Jose Bautista, Braves Agree on Minor League Contract, Will Play 3B

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistApril 18, 2018

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 04: Jose Bautista #19 of the Toronto Blue Jays in action against the New York Yankees during a game at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Longtime Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista reached an agreement Wednesday on a minor league deal with the Atlanta Braves, MLB.com's Mark Bowman reported.

According to Bowman, Bautista will work out at third base.

The veteran spent the past nine-plus seasons in Toronto, where he developed from a fringe roster asset into one of baseball's most productive sluggers for a six-year period. He connected on 227 home runs between 2010—when he hit a career-high 54—and 2015.

The 37-year-old Dominican Republic native showed signs of decline over the past two years, though. He belted a more pedestrian 45 homers across 273 games, and his OPS dropped to .674 in 2017, the lowest full-season mark of his career.

In all, the veteran right fielder finished last year with a .203/.308/.366 line, 23 home runs and 170 strikeouts, which was 54 more than any other season.

The Blue Jays declined the $17 million mutual contract option for 2018 in early October.

It was a long-expected move that allowed Toronto fans to celebrate him in the season's final home game. Robert MacLeod of the Globe and Mail passed along comments Bautista made after being removed to a standing ovation in the ninth inning against the New York Yankees on Sept. 24.

"A lot of good emotions," he said. "It's good to be recognized, and it's good to feel the love. I appreciate everything that happened."

Bautista, who's also played for the Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays, Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates, enters this year with a .250 career batting average, 331 homers, 927 runs batted in and 970 runs scored in 1,676 MLB games.

Ultimately, signing a player with his track record qualifies as a high-profile addition, but expectations must be kept within reason. He's no longer capable of carrying an offense for extended stretches.

Bautista could still provide a boost to the Braves lineup with a moderate rebound in the power department while playing a more limited role. Rio Ruiz, Ryan Flaherty and Charlie Culberson make up Atlanta's depth chart at third base.

Look for him to slot in alongside Freddie Freeman, Ender Inciarte and Ozzie Albies if he can prove himself worthy of a spot on Atlanta's major league roster.

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