning his potential tenure as Atlanta's third baseman of the future, there might be a point this season or next when Camargo returns to a utility role. But for now, the third-base job is rightfully his.
"Obviously, we're high on [Riley] and excited about him," Anthopoulos said. "He'll tell us when he's ready. If he performs and gets hot, that's a good problem to have. You can never have too many good players. If Austin can show us he's ready, we'd love to be in that spot where we have a tough decision to make."