Braves bring back Hechavarría on 1-year deal

January 17th, 2020

ATLANTA -- made the most of last year’s late-season audition, and he will now have a chance to continue being an asset to the Braves’ bench.

Hechavarría signed a one-year, $1 million deal that the Braves announced Thursday night. The 30-year-old veteran can play each infield position. His return satisfies the team’s definitive need to add a backup shortstop option.

After being released by the Mets in August, a day shy of earning a $1 million bonus, Hechavarría joined the Braves and proceeded to produce a 1.039 OPS over 70 plate appearances. The unexpected offensive contributions enhanced the value provided by the slick-fielding shortstop, whose arrival in Atlanta was necessitated while Dansby Swanson missed five weeks with a bruised right heel.

While Swanson was sidelined, the Braves attempted to use both and at the shortstop position. Camargo, who was once considered one of the organization’s best defensive infielders, struggled mightily and Culberson gave the club reason to believe he would be best utilized as an outfielder or at one of the other infield spots.

Camargo is currently slated to open the season as the team’s starting third baseman, a role many had hoped would once again be filled by , who agreed to a contract with the Twins this week. Culberson will come to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee with a strong chance to fill the additional spot on the active roster, which will include 26 players this year.

When the Braves non-tendered Culberson in December, they gave him a chance to pursue a guaranteed contract elsewhere. They did so with the understanding he would be welcomed back with the Minor League deal he ended up signing the following week.

Recognizing limited space on their 40-man roster and the need to add at least a few more pieces, the Braves actually enhanced the odds of keeping Culberson by non-tendering him. If they would have been put in a position where they had to designate him for assignment to create a 40-man roster spot, he may have been claimed and not had the freedom to choose where he would fight for a job this year.

The Braves have one vacant spot on their 40-man roster as they search for an outfielder or third baseman capable of attempting to compensate for Donaldson’s departure. They could eventually create space via trades or the moves that could be made after some of the fringe roster members are further evaluated during Spring Training.

Hechavarría, who produced a .611 OPS over 151 plate appearances with the Mets last year, , and Culberson are currently projected to fill four of Atlanta’s five bench spots. Another addition could be made once its determined how the team will attempt to replace Donaldson.