Today is the the deadline to non-tender players and with it comes all of the rosterbation that one could ask for from the diehards and fanatics out there in the fanbase. Everyone has their preferences and some of you would cut half the roster and sign every free agent on the market because, well, reasons.
There have been a few names that have been batted around in regards to getting non-tendered. Shane Greene’s name is likely the most prominent of those mentioned given his stature, but the Braves don’t SEEM to be headed in that direction as general manager Alex Anthopoulos has seemingly wanted to continue to add to the bullpen and Greene isn’t going to make THAT much in arbitration.
One name that has come up recently is utility/bench player Charlie Culberson. Culberson has been a fan and clubhouse favorite for a couple of seasons now due to his local connections, strong clubhouse presence, and some clutch plays including several big spots during the 2018 season. Now, it looks like those rumors are closer to reality.
It sounds like the Braves may non-tender Charlie Culberson before tonight's deadline. This would not be a popular decision. Culberson's value would seemingly be increased next year when the 26-man rosters are put in place.— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) December 2, 2019
Of all of the Braves’ beat writers, Bowman is pretty clearly the one that seems to have his fingers closest to the pulse of the thinking of the front office and does not normally throw things like this out there without getting a good bit of sourcing on it. While it doesn’t seem like a sure thing that Culberson will be non-tendered, that Bowman is even entertaining the possibility does give it weight.
This will likely enrage a portion of the fanbase if it happens, but there are real baseball reasons to make this move. While the optics of non-tendering a guy who has had big moments in a Braves uniform and who also had his season ended by a fastball to his eye are not great, there is a certain amount of redundancy to having both him and Johan Camargo on the roster. Both are utility types, but Camargo has more upside and is a switch-hitter. If the Braves make the move to non-tender Culberson, they are definitely betting that Camargo will return to form for the 2020 season. It is also worth mentioning that neither Camargo nor Culberson were particularly good when pressed into duty as shortstops, so this move may precede a move to get a backup at shortstop that can play the position more ably.
Ultimately, though, this move could likely just be about overall production. With some of the moments Charlie has had, it is easy to forget that his overall production as a Brave has not been awesome, in particular last season. In 108 games (144 plate appearances), Culberson posted a 0.3 fWAR with a .731 OPS. Again, not terrible for a bench bat, but when you are looking for upside coming off the bench and you have a guy that struck out a third of the time and walked just 4.2% of the time in addition to an iffy offensive profile, there may just be better uses of the roster spot.
It is also worth mentioning that even if Culberson is non-tendered, that doesn’t mean he will for sure not be a Brave. The two sides could end up agreeing to a lower amount later in the offseason, although Culberson’s reputation and skill set as a utility guy will likely draw some interest from around the league.