Atlanta Braves Rumors

Atlanta Braves trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Padres, Braves Emerging As Yasmany Tomas Favorites

Yesterday, the Braves reportedly became a late entrant in the Yasmany Tomas sweepstakes, while other reports indicated that the Phillies may be backing off due to growing concerns over his glove and conditioning. Tomas is reportedly a bit restless and becoming anxious to sign, though those close to him are urging him to express patience.

That sums up the majority of yesterday’s Tomas rumors, and we’ll keep track of Friday’s rumors pertaining to the 24-year-old Cuban slugger in this post…

  • Not only are the Braves in the mix for Tomas, writes MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez, they’re emerging as one of the two favorites alongside the Padres. Top officials from Atlanta and San Diego will meet with Tomas in the Dominican Republic this weekend, Sanchez hears. However, the signing process may not wrap up soon and could extend into the Winter Meetings, as Sanchez writes that his camp is considering attending the event, which will be held in the Padres’ home city of San Diego. Sanchez notes that Tomas is still believed to be seeking five to seven years with an average annual value of $15MM+, but his camp has begun to warm to the idea of a Yoenis Cespedes-like shorter term deal at a higher AAV, which would allow him to hit free agency sooner than the oft-mentioned five- to seven-year contract.

Yasmany Tomas Rumors: Thursday

Here’s the latest on Yasmany Tomas, the 23-year-old Cuban slugger who is among the exciting international players demanding attention:

  • Tomas is growing tired of the “dog-and-pony show” and wants to sign as soon as he can but he is being urged by others to show patience, sources tell Yahoo’s Jeff Passan. The Phillies, Royals and Padres have shown the most interest in landing him, though the D’Backs and Mariners “lurk as possibilities,” and Atlanta is also in the mix. The Giants have seen Tomas four times, Passan adds.

Earlier Updates

  • The Padres are still in on Tomas up to around the $70MM level, Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs hears (Twitter link).
  • The Braves are set for a private workout and should be considered part of the sweepstakes, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. As Heyman noted earlier today, Tomas has a visa and could be in attendance at the Winter Meetings in San Diego. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reported recently that several dark horses could be in the race, and Atlanta would certainly qualify.
  • The Phillies are increasingly concerned with the defensive part of the equation on Tomas, reports MLB.com’s Paul Hagen. The club is “backing off” somewhat, despite generally being viewed as the front-runner to land him. Philly sees Tomas more as a DH, per Hagen, but could be more intrigued if his asking price begins to creep down.
  • Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com echoes those thoughts (Twitter links). He says the team believes in Tomas’s bat, but is worried about both his defense and conditioning and is not interested in guaranteeing him nine figures.
  • For his part, Ben Badler of Baseball America sees the Giants and Phillies as the most likely landing spot for Tomas. A rival executive tells ESPN.com’s Jayston Stark (Twitter link) that he believes the Phils remain the easy favorite, with Stark noting that the bidding on Tomas has been making “furious progress.”

Trade Notes: Porcello, Ramirez, Upton, Kendrick, Padres

It’s already been a fairly active winter on the trade front, as we’ve seen the Brewers acquire Adam Lind, the D’Backs acquire Jeremy Hellickson, the Tigers acquire Anthony Gose and of course the Cardinals/Braves Jason Heyward blockbuster. All of this has come before the Winter Meetings, so action on the trade front only figures to increase over the next month. Here are some of the latest rumblings from around the league…

  • ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that in addition to Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister and the Reds’ quartet of starters that are rumored to be available (Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Mike Leake and Alfredo Simon), Rick Porcello is believed to be attainable in trades. Rival evaluators feel that many players that are set to be free agents a year from now could be had for the right offer. The Tigers, of course, are aiming to contend in 2015, but Porcello is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $12.2MM in arbitration and could fetch a nice piece while freeing up some cash for GM Dave Dombrowski to address other areas of need.
  • Olney also hears (Twitter link) that the White Sox‘ asking price on Alexei Ramirez is “steep to the degree that you’d want to be buying in for two to three years.” Ramirez is guaranteed $10MM next season and has a $10MM club option for the 2016 season with a $1MM buyout.
  • The Mariners will surely make a run at either Justin Upton or Evan Gattis, if they haven’t already, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter links). O’Brien gets the sense that top prospect Taijuan Walker is not completely off the table in trade talks with Seattle, but it would probably take more than one year of Upton to acquire him.
  • Angels GM Jerry Dipoto tells Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times that he’s had trade discussions regarding Howie Kendrick, but he’s in no way eager to move his second baseman. The Halos entered the offseason thinking they might be able to move Kendrick for a controllable, young rotation option but somewhat surprisingly did so by acquiring Nick Tropeano in the Hank Conger trade. “The only way we would move him is if we become a better club,” Dipoto tells DiGiovanna. “And it would take a heck of a deal for us to feel like we’re a better club by moving Howie.”
  • Though much has been made of the possibility that the Padres could trade Tyson Ross or Andrew Cashner to bolster the club’s offense, the team is now strongly considering hanging onto both pitchers, sources tell MLB.com’s Corey Brock. Interestingly, Brock’s report mentions reported trade interest in Ian Kennedy but does not state that the Friars are similarly likely to hold onto the 29-year-old. Kennedy will be a free agent next winter.


Kubatko On Orioles: Delmon, Ubaldo, De Aza

Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com provides an interesting round-up on the latest out of Baltimore. Among the highlights:

  • Baltimore remains interested in bringing back Delmon Young, but are not willing to meet his demand for two years at present. Given his strong work last year in a bench role, it is not surprising that he would test the interest in a multi-year guarantee. Though Young has never quite lived up to expectations, of course, he is just 29 and put up a .779 OPS last year and actually posted reverse platoon splits in so doing.
  • The O’s have been approached by multiple clubs regarding struggling righty Ubaldo Jimenez. The Braves asked about the possibility of a swap involving B.J. Upton, but Kubatko says that is “not happening.”
  • While there has been some indication that the Orioles would consider non-tendering outfielder Alejandro De Aza, Kubatko says that the team has “every intention” of keeping him in the fold. He could serve as a platoon option in left, notes Kubatko, though of course his projected $5.9MM arbitration earnings will make that a fairly expensive choice.
  • After announcing a host of minor league signings yesterday, Baltimore has interest in adding infielders Paul Janish and Rey Navarro as well. Kubatko writes that the 24-year-old Navarro, a switch-hitting shortstop, is expected to draw significant interest around the game.

Braves Designate Venters, Pena For Assignment

The Braves have designated left-hander Jonny Venters and infielder Ramiro Pena for assignment, according to the team’s transactions page. Additionally, the team has added Brandon Cunniff, Yean Carlos Gil, Kyle Kubitza, Williams Perez, Mauricio Cabrera and top prospect Jose Peraza to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft.

The 29-year-old Venters was an elite setup man with Atlanta from 2010-12 but underwent Tommy John surgery — the second of his career — that kept him out for all of the 2013 season. Venters rehabbed the injury through August of this season before learning that he had re-torn the ligament. In September, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reported that Venters would undergo a third Tommy John and attempt to make a comeback. Venters has a 2.23 ERA in three career seasons to go along with an average of 10.1 strikeouts and 4.3 walks per nine innings pitched.

Pena, 29, batted .245/.304/.347 in 165 plate appearances for the Braves this season — a decline from the .278/.330/.443 line he posted in 107 PA the previous year. Pena has more than four years of big league service as a utility player with the Yankees and Braves. He’s a career .244/.288/.330 hitter in 610 PAs at the big league level.

Both Venters and Pena were arbitration eligible. Venters would have earned either the same $1.6MM he made in 2014 or slightly less, had he gone through arb, while MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected Pena to earn $900K.


Latest On Yoan Moncada

19-year-old Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada remains one of the most intriguing names to watch over the coming months. As he waits for OFAC clearance after being declared an MLB free agent, let’s check in on the latest:

  • While it remains possible that the Cubs and Rangers — currently sitting out the big bonus side of the international amateur market due to past overages — could try to convince Moncada to wait until the summer to sign, writes Ben Badler of Baseball America, the young Cuban seems likely to come available too sign to make that the most plausible outcome. Badler ticks through the teams that, in his estimation, are best situated to make a serious run at Moncada. He lists the NationalsGiantsTigersRaysAngelsBravesRed Sox, and Yankees, noting that New York would figure to be the favorite if they decide the want Moncada.
  • Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs discusses an under-the-radar aspect of the CBA’s provisions regarding international signing penalties. Those dollars, which are steadily rising as multiple clubs blow past the signing limits — with Moncada potentially representing by far the greatest single outlay — are set to be utilized by the league for various, seemingly largely discretionary, purposes relating to international operations. One possibility contemplated in the CBA, funding for the implementation of an international draft, is particularly relevant here. As McDaniel explains, the burgeoning penalty dollars could conceivably go a long way towards a push for a draft. That, in turn, increases the incentives for teams to spend now rather than avoiding the penalties regarding limitations on future bonuses.
  • Both Badler and McDaniel have, of course, been all over the Moncada market. You’ll want to give their pieces a full read to understand all the nuances. And remember that you can click on the Yoan Moncada tag to catch up on all the recent chatter.

Braves, Cardinals Interested In Jon Lester

4:46pm: The Cardinals are also interested in Lester, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com reports on Twitter.

9:14am: The Braves have a meeting with left-hander Jon Lester this week, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney (via Twitter). Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported last week that Atlanta had briefly touched base with Lester’s representatives at ACES and speculated that more serious interest could materialize if they moved some payroll. Rosenthal tweets that the meeting will take place on Thursday.

The Braves dealt Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden to the Cardinals yesterday in a move that looked to be signaling a brief rebuild. However, one could also look at that move and see more than $11MM in savings on next year’s payroll plus the addition of an arm (Shelby Miller) that can be a significant boost to their rotation in 2015. Despite the cost savings on Walden and Heyward, however, Lester would seem too expensive a target. Atlanta already has about $70MM committed to just seven roster spots, plus perhaps as much as $16MM in arbitration raises. Lester figures to command an annual salary well north of $20MM, possibly around $25MM, making him a financial stretch. Atlanta had a record payroll of $112MM in 2014.

However, it’s possible that the Braves could free up more payroll space that would make a Lester addition more feasible. Atlanta has long been exploring ways to free itself of at least part of the remaining $46.5MM owed to B.J. Upton, and a trade of Justin Upton, who earns $14.5MM next year, hasn’t been entirely ruled out. Atlanta would probably also love to get out from underneath the remaining $23.5MM on Chris Johnson‘s contract, although that figures to be challenging to move as well.

While Lester seems like a stretch in terms of payroll, the Braves have a need for starting pitching. Currently, Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, Mike Minor and Miller are penciled into the rotation, and it’s unknown what the team can expect from Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen as the duo return from their second Tommy John operations. David Hale presents an option but seems better suited for a swingman role similar to the one he filled in 2014.


Braves Notes: J. Upton, Gattis, Heyward

The Braves are “definitely not done” trading this offseason following yesterday’s trade of Jason Heyward to the Cardinals, reports MLB.com’s Mark Bowman (on Twitter). Both Justin Upton and Evan Gattis could still be on the move. Upton seems the more logical of the two, given that he’s under control for just one more season and could fetch further pieces to bolster the team’s long-term outlook. Gattis, however, figures to play in left field with Atlanta, where his value will be diminished from his negative defensive contributions, so it’s possible he could be moved even with four years of control remaining. Yesterday, Bob Nightengale of USA Today listed the Mariners as a “strong suitor” for the younger of the Upton brothers. Of course, the Braves figures to continue looking for ways to shed B.J. Upton‘s contract as well, but that will be far more difficult.

Here’s more out of Atlanta…

  • Heyward tells David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he had hoped to be with the Braves for a long time. However, according to Heyward, the Braves only engaged him and his agent in contract talks for about 10 minutes back in 2012. Heyward notes that the two-year deal was suggested by his side to avoid the arbitration process this year, but he’d made it clear that he hoped to remain in Atlanta well beyond 2015. The two sides reportedly discussed (O’Brien reporting in October) an extension that fell well shy of Freddie Freeman‘s $135MM extension, and Heyward was believed to be looking for significantly more than the team had in mind.
  • ESPN’s Keith Law writes that he likes the Heyward/Shelby Miller trade for both sides (subscription required and recommended). Law feels that Heyward instantly makes St. Louis four to five wins better while Jordan Walden will give them 50 to 60 innings of quality late-inning relief in each of the next two years — both of which fit the Cards’ win-now mode. Braves president of baseball operations John Hart, meanwhile inherited little Major League pitching depth and an even thinner farm but improved both with this deal, Law opines. Miller, who Atlanta controls for four seasons, is a “mid-rotation starter at worst” with the upside to become a strong No. 2 arm thanks to his delivery and improved approach to attacking hitters. Tyrell Jenkins becomes Atlanta’s best pitching prospect and looked to be fully recovered from his shoulder troubles when Law saw him in the Arizona Fall League last month.

NL East Links: J. Upton, Marlins, Nats, Mets

To say it’s been an eventful few days in the NL East would be a colossal understatement, as the Marlins have reportedly finalized a record-setting 13-year deal with Giancarlo Stanton and the Braves have traded Jason Heyward to the Cardinals. While those transactions are rightfully dominating the headlines, here are a few more notes from around the division…

  • With Heyward now in St. Louis, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets that a trade of Justin Upton can’t be ruled out. Nightengale lists the Mariners as a strong suitor for Upton, should the Braves decide to market him. Upton recently dropped the Mariners from his no-trade list.
  • Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria tells Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald that he plans to surround Stanton with an improved lineup and can afford to go out and add a bat to hit behind him this offseason.
  • The Nationals have hired veteran scout Terry Wetzel as a special assistant to GM Mike Rizzo, reports MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby. Wetzel has 32 years of experience, including 17 seasons with the Royals and the past 15 seasons with the Rockies. He was named scout of the year once within each of those organizations.
  • The Mets, to this point, have had very few inquiries on pitchers Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee, reports Mike Puma of the New York Post (Twitter link). All three are said to be potentially available this winter, and I’d imagine that interest will pick up to an extent, particularly at the Winter Meetings.

John Hart On The Heyward/Miller Trade

During a conference call with reporters, Braves president of baseball operations John Hart discussed several aspects of today’s blockbuster trade that saw Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden to go to the Cardinals in exchange for right-handers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins.  It was “very difficult” for the Braves to trade a homegrown product like Heyward, Hart said, yet it was a move the team felt it had to make “to help not only in the short term but also in the long term.

With Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang in free agency and Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen both recovering from Tommy John surgery, Atlanta entered the offseason with a clear need for starting pitching.  There wasn’t much help coming from the farm, given how Hart described the Braves as “woefully thin [pitching-wise] in our minor league system.”  The St. Louis deal, therefore, checked a couple of boxes for the Braves as they were able to add a quality prospect in Jenkins and a young arm who’d experienced some Major League success in Miller.  The fact that Miller isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2018 season made him especially attractive, Hart said.

Going into this winter we’d lost over 400 innings in our rotation and we didn’t have any players coming up in our system that were ready to provide those types of inningsWe really needed two starting pitchersAs we went through the meetings, we went out there with the idea of how do we acquire starters.  We sampled the waters, we talked to literally every club out there and weren’t looking for a one-year sort of fix.  Shelby Miller was one of the younger pitchers that we had identified as a guy who could step in and help us right now and that we would be able to control for a number of years.”

Miller’s status as a piece for both the present and future gives the Braves “the flexibility to go either way” in deciding if other offseason moves will be geared towards next season’s club or perhaps for a few years down the road.

We’ll take a good look at our competition in our division, take a good look at our club, take a look at what we can do in free agency to allow us to compete and examine other opportunities that might come our way.  I don’t think this trade sets us [in a direction] either way.  It provides us with the opportunity to look at everything independently….It certainly gives us some options for 2015 but there’s certainly a big picture in play.”

One of those big-picture questions involves Justin Upton, who (like Heyward) only has one year remaining on his contract before free agency.  There has been speculation that Atlanta could look to deal both of its corner outfielders this winter, and while Hart said “there is absolutely a legitimate chance” Upton is a Brave in 2015, he also said there hadn’t been any serious discussion of a contract extension.

There’s nothing definitive as we look to go forward, obviously.  We’re going to continue to explore a lot of avenues with what we do with the ballclub.  As we sit here today, there’s certainly a good chance Justin is back with us next year….I’ve had conversations [about an extension] but they have not been anything in depth so it would be unfair for me to comment much on Justin in that regard.  We’ll certainly continue to talk with his agent but I don’t really have a definitive answer as of yet.”

Heyward was guaranteed $8.3MM in 2015, so the trade also frees up some salary space.  This doesn’t mean the Braves will be in the running for the likes of Max Scherzer or James Shields (“We’re not looking to give up draft picks or financially handcuff this club,” Hart said), yet the extra payroll allows the club to explore both the free agent market and the trade market for further upgrades.

Despite Heyward’s pending free agent status after the 2015 season, the Braves “didn’t go out with the idea that Jason was going to be the guy that we used to get our starting pitching,” and that the club “sorted through a lot of different options before” deciding on this deal.  Last winter, Heyward signed a two-year extension that covered his two remaining arbitration-eligible seasons, and this modest contract stood out amidst much longer-term extensions given to Freddie Freeman, Julio Teheran, Andrelton Simmons and Craig Kimbrel.

When I asked Hart if there had been any recent negotiations with Heyward about an extension, Hart gave the impression that there hadn’t been any further talks since last offseason.

He wanted a two-year deal and wasn’t interested in a long-term extension unless the dollars were maybe beyond where the club certainly wanted to goWe had a strong feeling he was going to go on the market.  That’s what he wanted to do.  We wanted to protect ourselves and position ourselves better.  If we elect, next year, to be one of 30 [teams] that compete for Jason on the market then that’s what we’ll do.”