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Braves keeping options open at third base

MLB.com @mlbbowman

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As the Braves reconstructed their roster this past offseason, they envisioned Adonis Garcia and Kelly Johnson sharing the third-base position. This remains the plan, but if the longstanding concerns regarding Garcia's defense become more alarming, then the club would have to evaluate some of its other options.

When the Braves signed Garcia days after he was released from the Yankees at the end of last year's Spring Training, the 30-year-old Cuban carried the reputation of being an offensively capable player with defensive limitations. Once he finally gained a lasting spot at the big league level near the end of July, Garcia exceeded offensive expectations from a power standpoint but also provided the reminder that his glove can be a liability.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As the Braves reconstructed their roster this past offseason, they envisioned Adonis Garcia and Kelly Johnson sharing the third-base position. This remains the plan, but if the longstanding concerns regarding Garcia's defense become more alarming, then the club would have to evaluate some of its other options.

When the Braves signed Garcia days after he was released from the Yankees at the end of last year's Spring Training, the 30-year-old Cuban carried the reputation of being an offensively capable player with defensive limitations. Once he finally gained a lasting spot at the big league level near the end of July, Garcia exceeded offensive expectations from a power standpoint but also provided the reminder that his glove can be a liability.

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Garcia produced a .790 OPS and hit 10 homers over just 198 plate appearances for Atlanta last year. But he also committed 10 errors in 96 chances at third base and was credited with a score of -3 in the Defensive Runs Saved category while totaling just 345 1/3 innings at the position.

When Garcia's childhood friend Hector Olivera got some time at third base in September, he did not fare much better. The 30-year-old Cuban's range was limited as he recorded four errors in 42 chances and was credited with -1 DRS in 168 innings at the hot corner.

Attempting to ease Olivera's adjustment to the Major League level, the Braves believe they are alleviating him of some stress by transitioning him to left field this season. Early reports regarding the transition have been positive, and the Braves seem to view moving Olivera back to third base as the least attractive of the options they will evaluate if Garcia's defense becomes problematic.

A more attractive plan for the Braves would be to alter their second-base plans by giving Gordon Beckham some playing time at third base. Beckham came to camp intent on proving he should be the everyday third baseman. But the current plan is for him to platoon at second base with Jace Peterson.

Johnson's presence as a versatile defender positions him to serve as a platoon or backup option at third base. The question remains whether he might share time at the hot corner with Garcia, Beckham or possibly Olivera.

If the Braves do ultimately opt to move Olivera back to third base, they could send Garcia to Triple-A Gwinnett. Consequently, they would gain a roster spot that could be filled by Jeff Francoeur, who could share the left-field position with Michael Bourn.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.

 

Atlanta Braves, Adonis Garcia, Hector Olivera