Braves sign 1B Loney to Minor League deal

Veteran could be an option to replace Freeman; Peterson to play first for now

Braves sign 1B Loney to Minor League deal

ATLANTA -- Braves president of baseball operations John Hart and general manager John Coppolella know it will be impossible for them to replace Freddie Freeman's production. But they have no choice but to attempt to find an adequate replacement as Freeman will miss approximately 10 weeks with a fractured left wrist.

"We can't find anybody who is going to do what Freddie did," Coppolella said. "He was arguably the best player in the whole league."

Freeman was hit by a fastball from Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Loup on Wednesday night. As a result of Freeman going on the disabled list, the Braves signed free-agent first baseman James Loney to a Minor League deal on Thursday. He is set to report to Triple-A Gwinnett.

Loney started off 2017 in the Tigers' Minor League system. He hit .229 and had a .387 on-base percentage. He last played in the Majors with the Mets in 2016, appearing in 100 games. The Braves are looking for him to improve his numbers before he is called up.

For now, the Braves must survive at least two months without their star first baseman. The team announced that the most immediate plan will most likely be to stick with in-house options. On Thursday, the team called up No. 22 prospect Rio Ruiz.

Ruiz could see time at first base in a pinch, but the Braves likely want to keep him at third base and slide utility player Jace Peterson to first. Ruiz is an intriguing option that brings another left-handed bat to the lineup. In 37 games, he has hit .262 with four home runs and 16 RBIs with Gwinnett.

"Offensively, we liked him as an organization and that is why we traded for him," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He's gotten better defensively, and I had him early last year and he improved a lot in Spring Training. He is a young player continuing to improve, and this is a good opportunity for him."

As for Peterson, he could possibly get the most work at first base. He finished Wednesday's game at first after Freeman exited in the fifth inning. Peterson has enough flexibility to fill in adequately, but he isn't projected to be a long-term option at the position. However, he believes that he is ready to take on the challenge.

"You can't replace Freddie," Peterson said. "I am not going to go out there and do what he does, as I think that is impossible. I am going to go out there and do what I do, and that is to play baseball."

Jaylon Thompson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.