While Johan Camargo eventually established himself as the Atlanta Braves’ everyday third baseman, the season certainly didn’t begin that way. With Camargo injured to start the season, Ryan Flaherty logged a large number of at bats early on. For what it is worth now, the Braves didn’t seem to be convinced that Camargo was the long-term solution back in April, which led them to give an opportunity to Jose Bautista. (If you recall, Camargo spent over a week at AAA — while you can attribute some of that to a rehab assignment, he continued to play for Gwinnett in mid-April while Ryan Flaherty kept drawing starts.)
Atlanta signed Bautista on April 18 with the intention of playing third base, which was a position that he had not played regularly since 2011. He worked his way into shape in the minors before returning to the majors on May 4. Bautista would see playing time over the next few weeks but didn’t bring a lot to the table offensively hitting .143/.250/.343 with two home runs in 12 games.
With Camargo healthy and Bautista scuffling, the team elected to cut him loose on May 20. From there he would sign with the Mets where he’d appear in 83 games hitting .204/.351/.367 with nine home runs. New York traded him to Philadelphia before the waiver trade deadline where he got in 27 games while putting up a .244/.404/.467 line with two more home runs.
Bottom Line, what did he do in 2018? With the Braves not much. Overall he was worth 1.0 fWAR in large part due to his power (13 home runs) and a solid walk rate of 16.8%. His best stretch came at the end with the Phillies which he will no doubt try to parlay into an opportunity somewhere next season. Part of the weirdness of Bautista’s season is that the Braves were both right to move on from him, yet he rebounded anyway. He had a dreadful sub-.300 xwOBA in his 40 PAs with the Braves, but by the end of the year, it had improved to a very solid .335, showing that a walks-and-homers profile definitely works in today’s game even if other skills might be lacking. But, the Braves got the better end anyway, given Camargo’s great season.
Will Bautista be on the roster next year? Not likely.
What is he going to do next year? Bautista will be 38 next season but is planning on continuing his career. He told Ken Rosenthal that he would like to latch on with a contender in 2019. There were a few contenders with weak hot corners this year, so it’s a possibility, though he’s not looking at a major deal or anything like that.
Highlight of 2018: Bautista doubled in his first at bat as a Brave.
His biggest hit as a Brave, however, came on May 14. The Braves and Cubs were locked in a see-saw game full of homers. Ozzie Albies homered to start the game, then the Braves fell behind on a two-run homer by the Cubs. Then Tyler Flowers hit a two-run homer to put the Braves back ahead by one. Then Kris Bryant did the same, and the Braves were down by a run again. Bautista’s three-run homer in the fifth was the biggest blow of the game, and while the Braves barely escaped with a win (the Cubs left the bases loaded in the ninth as Bryant flew out to end the game), they got the W thanks to Bautista’s towering effort.
Lowlight of 2018: Despite that homer, the Cubs series was the beginning of the end for Joey Bats in an Atlanta uniform. In the next game, he struck out in all three of his plate appearances (the Braves lost by a run, one of his strikeouts came with a man on second). He only made one Braves start after that, and put up another 0-for-3 with a strikeout and two groundouts before he was sent packing.