SAN DIEGO – The entrance of versatile veteran Emilio Bonifacio meant the exit of Braves fourth outfielder Jordan Schafer, who was designated for assignment by the team on Friday.
Schafer was removed from the 40-man roster to open a spot for Bonifacio, the speedy, switch-hitting infielder/outfielder acquired from the Cubs along with left-handed reliever James Russell in Thursday’s trade for catching prospect Victor Caratini.
Rookie lefty reliever Chasen Shreve was optioned to Triple-A to open a spot for Russell.
The Braves have 10 days to trade, release or place Schafer on waivers. Since he was out of minor-league options, he couldn’t be optioned to Triple-A without first clearing waivers. He hit .163 (13-for-80) with four doubles, two RBIs, a .256 on-base percentage and 15 stolen bases in 63 games including 13 starts (1o in center field).
The Braves optioned left-hander Chasen Shreve to the minors to open a spot for Russell.
It’s been a difficult season in all respects for Schafer, who was frustrated by his lack of playing time. He hit .312 (39-for-125) with three homers, a .399 OBP and a .464 slugging percentage in 2013 before the All-Star break, but just .167 (31-for-186) with no homers, a .251 OBP and .210 slugging percentage in 96 games since then.
He was 6-for-45 (.133) with one extra-base hit since June 7.
“I just want to play,” Schafer had said before Wednesday’s game in Los Angeles, speaking about his frustrations over the lack of playing time. “I want to have a chance to play…. You have no rhythm (without consistent playing time), you have no feel. No matter how much BP you take it’s not the same as at-bats.”
He was in the lineup that night in place of right fielder Jason Heyward (strained back), and Schafer got picked off second base in a crucial situation in the 10th inning of a 3-2 loss to the Dodgers. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Friday that incident didn’t factor into the decision to DFA Schafer two days later.
Rather, it was a situation where Bonifacio’s arrival in a trade-deadline deal Thursday made Schafer expendable, since Bonifacio is a solid defensive center fielder who can also play both outfield corner positions and every infield position other than first base.
“I talked to Schafe (Thursday) night for a while, and he was fine with it,” Gonzalez said. “Schafer will be fine. He’s a nice piece to have on a major league team. He can do a lot of things. He can pinch-run, he can play defense – all three in the outfield – he can bunt. He would be a very nice piece on any team. You match him up good, he can be successful.
“I think someone will take a shot at him, as a fourth or fifth outfielder depending on what setup you have, because he can do a lot of good things. It’s an opportunity that he may get.”
It’s the likely end of Schafer’s second stint with the Braves, who drafted and developed him, made him their 2009 opening-day center fielder, traded him to Houston in July 2011, and then claimed him back off waivers from the Astros in November 2012.
In between there were plenty of injuries, a few promising stretches of strong play, and a lot of bench time – way too much bench time to suit Schafer, 27, who had grown impatient over his lack of playing time on a team with a struggling center fielder (B.J. Upton) and no other backup outfielder – before Bonifacio — with Schafer’s defensive skills.
“I love being here,” Schafer had said Wednesday. “I love Fredi and I love all the players in that locker room. At the same time, I’m not 22 anymore. But I’m not old, where I just want to be a bench guy. I played last year, and for to understand I played well last year and then to basically just be shut down to where I’m a pinch-runner … it’s just aggravating.
“When I got some at-bats last year, I did fine. I feel like I can do so many things to help the team win. I just want to have an opportunity to play.”
Now, he could get that opportunity, if a team claims him and gives him another shot to show what he can do.
If he cleared waivers – isn’t claimed by any team – Schafer could be outrighted to the Triple-A Gwinnett, but that scenario is unlikely. Gonzalez hopes to see him get an opportunity to play somewhere at the big-league level.
The Shreve move was expected after the acquired Russell. Shreve has shown some promise in his first stint in the big leagues, allowing six hits, one run and one walk with seven strikeouts in five innings over five appearances. However, lefty hitters are 5-for-9 against him (righties are 1-for-11 with one walk and five strikeouts).