For the second time in three years, the Atlanta Braves have made a trade in late July with the Chicago Cubs. Thursday right before the 4:00 pm ET trade deadline, the Braves acquired utility man Emilio Bonifacio and left-handed reliever James Russell from the Cubs for minor league catcher Victor Caratini.
The Braves needed bullpen help, especially from the left side of the rubber. The 28-year-old Russell pitched in 44 games for the Cubs this season and recorded one save. He was 0-2 with a 3.51 earned run average. Russell allowed 24 hits in 33.1 innings, with 16 walks and 26 strikeouts.
Russell has struggled this season against left-handed batters, as they have hit .295 against him. However, right-handed hitters have hit only .103 against Russell. In his five-year career, Russell’s left-handed hitting opponents have hit only .240 against him, while right-handers have hit .273.
Russell has done very well in 15 games against Atlanta, with a 2.30 ERA in 15 games. After not allowing an earned run in 13 games this season in June, Russell had a 6.97 ERA in his 11 games in July.
The Braves will have Russell under control through next season. He’s making $1.775 million this season, but the Cubs are picking up a portion of that salary.
Atlanta’s bullpen has been in a state of flux the entire season. Luis Avilan and Ian Thomas, two lefties that started the season in the big leagues, are back in the minors. Chasen Shreve is the only left-hander I the bullpen until Russell arrives Friday night in San Diego.
The 29-year-old Bonifacio has become a journeyman utility man. This will be his seventh team in seven seasons and his fourth team in the last two seasons. The switch-hitter was hitting .279 in 276 at bats this season with the Cubs with two home runs, 18 RBI, 14 doubles and 14 stolen bases.
Bonifacio’s best season was in 2011 when he hit .296 with the Marlins. He had 40 stolen bases and had an on base percentage of .360. Bonifacio has mainly played second base (191 games) in his career, with 158 games in center field, 141 games at third base, 98 games at shortstop, 66 games in left field and 28 games in right field.
The Braves needed help on the bench. The batting averages for the two top pinch-hitters entering Thursday night’s game in Los Angeles belonged to Ryan Doumit (.200) and Jordan Schafer (.160). The entire team has hit .160 as pinch-hitters.
Considering manager Fredi Gonzalez’s propensity to give players a day off, Bonifacio will get plenty of opportunities, particularly since he can provide speed off the bench.
Caratini was Atlanta’s second round pick in the 2013 draft. He was playing at Rome this season and he had a .279 batting average with five home runs, 42 RBI and 18 doubles. The Braves have moved him back to behind the plate after he saw numerous games at third base last season in Danville.
Atlanta has Evan Gattis at catcher at the big league level, with Christian Bethancourt in Triple-A. Caratini was the Braves best long-term option behind the plate. However, Caratini was considered a marginal prospect and is at least three years away from the big leagues.
Two years ago in late-July, the Braves traded Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman to the Cubs for Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson.
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, GA and WCOH Fox Sports 1400 in Newnan, GA. Shanks is a columnist for The Telegraph in Macon.. Email Bill at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.
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