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Braves non-tender Culberson, tender 7 contracts

@mlbbowman
December 2, 2019

ATLANTA -- Charlie Culberson’s memorable stint with Atlanta came to an close when he was one of three players non-tendered by the Braves before Monday night’s deadline. The Braves opted to not tender a contract to Culberson, catcher John Ryan Murphy and outfielder Rafael Ortega. These three non-tendered players are

ATLANTA -- Charlie Culberson’s memorable stint with Atlanta came to an close when he was one of three players non-tendered by the Braves before Monday night’s deadline.

The Braves opted to not tender a contract to Culberson, catcher John Ryan Murphy and outfielder Rafael Ortega. These three non-tendered players are now free agents.

Each of Atlanta’s other arbitration-eligible players -- Dansby Swanson, Mike Foltynewicz, Shane Greene, Adam Duvall, Luke Jackson, Johan Camargo and Grant Dayton were tendered contracts. These seven roster members are now positioned to have their respective 2020 salaries determined via the arbitration process that will occur in January.

These players just joined free-agent pool

With MLB clubs set to begin using 26-man rosters next year, Culberson should find himself on a big league roster to begin the 2020 season. But the Braves determined he likely would not fit on their bench despite the fact he wasn’t expected to cost much more than he did this year, when he drew a $1.395 million salary.

This decision to part ways with Culberson may improve the odds of the Braves re-signing Adeiny Hechavarria. The veteran infielder is a much better defensive option than Culberson, and he showed some unexpected offensive life when he produced a 1.039 OPS over the 70 plate appearances he logged after signing with Atlanta in August.

Camargo stands as the only potential backup infielder on Atlanta’s 40-man roster. But if the Braves do not re-sign Josh Donaldson, there’s a chance Camargo could serve as the starting third baseman, at least until Austin Riley shows he’s ready to return to the Majors.

Culberson became a fan favorite and a beloved teammate after being acquired as part of the financially-motivated deal that sent Matt Kemp to the Dodgers on Dec. 16, 2017. The veteran utility player revived his career as he hit 12 homers (two of the walk-off variety) and produced a .792 OPS while logging 322 plate appearances during his first season with Atlanta.

But after replacing the injured Swanson as Atlanta’s starting shortstop for the 2018 National League Division Series, Culberson saw his playing time significantly diminished. The 30-year-old Rome, Ga., native produced a .731 OPS and tallied five homers while drawing just 144 plate appearances this season.

Unfortunately, his tenure with the Braves ended in a gruesome manner. His 2019 season concluded on Sept. 14, when he suffered multiple facial fractures after being hit by a pitch thrown by Nationals reliever Fernando Rodney.

While many might have been expecting Culberson to return, there wasn’t much surprise regarding the Braves’ other two non-tenders.

Murphy was acquired from the D-backs on July 31. The 28-year-old catcher has a .622 OPS over 674 career plate appearances.

Ortega drilled a game-winning grand slam that allowed the Braves to secure a series win over the Dodgers on Aug. 18. But the 28-year-old outfielder produced a meager .578 OPS in 96 plate appearances for Atlanta.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.