ATLANTA -- Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos saw Jose Bautista become one of baseball's top power hitters while they were together in Toronto. Now, he's going to give the veteran slugger a chance to extend his career by proving he can play third base.
Essentially, the Braves are taking a risk-free chance on Bautista, who signed a Minor League deal on Wednesday with the understanding he will only play third base as he attempts to make his way to the Major League level. A source told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand that Bautista will earn $1 million if he reaches the bigs.
"The hope is he shows he's capable of being a good player who can help us win games," Anthopoulos said. "If that happens, he'll come up and play third base for us. Hopefully, things work out."
Bautista reported to the Braves' Spring Training facility in great shape per the report Anthopoulos received from the team's infield instructor Adam Everett. He'll likely remain there for at least a week and then possibly begin playing games for Class A Advanced Florida. His elevation toward the Major League level will essentially serve as the Spring Training he missed while remaining unsigned through the offseason.
"There are certain things you know you're going to get with Jose," Anthopoulos said. "He's going to be in tremendous shape. He's going to work hard and study hard. He comes to win, and he plays to win."
The Braves had some conversations with Bautista this winter, but there was never any sense they could financially provide what he was seeking. So, the communication ended until late last week when Bautista called Anthopoulos to once again express interest in joining this Braves team he has been closely following over the past few weeks.
"He was following us," Anthopoulos said. "He likes the team. He thinks this team can be competitive and win."
Bautista served as the Pirates' primary third baseman in 2007, and he occasionally played the position with the Blue Jays from '09-11. The six-time All-Star and two-time American League Hank Aaron Award winner made four starts as Toronto's third baseman last year, but he has spent most of the past serving as an outfielder.
The Braves have received better-than-expected results, as Ryan Flaherty has manned third base and Johan Camargo, who was activated from the disabled list Wednesday, could also see time at the hot corner.
In an attempt to add power and some potential protection for Freddie Freeman, the Braves are going to provide this opportunity to Bautista, who has hit at least 20 homers each of the past eight seasons. The 37-year-old veteran altered the course of his career when he hit a Major League-high 54 home runs in 2010, which was Anthopoulos' first season as the Blue Jays' GM.
Bautista hit .228 and averaged 28 homers per season over the past three years. He hit just .203 with 23 homers and a .674 OPS last year with Toronto.
"I learned long ago, you don't bet against this guy," Anthopoulos said. "He's very proud and very determined. He's somebody I've always said would play into his 40s. I can't speak to what happened last year with him. He'll be the first person to tell you he didn't play well. He's very accountable and expects more of himself. By taking this deal, he's made the decision to bet on himself."