The Braves wanted to add some versatility and power to their bench and did so Thursday, agreeing to a two-year, $11.5 million free-agent contract with infielder-outfielder Sean Rodriguez.
A person familiar with negotiations confirmed that Rodriguez, a right-handed-hitting infielder/outfielder coming off a career-best season for Pittsburgh that included 18 home runs and an .859 OPS, will get a $1.5 million signing bonus and salaries of $5 million in 2017 and 2018.
Rodriguez, who turns 32 in April, played seven positions in 2016 and produced career-highs in most offensive categories including homers, batting average (.270), RBIs (56), on-base percentage (.349) and slugging percentage (.510), despite striking out a career-high 102 times in 342 plate appearances.
The Miami native is a career .234 hitter with 112 doubles, 67 home runs, a .303 OBP and .390 slugging percentage in 903 games over nine seasons, including seven in the American League with the Angels and Rays before spending the past two with the Pirates.
Rodriguez raised his performance against right-handers and lefties in 2016, batting .265 with 14 homers and an .831 OPS in 248 plate appearances against righties and hitting .286 with four homers and a robust .415 OBP and .519 slugging percentage in 94 plate appearances against lefties.
He played in 140 games and made multiple starts at six positions, including 16 outfield starts (13 in right, three in left) and 48 infield starts, including 19 at shortstop, 18 at second base and six at third base. He made only five starts at first base, but played parts of 57 games at the position in 2016 and has 32 career starts at the position.
The versatility made him a good fit for the Braves, who think Rodriguez could get at least four or five starts per week.
He was primarily a second baseman early in his career, still grades out above-average on defense at that position and could see plenty of playing time there with the Braves, perhaps in a platoon with Jace Peterson — at least until prospect Ozzie Albies shows he’s recovered from an elbow injury and ready to play in the majors.
Rodriguez gives the Braves an option at third base if Adonis Garcia struggles or needs a rest, and he can also occasionally spell first baseman Freddie Freeman, shortstop Dansby Swanson and back up the corner outfield positions and even center field, if necessary.
The signing of Rodriguez likely diminishes the likelihood of veteran outfielder Jeff Francoeur re-signing with the Braves.
No team has been busier in the early part of the offseason than the Braves, who agreed to terms with Rodriguez on Thanksgiving after already signing free-agent starting pitchers Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey and re-signing starter-reliever Josh Collmenter.
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