It was an expected outcome, but this morning Braves’ beat writer Mark Bowman annouced that inflielder Charlie Culberson has elected for free agency…again. Culberson was the expected roster casualty once the team acquired Nicky Lopez from Kansas City.
Culberson was then sent to Gwinnett following that transaction, but has once again chosen free agency instead. The last time this happened the Braves brought him back on a minor-league deal but this time I would not expect the same outcome.
The acquisition of Lopez makes Culberson’s case for a roster spot very very small, as Lopez is one of the better defenders in the league. That along with his versatility gives him the edge on holding down the backup infielder role with the Braves.
As a result Charlie would have to been ok with just really being a mentor type player down in Gwinnett. At this point of his career I’m sure that is not the most appealing option, thus why he elected for free agency.
Culberson has long been a fan favorite since his numerous clutch moments off the bench in his first season with the Braves in 2018. Charlie got a lot of action as the Braves utility man and had his best season as a big leaguer with a 107 wRC+ via Fangraphs.
However, outside of 2018 Culberson has been the prototypical backup/utility player. In fact, his career fWAR currently sits at 0.1. His great clubhouse presence was plenty of reason enough for Atlanta to keep bringing him back into their system.
This time it feels different though. Charlie has elected free agency at 34 years of age. With the trade for Lopez it now feels that if we see Culberson in another MLB uniform, it won’t say Braves across the chest. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be thankful for the memories.