Christian Bethancourt’s time has run out with the Atlanta Braves. The 24-year old catcher was traded Thursday to the San Diego Padres for pitcher Casey Kelly and minor league catcher Ricardo Rodriguez.
Bethancourt was handed the everyday catching job with Atlanta to start the 2015 season, but he quickly fell out of favor with manager Fredi Gonzalez. Bethancourt was replaced by veteran A.J. Pierzynski in mid-April as Bethancourt struggled with inconsistent playing time.
Bethancourt his just .135 in April and his batting average was .198 when he was shipped to Triple-A in mid-June. He did well in Gwinnett, hitting .327 with four home runs, 31 RBI, 19 doubles and a .359 on base percentage. But that didn’t get him another full chance in Atlanta, as he again was played sparingly by Gonzalez after his return to the big league team later in the summer.
Bethancourt finished the season with a .200 batting average, two home runs, 12 RBI, eight doubles and a .225 on base percentage.
The Braves signed Bethancourt with much fanfare in 2008. He quickly became Atlanta’s top catching prospect, gaining a reputation as an excellent defensive catcher. But that greatness was limited to his arm, as Bethancourt struggled with blocking the plate and working with hitters.
Kelly is the son of Pat Kelly, who was once the manager of the Richmond Braves. He’s had trouble returning from Tommy John surgery the last few years. Last season Kelly pitched mostly in Double-A with San Antonio and he had a 4.94 ERA in 27 games (14 starts). Then the Padres gave him three appearances (two starts) in the big leagues and he allowed 19 hits in 11.1 innings.
The Braves say Kelly is healthy, so they’ll simply have to get him back on track. Kelly just hasn’t been the same since missing the entire 2013 season with the elbow procedure.
Rodriguez was signed for $800,000 in July of 2014 as a 16-year old out of Venezuela. He saw his first action in 2015 with two rookie teams. Rodriguez hit a combined .266 with two home runs and 15 RBI. He turns 18 next week.
The Braves have now made five trades during this offseason, including two at this week’s winter meetings in Nashville. When Tyler Flowers agreed to a deal earlier this week to compliment A.J. Pierzynski, Bethancourt became expendable. Plus, Bethancourt was out of options, so the Braves had to move him or risk losing him next spring if he did not make the opening day roster.
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