The Braves dump Bethancourt, on whom they’d soured completely

He's gone to San Diego. (Jason Getz/AJC photo)

He’s gone to San Diego. (Jason Getz/AJC photo)

This is how completely the Atlanta Braves had soured on Christian Bethancourt: They traded the guy regarded as their catcher of the future without a clear-cut catcher of the future in their organization. At the major-league level, they have A.J. Pierzynski, who’ll turn 39 in 19 days, and Tyler Flowers, who’ll turn 30 in January and whom the Braves once traded away (for Javier Vazquez way back in 2008).

Beyond that, there’s … well, Lucas Herbert. The Braves made him the 54th player taken in the June draft. He just turned 19. He caught Kolby Allard — the Braves’ No. 1 pick of 2015 — at San Clemente High. Herbert is considered a better receiver than a hitter, but he’s so young it’s impossible to know what he might become. (He has had four minor-league at-bats. He’s 2-for-4 with a home run.)

None of the above is as talented as Bethancourt, but the Braves decided — after less than half a big-league season — that he wasn’t worth the aggravation. I’m told one of Braves’ highest-ranking executives had grown so frazzled by Bethancourt that he’d avert his eyes when the catcher was catching.

Note, please: Not when Bethancourt was hitting. (And he’s not much of a hitter.) When catching. His seeming indifference to detail drove the Braves nuts, and here we must mention that manager Fredi Gonzalez, once a catcher himself, and bullpen coach Eddie Perez, once Greg Maddux’s personal catcher, labored long to try and impress the importance of the position on Bethancourt.

The passed balls weren’t the only reason the Braves grew frustrated, but they were tangible evidence. Bethancourt had 14 in 73 major-league games. That’s roughly one every five games. There being no knuckleballer among Braves pitchers, the only sensible explanation for a passed ball is inattention. He’s a catcher, right? Shouldn’t a catcher be able to catch?

(By way of contrast, Pierzynski — never regarded as a top-shelf defender — has averaged roughly one passed ball every 20 games. Yadier Molina, the best in the business, has averaged one every 22 1/2 games.)

The Braves hoped they’d sounded an alarm when they demoted Bethancourt to Gwinnett in June, but nothing they saw after recalling him in August made them believe he was a changed man. He still couldn’t hit. He still didn’t take charge of games. (A catcher has to be the most involved player on the field: That’s what Gonzalez and Perez kept telling him, to not much avail.) He still had the air of entitlement that set his elders’ teeth a-grinding.

And now he’s an ex-Brave. He was traded to San Diego — yep, the Padres again — for Casey Kelly, a 26-year-old pitcher rated San Diego’s 30th-best prospect, and for the 17-year-old catcher Ricardo Rodriguez, who has played one minor-league season. (Rodriguez was ranked as the No. 21 international prospect of last year, FYI.)

That’s a modest return for the Braves’ 2015 Opening Day catcher, but this wasn’t a trade to get something. This was a trade to get rid of something. And here we note, not for the first time, that an awful lot of players considered leading prospects under Frank Wren — Bethancourt, Jose Peraza, Evan Gattis, David Hale, Tommy La Stella, Alex Wood, J.R. Graham — have been shown the door by the new administration. That’s a baseball truth: If the guys in charge didn’t draft/sign/acquire you, they’re never married to you.

Reader Comments 0

21 comments
rgbutterfly
rgbutterfly

I would like to thank the braves for making JHey a very rich man!  Funny how the Nats, Cards and Chicago thought he was very worthy of a $200M contract, he settled for $184M.  Chicago will be the team to beat!  Go JHey! 

Sidslid
Sidslid

Gattis should be our catcher. Cheap and he led a team in RBI's that came within two innings of eliminating the Worlds Series champs. Folty looks mighty faulty

CZBlue
CZBlue

To be very honest, I forsee the Braves sucking for a long time to come.  I am just not seeing where theye ar e headed with this new set of knuckleheads calling themselves badeball execs.

SaltLakeBrave
SaltLakeBrave

@CZBlue  No offense, but your comment at best is idiotic and at worst is down right dumb. Not to mention your spelling. But the Braves are at there best when a man with the first name of "John" is running them. 

FalcoonFan1966
FalcoonFan1966

Uh...no offense but it's "their" not there. Not to mention YOUR spelling.

JoshFoster
JoshFoster

@FalcoonFan1966 3 comments..... 3 rude remarks. Its Christmas time!!! Braves will be awesome in a couple of years. We are at the "Empire Strikes Back" phase of the rebuild. Next up "Return of the Pennant"!! 

danpeak
danpeak

Eat too early to give him up for next to nothing. How much of all these guys from previous regime is EGO

patriotdog
patriotdog

Hart was as critical of Beth as you'd ever expect a GM to be of a player....to no avail. Cut bait and move on.

The fans that criticize the moves of Hart and Coppy weren't here during Bobby Cox, then GM, rebuilding during the late 80s. The only decent pitcher was traded, Murph was traded, etc...Any moron would have to agree it worked out.

This will, too. Patience. And if patience isn't your strength, become a Yankees fan.

Home Team Critic
Home Team Critic

Exactly. No longer a season ticket holder. There are lots of things to do and I will spend my money on something else. Both Falcons and Braves charging more for likely the same product or worse. U go.

JoeSample
JoeSample

And I heard Hart on the radio just prior to the start of last season telling us how great Bethancourt was. As I was just returning from seeing him in spring training I thought, "That's why he's the GM and I'm Joe fan." Because he is willing to go on the air and LIE TO THE FANS to sell tickets. Guess what Braves, I don't believe a damn thing you say!

PSU92
PSU92

I'd say Hart and Coppy were publicly critical on mor occasions than I would have ever expected regarding Bethancourt. Had they not been critical via the would have likely gotten a much higher return in trade they just made. Bethancourt a lot of encouragement from Hart and Coppy and he had his shots to make an impact and didn't take advantage of it. This all falls on the player and I'm surprised we got more than a bucket of baseballs for him.

Bogey
Bogey

@Saldiven @Bogey @JoeSample  Absolutely correct!  However, if you give me a choice between the work they've done the past 12 months to build a pipeline of top prospects which could very well make for a long-term sustainable winning formula vs what Wren/Schuerholz were doing....I'm all in with Hart/Coppy.  You can only use duct tape, glue, bandaids, and shopping in the bargain aisle to build a team for so long.  The steady decline we witnessed in the last 1/2 dozen years is the result of that strategy.  At then end of '14 they had only 2 MLB caliber starting pitchers in the entire organization:  Teheran and Wood.  Minor was hurt, Beachy & Medlin were recovering from their 2nd TJ, and Harang and Santana were average and too expensive.  It will take another 2-3 years to see the outcome, but we at least have a fighting chance to win year after year.

Saldiven
Saldiven

@Bogey @JoeSample The farm system ranking is irrelevant until it manifests as success at the major league level. There's no trophy for having "the best farm system," especially since that's as completely subjective as to which NCAA football team had the best signing day.

Bogey
Bogey


@JoeSample  Really??  After the incredible rebuild of the Braves farm system from a ranking of next-to-last to next-to-best performed by Hart and Coppy....this is your focus??  Perez publically called Betty out early in spring training 2014, calling him lazy and listless.  He DID feel entitled, and never figured it out....wasted a great opportunity.  what did you expect the GM to say? that CBeth isn't going to amount to anything?  You need to pick a different team or maybe sport.


JoeSample
JoeSample

@Bogey @JoeSample I expect the GM to not lie. He could have said, "We have placed a lot of faith in Bethancourt and we need him to step up." Have fun down at The Ted this year. I will be at home with the MLB package watching good baseball. Perhaps one day I will teach you a little bit. Oh, and I don't "need" to do anything except pay my taxes.

Mulk
Mulk

He reminds me of a weak hitting Javy Lopez. Both very lazy.

SkokieDog
SkokieDog

@Mulk Yeah, but Javy attracted women to the stands. Did Bethancourt have any market value in that respect?

mudstuffin
mudstuffin

Thank God and Greyhound he's gone!

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

Let me be the first to bid Christian adieu. Good luck in San Diego.