Dan's Dugout: Joey Bats Brings His Act to Braves • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Joey Bats Brings His Act to Braves

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The Atlanta Braves courted Jose Bautista over the winter but couldn’t meet his asking price.

That was before the deep freeze of free agents forced the slugger’s demands to drop.

The Dominican slugger will make a million dollars – a paltry sum these days – if he reaches Atlanta after a stint in Triple-A.

Jose Bautista has eight straight years of 20 homers

Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos believes he will.

It just so happens that Bautista belted 54 home runs in 2010, the first year Anthopoulos was general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Now 37, the six-time All-Star has seen his better days. But he’s still averaged 28 homers per season over the last three years and at least 20 for eight successive seasons. Other than Freddie Freeman, nobody else on the Atlanta roster hit that many last year alone.

“By taking this deal, he’s made a decision to bet on himself,” Anthopoulos told Atlanta media members Tuesday. “I learned long ago you don’t bet against this guy. He’s very proud and very determined.”

In 2017, Bautista was a bigger bust than Carrie Underwood. He still aggravated opposing pitchers by flipping bats and admiring his home runs but he didn’t connect as often as usual. He just cleared the Mendoza Line, finishing at .203, and went deep 23 times.

“He’ll be the first person to tell you he didn’t play well,” said Anthopoulos of Bautista, whose well-earned nickname is Joey Bats. “He’s very accountable and expects more of himself.”

Bautista, who has also played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in two separate stints, plus several other clubs, spent most of his Toronto tenure in right field. But the Braves have ticketed him for the hot corner, a position synonymous with power, and for the cleanup spot in their lineup.

If he can play third base well enough, Bautista will be a big hit with the Braves

The winter trade of Matt Kemp opened a gaping void in the Atlanta order behind No. 3 hitter Freddie Freeman, who bats lefthanded.

With Bautista batting fourth, National League pitchers won’t be willing to pitch around Freeman so frequently.

The veteran righthanded slugger signed a one-year deal that could be good for both sides. The Braves add a heavy-hitting third baseman while giving blue-chip prospect Austin Riley another year to develop in the minors. And Bautista gets to bounce back after a bad year and convince some club to offer him more money next year.

Major-league rosters are full of sluggers older than Bautista is today. The Seattle Mariners, for example, are still getting good mileage from Robinson Cano, 39, and Nelson Cruz, 37. And 38-year-old Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels has a chance to reach 700 home runs.

Joey Bats earned his nickname

Bautista, who played only eight games at third last summer, will have to unseat Ryan Flaherty and Johan Camargo in Atlanta but both are widely regarded as utilitymen. The svelte slugger has the body type, athleticism, and arm – plus something to prove to 29 other clubs that thought he wasn’t worth anything.

At the very least, his return to the Senior Circuit should prove interesting.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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