ATLANTA -- The Braves have taken advantage of the chance to gain a high reward by taking the low risk of signing Mat Gamel to a Minor League contract.
Gamel was targeted to serve as the Brewers' starting first baseman in each of the past two seasons. But the former top prospect tore the right anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on May 1, 2012, and again during the early portion of this year's Spring Training.
Gamel provides the Braves organizational depth and the capability to strengthen Atlanta's bench as a backup corner infielder at some point during the 2014 season. The 28-year-old Jacksonville, Fla., native hit .310 with 28 home runs and a .912 OPS for Triple-A Nashville in 2011.
Gamel's success in the Pacific Coast League gave the Brewers confidence that he was capable of filling the void created when first baseman Prince Fielder signed with the Tigers after the 2011 season. Gamel hit .246 with a home run and a .641 OPS in the 21 games he played in '12 before tearing his ACL for the first time while chasing a foul ball at San Diego's Petco Park.
While hitting .304 with a .873 OPS over seven Minor League seasons, Gamel was primarily used as a third baseman. His presence gives the Braves some insurance behind Chris Johnson, who became Atlanta's starting third baseman while hitting .321 with the help of an all-time franchise-high .394 BABIP (batting average on balls in play).
Gamel came to Spring Training this year targeted to at least begin the season as Milwaukee's primary first baseman. But after feeling discomfort during the early days of camp, he underwent an MRI that showed another tear in his surgically repaired right knee.