The Braves signed veteran outfielder Ezequiel Carrera to a minor-league contract and will bring him to major league camp to compete for the left-field job to start the season.
Carrera, 30, was released Sunday by the Blue Jays, after hitting a career-best .282 with a .356 on-base percentage and eight homers in 325 plate appearances for Toronto in 2017.
The left-handed hitter could give the Braves a platoon option in left field until top prospect Ronald Acuna takes over the position, then move to the bench.
Or, Carrera could start the season in Triple-A with the Braves if they go with two others from the group of outfielders that includes out-of-options Lane Adams, who has struggled this spring, Preston Tucker and non-roster invitee Dustin Peterson, who has come on strong late in camp with a pair of long home runs.
The Braves are set in center field with Ender Inciarte and in right with Nick Markakis, who’s in the final year of a four-year, $44 million contract.
Carrerra, who has a .262 average, 19 home runs and .690 OPS in 1,305 plate appearances over parts of seven major league seasons, reported to spring training with Toronto with a $1.9 million arbitration salary. He was designated for assignment March 1, outrighted to Triple-A, and returned to camp as a non-roster invitee.
The Blue Jays decided this week to release him, and Braves general manager Alex Anthopoulos, Toronto’s general manager in 2015 in Carrera’s first season with the team, picked him up to give the Braves another option for left field until Acuna takes over the position.
Career played in 121 games in the outfield for Toronto and made 71 starts including 50 starts in left field, 13 in right field and eight in center.
Acuna, 20, has met or surpassed all the soaring expectations for him this spring, hitting his second home run Tuesday against the Blue Jays after starting the day with a Grapefruit League-leading .419 batting average and a .526 OBP that also led the league.
The consensus No. 1 prospect in baseball, Acuna has played well enough to win the opening-day left-field job, but for service-time reasons the Braves are expected to start him at Triple-A. If they wait until at least April 13 to call him up, they’ll be assured of another full season of contractual control before Acuna could become a free agent, effectively getting a potential seven seasons instead of six from him before free agency.