Braves trade Christian Bethancourt to Padres in three-player deal

The Christian Bethancourt Era lasted a grand total of 80 games in Atlanta.

The Atlanta Braves traded Christian Bethancourt to the San Diego Padres on Thursday night in a three-player deal that netted them right-hander Casey Kelly and catching prospect Ricardo Rodriguez. Kelly, 26, is a former first-round pick that has bounced around the Padres and Red Sox systems while Rodriguez is a 17-year-old highly coveted catcher coming off his first professional season.

Once considered the future of the Atlanta Braves behind the plate, the Braves' acquisitions of free-agent catchers A.J. Pierzynski and Tyler Flowers signaled the beginning of the end for Bethancourt's stay in the organization. The 24-year-old was out of minor-league options so, barring the franchise carrying three catchers during the 2016 season, he was poised to be the odd man out.

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Bethancourt still boasts projectable tools, including an excellent arm, but his career .219/.245/.283 slash line in 278 plate appearances poses problems for any offense, particularly if the former amatuer free agent signing's defensive lapses continue in San Diego.

Kelly was the 30th overall pick in the 2008 draft, but he's never found his consistency at the major-league level. A major piece of the Adrian Gonzalez trade, along with Anthony Rizzo, back in 2010, he's logged 40 1/3 innings in the majors with a 6.69 ERA. Interestingly enough, Kelly made his MLB debut against the Braves in August 2012 -- pitching six shutout innings. Things have gone downhill ever since. The 6-foot-3 righty projects as another bullpen option heading into spring training.

Rodriguez, ranked the No. 21 international prospect by Baseball America in 2014, is a surprising piece to the trade after the Padres paid his $800,000 signing bonus just last year. (The Braves are making a habit out of bypassing signing bonuses, notably those of Hector Olivera and Dansby Swanson.)

The teenage catching prospect from Venezuela hit a very solid .270/.339/.380 in his final rookie ball stop. Writing about Rodriguez last offseason, Braves assistant director of baseball operations Kiley McDaniel wrote, "stout at 5-foot-10, 180 (pounds) with a chance for four average or better tools." There were not many -- or possibly any -- quality catching prospects in the Braves' farm system behind Bethancourt, so throwing Rodriguez into the mix could help down the road.