The Braves have purchased the contract of veteran slugger Jose Bautista, per a club announcement Friday. Mark Bowman of MLB.com was the first to report that Bautista would join the Braves today. Bautista will be in Atlanta’s starting lineup Friday night against the Giants, batting fifth and playing third base.
Bautista has played plenty of third base throughout his career, seeing action in 394 games at the hot corner throughout his 14 big-league seasons. He played in eight games at the position (starting four) last season, but it hasn’t been his primary spot on the field since 2008, when he played in 91 games (starting 81) for the Pirates. Since then, he’s played primarily at the corner outfield spots — mostly in right field since 2010. The Braves front office obviously didn’t find its collection of third basemen to be too inspiring — 24-year-old Johan Camargo has gotten off to a good start over his 282 major-league plate appearances but probably profiles as a utility infielder long-term, while Ryan Flaherty and Charlie Culberson have definitively proven that they’re bench players at best — so they went out and signed Bautista to a minor-league deal on April 18. It’ll be interesting to see how he reacclimates to his old position at the major-league level.
The 37-year-old obviously has the potential to be a game-changing offensive talent if he can rediscover some of his old form. In 5,272 plate appearances for the Blue Jays, with whom he experienced a mid-career breakout, he posted a .253/.372/.506 with 288 home runs. While he’s almost certainly not going to hit for 40-plus homers like he did in 2010, 2011, and 2015, Bautista went deep 23 times even during an extremely trying season last year and has hit 20-plus homers in every season since 2010. He could provide a little bit of extra veteran power presence for an Atlanta club that is already receiving plenty of power from young sluggers Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies. Bautista homered just once in 53 minor-league plate appearances this season but posted a solid .256/.396/.372 slash line.
To make room for Bautista on their 25-man roster, the Braves optioned outfielder Preston Tucker to Triple-A Gwinnett. The move leaves Atlanta with just three full-time outfielders on its major-league roster, though Flaherty has some experience in the outfield, and Bautista can obviously fill a corner spot at a moment’s notice if necessary.