“Big City” became a non-tendered free agent Friday, and so did Jace Peterson and Danny Santana.
The Braves didn’t offer contracts to three of their arbitration-eligible players, including Matt “Big City” Adams, the slugger who filled in admirably when Freddie Freeman was out with a broken wrist, but who didn’t have a position and was expected to make at least $4.5 million in 2018 in his final year of arbitration before free agency.
The Braves tried to trade Adams but couldn’t find any takers, and so they made him a non-tendered free agent, along with utility players Jace Peterson and Danny Santana. All three are free to negotiate with any team.
Major league teams faced an 8 p.m. deadline to offer contracts to their arbitration-eligible players or make them free agents. The Braves tendered contracts to their other four arbitration-eligibles, starting pitcher Mike Foltynewicz and relievers Arodys Vizcaino, Sam Freeman and Dan Winkler.
The Braves also announced a one-year deal for right-hander Chase Whitley, avoiding arbitration with the Alabama native who was claimed off waivers earlier Friday from the Rays. He’ll get consideration for a starting or relief role.
Besides Adams, Vizcaino ($3.7 million) and Foltynewicz ($2.7 million) were the only other Braves projected by the website MLB Trade Rumors to get more than $1.2 million through arbitration. The Braves can reach agreements with any of them at any time during the process, though in the past they have usually opted not to negotiate if a deal’s not done before the sides swap arbitration figures in January.
Peterson and Santana each had been projected to make about $1.1 million in arbitration. Peterson, 27, has a .234 average with 15 homers and a .650 OPS in 1,117 at-bats over four seasons including three with the Braves.
Atlanta’s primary second baseman in 2015 and for much of 2016, Peterson had a bench role in 2017 and hit .215 with two homers and a .635 OPS in 89 games (186 at-bats).
Santana, 27, hit .203 with three homers and a .602 OPS in 143 at-bats (69 games) for the Braves after coming from Minnesota in a May trade. He has a .258 career average and .670 OPS in 1,067 at-bats over four major league seasons
Adams gave the Braves all they could’ve hoped for, and more, after the team scrambled to get him from St. Louis in a May 20 trade to fill in for first baseman Freeman. But Freeman returned from the disabled list in only seven weeks, and Adams’ role went from crucial to secondary, though then-general manager John Coppolella kept him at the trade deadline in part because the Braves weren’t sure Freeman could get through the season without rest.
Adams hit .299 (40-for-134) with 12 homers, 20 extra-base hits, 31 RBIs and a .988 OPS in his first 34 games with the Braves from May 21 through June 25, but posted a modest .248 average (39-for-157) with seven homers, 20 extra-base hits, 27 RBIs and a .746 OPS in 66 games the rest of the season.
He finished the season with a .274 average, 20 homers and an .841 OPS in 131 games, including 100 games with the Braves.
Now it was decision time again Friday for the Braves regarding Adams, as the 29-year-old one-dimensional slugger known was projected to see a raise from last season’s $2.8 million to more than $4.5 million in 2018, his final year before free agency. And the Braves didn’t have a need for a bench player who plays just-serviceable defense at first base and doesn’t have another position, making him more of a fit for an American League team.
Any interested team or teams decided to wait and try to pursue him as a free agent at a cheaper price rather than be locked into an arbitration-set salary.
Freeman volunteered to play third base after returning from the disabled list July 4 to allow hot-hitting Adams to stay in the lineup at first base. But the Braves switched Freeman back to first base at the beginning of August and veteran Brandon Phillips moved to third after being displaced by second-base prospect Ozzie Albies.
Adams had already cooled off significantly by that point, and after getting some August starts in left field against right-handers and struggling mightily at the position, he was used almost exclusively as a pinch-hitter in September.
And after some initial success against lefty pitchers when manager Brian Snitker used Adams every day at first base, his career-trend of lopsided splits returned and Adams finished the season with just a .180 average, three homers and a .583 OPS in 63 plate appearances against lefties, compared with a .295 average, 17 homers and .896 OPS in 305 plate appearances against right-handers.