Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Braves debating internal, FA options at third

Camargo, Ruiz are top candidates within organization
MLB.com @mlbbowman

ATLANTA -- With a top prospect rising and a pair of MVP-caliber players positioned to be available on next year's free-agent market, the Braves are thinking short term while analyzing who might serve as their primary third baseman this year.

Johan Camargo and Rio Ruiz stand as the top internal options to open the season as Atlanta's third baseman. But the Braves have remained open to the possibility that a short-term, affordable option might become available via what has been a slow free-agent market.

ATLANTA -- With a top prospect rising and a pair of MVP-caliber players positioned to be available on next year's free-agent market, the Braves are thinking short term while analyzing who might serve as their primary third baseman this year.

Johan Camargo and Rio Ruiz stand as the top internal options to open the season as Atlanta's third baseman. But the Braves have remained open to the possibility that a short-term, affordable option might become available via what has been a slow free-agent market.

Regardless of which route the Braves choose, they will not do anything that would block Austin Riley's rise toward the Majors or block their desire to be a potential suitor for either Manny Machado or Josh Donaldson when they become free agents at the end of the 2018 season.

Video: ATL@MIA: Ruiz throws out Stanton at second

Riley's stock rose as he showed steady improvement throughout this season and flourished after being promoted to Double-A Mississippi. The hulking 20-year-old third baseman displayed reliable hands from a defensive perspective and ended up producing a .900 OPS while collecting 203 plate appearances against the Southern League's advanced pitching during the season's final months.

Ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Braves' No. 9 prospect, Riley will be given a chance to further develop at the Minor League level throughout the upcoming season. The strides he makes will influence how aggressive the Braves might be in their pursuit of Machado or Donaldson, who was acquired by the Blue Jays while Atlanta's general manager Alex Anthopoulos served as Toronto's GM.

The Braves will have the financial flexibility to be significant players in next year's free-agent market. Their recent Matt Kemp trade positioned them to have approximately $50 million to spend next offseason.

Video: MSS@PEO: Riley shows off quick reflexes at third

With the Kemp deal, the Braves also depleted their financial flexibility for the upcoming season. Thus, there's likely even less reason to think about the possibility of providing a one-year deal to Mike Moustakas or Todd Frazier even if their respective markets lead them to accept a short-term deal.

An unanticipated option developed this past August, when Brandon Phillips proved he was more than capable of playing third base, a position he had not previously played until Freddie Freeman made his transition back to first. Phillips enjoyed the opportunity to play for his hometown Braves before being traded to the Angels on Aug. 31. He has to at least be considered a short-term option for the upcoming season.

While the Braves will continue to evaluate all of their options, they also have the comfort of knowing they can assign the third-base role to Camargo, who committed just three errors over 286 innings at the hot corner last year, or Ruiz, who will need to make strides both offensively and defensively to remain in the team's plans beyond the upcoming season.

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

Atlanta Braves, Johan Camargo