The Atlanta Braves have signed catcher Wil Nieves to a minor league deal, according to Matt Eddy of Baseball America:
Nieves went just 1-for-14 in six games with the Padres this season before being designated for assignment when San Diego called up prospect Austin Hedges, who has since gone 2-for-9 in four games. When the Padres could not work out a trade for Nieves, he elected free agency rather than accepting an assignment to the minor leagues.
Why do the Braves need Nieves?
The Braves have split the starts behind the plate between 38-year-old A.J. Pierzynski and 23-year-old Christian Bethancourt, with Pierzynski getting 19 starts and Bethancourt 14 so far this season.
Pierzynski has seen success at the plate this season, hitting .311/.341/.473 with three home runs in 82 plate appearances, but a 38-year-old hitting that far above his career numbers is something that us unlikely to sustain moving forward. Bethancourt, meanwhile, has struggled, hitting just .173/.204/.250 in 54 plate appearances.
The Braves have no catchers, aside from Nieves, with major league experience at Triple-A Gwinnett.
What does Nieves bring to the Braves?
The 37-year-old Nieves brings a dozen years of major league experience with seven different teams. He has hit .241/.280/.317 in 1,164 at bats at the big league level. He also has a reputation as a strong defender behind the plate.
Nieves was with Philadelphia last season and hit .254/.270/.344 in 128 plate appearances over 36 games with a lone home run. He had arguably his best offensive season in 2013 with Arizona, hitting .297/.320/.369 in 206 plate appearances. While not a world-beater by any means, he provides Atlanta with solid depth at catcher, especially if Pierzynski or Bethancourt gets injured.