The Braves signed infielder Adeiny Hechavarria on Friday afternoon, addressing their defense while shortstop Dansby Swanson remains sidelined with an injured heel.
Hechavarria, 30, was released by the Mets after he was designated for assignment last week. A defensive specialist, Hechavarria already was working with third base coach Ron Washington on Friday afternoon and was manning shortstop for the evening game against the Dodgers.
Among corresponding moves, the Braves optioned infielder Johan Camargo to Triple-A. Camargo has endured the most difficult season of his career, and the team had long searched for the right time to let him work out the kinks in Triple-A.
Since MLB eliminated the old system of August waiver trades, means of adding external help are limited. Hechavarria presented an opportunity at a minimal cost - at a time the team sorely needed shortstop help.
“He’s been a good defender, light bat,” general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. “Someone who adds depth, solidifies things for us. Beyond that, we wanted to get Johan going. We’d talked at different points of the year at getting him down and getting him every-day at-bats. With the way things are set up right now, after the trade deadline, with someone like Adeiny available, we get to have everybody, continue to have our depth and solidify things in the infield.”
Anthopoulos was with the Blue Jays when they signed Hechavarria as a 20-year-old. Anthopoulos traded Hechavarria, one of the organization’s best prospects, in the aggressive Marlins deal of 2012, which netted Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.
Hechavarria spent the next roughly 4-1/2 seasons with the Marlins before he was traded to Tampa Bay. He also played for the Pirates and Yankees before his latest 60-game stint with the Mets.
He’s hit .252/.288/.346 since debuting in 2012. The Braves aren’t bringing him in for offense, but rather as a suitable veteran stopgap until Swanson returns.
“When we signed him (in Toronto), the way we viewed it was he was a glove-first guy, a shortstop,” Anthopoulos said. “We felt like the floor was he’d be a backup shortstop on a team with the upside to be a starter with the defense, the potential with the bat.
“I guess (his career has) played out about right. He had some seasons when he started, went through arbitration, made some money. I think it was probably as expected, the way things have worked out for him. But he’s always been extremely talented. Got a big bonus at the time. His career has gone about as expected.”
Before signing Hechavarria, Anthopoulos met with manager Brian Snitker, bench coach Walt Weiss and Washington. They evaluated Hechavarria’s play, consulting Washington about what adjustments could be made to make him an even better defender.
“There’s some things we noticed with his infield play, that when we talked to Wash about, got his input, that we thought he could tweak or make some improvements on,” Anthopoulos said. “He’s got the gifts and the talents to be a very good defender. Like anything, there are times when you can improve. I don’t know how that’s going to translate. ... We asked Wash what he thought defensively, what he thinks he’s going to be, what he thinks he can do with him. Wash likes the talent and he’s excited to work with him.”
The Braves optioned Camargo and outfielder Adam Duvall to Triple-A Gwinnett. Camargo, who struggled mightily in Swanson’s absence, was demoted in hopes he will rediscover his timing while receiving regular at-bats in non-pressure situations.
Camargo has hit .164 with a .250 on-base percentage in 18 games since Swanson was injured. Even more concerning, his defense had regressed, highlighted by a botched potential game-ending double play earlier this week.
The 25-year-old was seen as a super utilityman who would play regularly entering the season, but that plan never materialized. Camargo’s play gave the Braves little reason to follow through with their original intention.
With Hechavarria in place, the Braves hope Camargo can right himself before returning - likely in September - so he can be an asset to the bench by October.
“I wish I could tell you (what’s gone wrong),” Anthopoulos said. “There are a million things I could tell you. We can craft all kinds of narratives. Was it not playing during the winter like he did the year before through late January? Was it not getting regular reps, playing time here? Was it trying to press when he was playing and did get those starts? Hard to say.
“But like anything else, we talked to him about going down, getting his regular at-bats and getting his timing back. He’s still a young man with all the ability in the world. He should get back to what he was.”
Right-hander Wes Parsons was designated for assignment to open a 40-man spot for Hechavarria. The team also recalled righty Bryse Wilson.
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