Normally, when a bench player whose production on the field has been iffy, there normally isn’t that much in terms of fan reaction and it is just a part of the normal business of baseball.
That was not the case when the Braves non-tendered Charlie Culberson.
In some corners of the internet, you would have thought that the Braves had released Freddie Freeman when it was announced that the team had not tendered him a contract for the 2020 season. There are a lot of reasons for that fan reaction (real baseball reasons given Culberson’s utility, his local ties, memories of some clutch moments he has had as a Braves, etc.), but nothing changes the fact there was a very vocal part of the fanbase that was not pleased with the decision.
However, it was always a possibility that the Braves’ decision was not goodbye. It was always a possibility that the team, who is acutely more aware of the impact he has on their clubhouse than anyone, just was not wanting to pay him as much as he was going to get in 2020 and, after surveying the marketplace, could circle back and sign him to a cheaper deal.
That is exactly what they did.
The Braves are bringing Charlie Culberson back with a Minor League deal and Spring Training invite. Culberson had been non-tendered last week.— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) December 13, 2019
While the fan reaction was severely overblown, it was a little puzzling that the Braves chose to non-tender Culberson especially in a world with 26 man rosters given his utility and it looks like their decision ended up working out for the team. Culberson gets a spring training invite in addition to a minor league deal and, given the team hasn’t really made many moves to bolster the bench, it seems very possible that he will end up breaking camp with the team after all. Culberson will be lighter in the wallet than he initially thought which probably doesn’t feel awesome, but it doesn’t seem like he had a robust market elsewhere.
Now, as for who will be the backup shortstop in the event (eventuality?) that Dansby Swanson gets hurt again, well...that question is still an open one.