Atlanta Braves Rumors

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MLB Trade Rumors Podcast: Cash, Closers & Kimbrel

After the weekly quick hits, Jeff welcomes fellow MLBTR writers Steve Adams and Charlie Wilmoth to the show.  Jeff and Steve break down the blockbuster trade between the Braves and Padres that brought Craig Kimbrel to San Diego.  Jeff and Charlie then explore the unique set of recent transactions involving Ryan Webb, as well as a discussion of Charlie’s post from earlier this week about qualifying offer-worthy impending free agents who could be trade candidates this summer.

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Bullpen Notes: Stammen, Ramirez, Martin

The Nationals relief corps took another blow yesterday when righty Craig Stammen was placed on the 15-day DL with stiffness in his right forearm.  Stammen will undergo an MRI soon and he told reporters (including CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman) that he is at least somewhat worried that it could be a more serious elbow injury.  Nats GM Mike Rizzo also told the media, including Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post, that the club is going with internal bullpen options for the time being.  Rafael Martin and Taylor Jordan were called up to replace Stammen and the recently-designated Xavier Cedeno, and Martin made an impressive MLB debut Wednesday, recording five strikeouts over two innings of work against the Red Sox.

Here are some more bullpen items from around baseball…

  • Cubs righty Neil Ramirez could also be facing some bad injury news, as he left Wednesday’s outing after just three pitches with a shoulder problem.  Ramirez will undergo an MRI today, ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers reports.  The reliever’s status has a bigger-picture impact on the rumored promotion of top prospect Kris Bryant on Friday.  If Ramirez needs some DL time, the Cubs could promote a reliever and continue with a 13-man pitching staff rather than call up Bryant and thin out an already heavily-worked bullpen.
  • Right-hander Cody Martin is off to a strong start, and the Braves rookie reliever tells’s Mark Bowman that he is partially motivated by the fact that Atlanta didn’t protect him in the Rule 5 Draft last winter.  “That was tough, but I knew I belonged [on the roster] and belonged in the big leagues….I took it as a challenge to prove them all wrong, especially all the teams that didn’t pick me in the Rule 5 Draft,” Martin said.  “It all worked out pretty good. I’m where I need to be right now.”
  • Arquimedes Caminero enjoyed a strong Spring Training and earned a spot in the Pirates bullpen.  As Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan writes, the hard-throwing Caminero might be another reclamation success story for Bucs pitching coach Ray Searage, who encouraged the righty to simplify his delivery.  The result has been the fastest average fastball in the game this season, as Caminero is averaging 98.9 mph according to Fangraphs’ measurements.

Yankees Interested In Braves’ Jose Peraza

11:22am: A Braves official tells David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link) that the prospect of the club trading Peraza is a “complete fabrication.”

8:26am: The Yankees have been scouting Braves second base prospect Jose Peraza, former Major League scout Jeff Wren (brother of ex-Atlanta GM Frank Wren) reports via Twitter.  According to George A. King III of the New York Post, the Yankees have informed the Braves about their interest in Peraza, and King notes the Yankees are presumably interested in Peraza as a potential long-term answer at second.

Peraza, who turns 21 on April 30, was originally signed by the Braves for a $350K bonus out of Venezuela in 2010.  He has steadily climbed through Atlanta’s farm system and broke out with a .339/.364/.441 performance over 499 plate appearances (304 at the high-A level, 195 at Double-A) in 2014.  Speed is Peraza’s calling card, as he went 60-for-75 in stolen base attempts last season and is 178-for-220 in steals over his minor league career.

That big 2014 season earned Peraza a spot in several major top-100 prospect lists, albeit within a wide range.  ESPN’s Keith Law had Peraza as high as #24 in his preseason rankings, while had him 39th (and first among Braves prospects), Baseball America had him 54th and Baseball Prospectus ranked Peraza in the 92nd slot.

It’s worth noting that Peraza is a natural shortstop and only became a primary second baseman last year, as the Braves shifted him since Andrelton Simmons has the position locked down at the MLB level.  The 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook praised Peraza’s hands and quick release and believed “he should be able to remain” at either middle infield position as he develops.

With this in mind, it’s possible the Yankees could see Peraza as a potential answer at shortstop rather than second base.  Both positions are rather up in the air for the club — Didi Gregorius has gotten off to a slow start both offensively and defensively, while veteran Stephen Drew is considered a placeholder for either Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela.  Refsnyder, however, has had defensive problems while Pirela is recovering from a concussion, King notes.

King speculates that New York could offer a package of two prospects for Peraza, one of whom could be catcher Gary Sanchez.  The Yankees seem set on John Ryan Murphy as their catcher of the future in anticipation of Brian McCann‘s eventual shift away from behind the plate, leaving Sanchez possibly expendable.  Sanchez was himself a highly-ranked prospect prior to the 2014 season, which saw him post solid offensive numbers at Double-A, but his defensive prowess is a question mark and “his work ethic and maturity are concerns” according to the scouting report.

As for the second minor leaguer in the deal, King doubts the Yankees would move Luis Severino, the club’s top pitching prospect.  I agree with King — Severino and Peraza are roughly on the same level of value, so moving Severino and more would command a higher return than just Peraza.

That said, New York would certainly have to offer something significant to convince the Braves to part with Peraza whatsoever.  Atlanta acquired a bit of young middle infield depth in the form of Jace Peterson this offseason, so it’s possible they could be more willing to move Peraza.

Offseason In Review: Atlanta Braves

Newly installed president of baseball operations John Hart wasted little time in aggressively turning over a roster that disappointed last year, adding loads of young pitching and reshaping the team’s offensive profile.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Trades And Claims


  • None

Notable Losses

Needs Addressed

The Braves spent last winter locking up young talent for the long run, but changed course swiftly after the club’s first losing campaign since 2008. Moving into the driver’s seat was former Indians/Rangers GM John Hart, who will be accompanied by well-regarded young executive John Coppolella. With the former taking on the title of president of baseball operations and the latter remaining the assistant GM, the club technically has no general manager. Expectations are that Coppolella will eventually ascend to that position, but for now at least he’ll work under Hart.

Club president John Schuerholz has explained that Wren’s sacking was motivated not by the club’s failure to contend in 2014, but rather by the overall lack of organizational strength that he perceived. The new leadership promptly set out to trade in many of its best big league pieces for young talent, transforming a lagging farm into a system that many now rank in the top ten league-wide.

It all started with the departures of Heyward and Upton, a pair of corner outfielders who will hit the open market after the season — arguably as the best two available free agents. The cumulative return was highlighted by Shelby Miller, who once looked to be the future staff ace of the Cardinals but will seek to get back on track after a relatively disappointing 2014. Tyrell Jenkins and Max Fried represent some younger, high-upside arms, while Jace Peterson surprised this spring and has opened the year in Atlanta’s everyday lineup. As always, evaluating the quality of a prospect haul requires time, but there is an argument to be made that Atlanta could have squeezed more value had it waited for the trade deadline.

At the time, it was not out of the question that the club would stop there in terms of major moves. That proved not to be the case. The Braves proceeded to deal two key players who carried plenty of team control in Evan Gattis and, most controversially — among the fanbase, at least — star closer Craig Kimbrel.

Gattis always made more sense in the American League, particularly for a club that has a young catcher (Christian Bethancourt) who it expects to provide a level of defense that Gattis cannot. But he was affordable and useful, so it took an impressive haul for the Astros to pry him away. Atlanta netted two highly-regarded prospects in righty Michael Foltynewicz and third baseman Rio Ruiz.

As if that were not enough, the Braves and Padres stunned the baseball world once again on the eve of Opening Day. Kimbrel, one of the team’s longest-tenured and most marketable players, was traded to San Diego along with Melvin Upton Jr. and his ball-and-chain of a contract. Atlanta took back some salary commitments by adding Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin (since released), but Maybin still has some value and fills an immediate need in center. In addition to financial relief, of course, the Braves picked up another top-100 pitching prospect in Matt Wisler along with the 41st pick in this year’s draft.

A series of smaller deals brought back other young arms, including former top prospects Manny Banuelos and Arodys Vizcaino. Cuban outfielder Dian Toscano was added on a lower-profile, but still fairly significant, international deal. And more young talent will be coming: in addition to adding a sandwich pick in the Kimbrel deal, Atlanta picked up some international pool money and the 75th overall pick through other trades.

That last draft choice came as part of the deal that brought starter Trevor Cahill to Atlanta. Still just 27, Cahill will fill some frames in the near term but also comes with upside. He managed a 3.89 FIP in spite of awful results last year, and comes with a history of throwing a high number of solid innings. While it would take quite a turnaround for his two options ($13MM, $13.5MM) to become attractive, Cahill could theoretically become a summer trade chip. Alternatively, the Braves could simply hold onto him in the event of a rebound, content to have a solid contributor at a reasonable price. Given the relatively meager cost to acquire him (in terms of cash and prospects) and the fact that Atlanta also ultimately added extra bonus pool flexibility with the draft pick, it looks like a solid gamble, even if a resurgence seems unlikely.

All of those moves filled long-term needs, but obviously also functioned to open up holes in the current big league roster. The club opted to fill them with veteran free agents who figure to hold down the fort as the team transitions. While some teams have foregone such spending in rebuilding years, relying more heavily on organizational depth and minor league free agents, the Braves have made clear that they intend to field a competitive team and quickly ramp up with a new park set to open in 2017.

Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson head to the back of the bullpen, Jonny Gomes to the corner outfield, Alberto Callaspo to a utility infield role, and A.J. Pierzynski to the backup catcher slot, all for a total commitment of just over $18MM. Of course, the Braves did make one much more significant outlay: outfielder Nick Markakis, whose signing we’ll look at more closely below.

Questions Remaining

The re-made staff, fronted by Julio Teheran and Alex Wood, is cheaper, younger, and perhaps more talented than last year’s unit (which went without the since-departed Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy), but it remains to be seen if it will be more productive. Miller and Cahill have plenty of upside, but each needs to re-establish himself in his new environs. Behind them, Eric Stults (and, perhaps, Chien Ming-Wang) will eat innings and try to hold off Foltynewicz, Wisler, and Banuelos. Atlanta will presumably hope that at least two-thirds of the young trio can force the issue and head into 2016 prepared to take over full-time jobs.

The biggest rotation question of all, however, is 27-year-old lefty Mike Minor, who has struggled with health and consistency. He is owed $5.6MM in his second year of arbitration eligibility (as a Super Two player) and will once again start the year on the DL with shoulder problems. Minor struggled last year after an outstanding 2013, and if his shoulder problems are severe enough, he could conceivably become a non-tender candidate given his growing cost. That, of course, is somewhat of a worst-case scenario, though.

Suddenly lacking not only Kimbrel but also top setup man Jordan Walden and middle relievers David Carpenter and Anthony Varvaro, among others, the Braves’ bullpen is a new-look affair. Indeed, Atlanta’s pen will feature just one player — southpaw Luis Avilan — who made more than twenty appearances for the team last year. Grilli will need to show that his improved second half of 2014 is sustainable at an advanced age, Johnson will look to re-establish himself, and newcomers like Cody Martin and Brandon Cunniff will try to take advantage of an opportunity. (Promising righty Shae Simmons is a notable absentee after undergoing Tommy John surgery prior to the season.)

As for the lineup, the Braves made clear that they wanted to move away from an all-or-nothing, high-strikeout approach, and certainly have angled to do so. But it remains to be seen what kind of offensive output the new group will provide. Beyond the excellent bat of first baseman Freddie Freeman and the solid production of Nick Markakis, the lineup is full of questions at the plate.

Behind the plate, Bethancourt looks to be a reliable defender but has much to prove offensively after a .248/.274/.274 line in 117 plate appearances last year. The veteran Pierzynski was not much better last year, though he has long provided a serviceable bat behind the dish.

In the middle infield, Andrelton Simmons is a generational glove man but has seen his productivity on the other side of the ball decline steadily over the last three years. Second base is wide open: Peterson has the first crack at the job, while Kelly Johnson joins Callaspo as established options who have been slightly below average at the plate and in the field over recent seasons. Likewise, third base could be manned at times by either of those veterans or Chris Johnson, who failed to live up to his extension in his second season in Atlanta.

And that, finally, brings us to Markakis.

Deal Of Note

A four-year, $44MM free agent deal for a franchise right fielder? That’s a bargain. The question, of course, is whether Markakis really fits that mold. He gets on base, is said to be an excellent clubhouse presence, and has a sterling defensive reputation. But he has meager power for his position, is only a slightly above-average overall offensive player, and does not score particularly well in terms of defensive metrics, despite the facts that plenty of scouts seem to vouch for his glove. And then there’s the fact that Markakis is already 31 and just underwent neck surgery.

MLB: Atlanta Braves at Detroit Tigers

By wins above replacement, Markakis has generally been worth about two or two-and-a-half wins per season over the last several campaigns (excepting a rough 2013). If you accept that he is a significantly better outfielder than the metrics suggest, and buy into the idea that he’ll age well, then you can see some merit in a contract that pays him more or less what the Indians gave Michael Bourn, who was probably a 3 to 4 win player, depending upon which formula you prefer.

But there is risk here, and not a lot of upside. And there is a rather significant loss of flexibility for an Atlanta club that has fairly limited payroll (at least until it sees how revenues look upon the new park opening) and many needs. Notably, the Braves took on about the same overall commitment as they shed when they eventually traded away Melvin Upton Jr.

As always, it remains to be seen. Markakis could be a steady presence that helps make a bridge to the future and supports a pennant-winning club in the not-too-distant future. Or, he could be an expensive (albeit probably not crippling) mistake.


In the aggregate, the Braves managed to reduce their future (2016 and beyond) payroll commitments by just $7.55MM over the offseason. And that includes the savings achieved by moving Kimbrel himself, not just the Upton side of the deal. This is why the Markakis signing drew some quizzical reactions: as much turnover as Atlanta achieved, it did not substantially reduce its long-term cash on the books.

Of course, that is but one element of what the front office set out to do. By cashing in on expiring assets while they could, rather than extending players at all costs or trying to win one more time with the old core intact, Atlanta sought to cut off the downside scenario bypassed a potentially painful rebuilding process. Most of that future cash is owed to Freeman and Simmons, which is hardly a bad thing; each is still approaching his prime. And, the Braves will be free of Dan Uggla‘s salary after the year.

Whether or not one agrees with the Markakis move, he seems likely to be a useful player over the life of his deal. And the overall health of the franchise seems to have ticked upward after an immensely active winter.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Braves Release Carlos Quentin

The Braves have released outfielder Carlos Quentin, according to the team’s transactions page. Quentin and his agents at CAA will now be able to field offers from any interested clubs.

Atlanta acquired Quentin from the Padres in the Craig Kimbrel blockbuster and promptly designated him for assignment. The Braves’ agreement to acquire Quentin boiled down to little more than financial maneuvering; his inclusion in the trade was necessary to offset some of the salary headed to the Padres with the salaries of Kimbrel and, especially, Melvin Upton Jr. The Braves will pay the 32-year-old Quentin $8MM in 2015, minus the pro-rated portion of the league minimum for as long as he’s on a new team’s active roster.

Quentin was, at one point, an All-Star and even an MVP candidate with the White Sox — he finished fifth in the 2008 voting when he belted 36 home runs — but injuries have long plagued him and reduced his ability to produce even when healthy. Quentin has appeared in just 218 games over the past three seasons, primarily due to knee problems. Those issues have caused his defense, which was never his strong suit in the first place, to deteriorate to the point where he’s best-suited for an American League club that can give him some at-bats as a designated hitter.

Teams with a need for some right-handed pop off the bench or a part-time DH figure to be interested in Quentin despite his injuries. With the exception of last year, Quentin has long posted strong numbers at the plate. From 2008-13, he batted .260/.356/.503, averaging 35 homers per 162 games played. Unfortunately for the White Sox and Padres — the two teams for which he played during that stretch — Quentin averaged just 108 games per season in those six years.

Braves Designate Juan Jaime For Assignment

The Braves announced that they have selected the contract of right-hander Sugar Ray Marimon and designated fellow righty Juan Jaime in order to clear room on both the 40-man and 25-man rosters.

Jaime, 27, made the Braves’ Opening Day roster in part because he’s out of Minor League options. The 6’2″, 250-pound righty appeared in two games for Atlanta this season and has totaled 13 2/3 innings for them dating back to 2014, totaling a 5.93 ERA with 19 strikeouts and an unsightly 13 walks in that time. Big strikeout totals and troublesome control are nothing new for Jaime, who has averaged 12.9 strikeouts and 6.1 walks per nine innings in the Minors. He’s averaged 96.1 mph on his fastball in his limited big league work, which, paired with his swing-and-miss stuff, may be enough that another team has interest in the big righty.

Pitcher Notes: Axford, Minor, Marmol, Hernandez

Yesterday, for the first time in nearly 15 years, five pitchers threw at least seven innings and allowed two hits or fewer, notes’s Roch Kubatko. Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels, Milwaukee’s Jimmy Nelson, Baltimore’s Ubaldo Jimenez, Boston’s Joe Kelly, and Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer turned the trick. Bartolo Colon was one of the quintet from 2000 (then with the Indians) and was the Mets’ starting pitcher today and drove in a run for the first time since 2005. Time marches slowly in our national pastime.

In other hurler news from around baseball:

  • The Rockies have placed reliever John Axford on the family medical emergency list to tend to his two-year-old son, reports Nick Groke of The Denver Post. Doctors have had to remove all the tissue and skin at the spot of a rattlesnake bite Jameson Axford suffered last month (the incident is detailed by Groke), down to the tendon and bone. To replace Axford on the roster, the Rockies selected the contract of right-hander Scott Oberg and created a spot on the 40-man roster for the 25-year-old rookie, who will make his MLB debut, by moving infielder Charlie Culberson to the 60-day disabled list.
  • The BravesMike Minor has suffered a setback while rehabbing his left shoulder, but surgery is not under consideration for now, reports’s Mark Bowman. “He’s experienced some discomfort as he’s started to stretch himself out,” Braves Director of Baseball Operations John Hart said. “So, we’ve brought him up here to have…our medical people take a look at what is going on. We don’t have any recommendation yet. At the moment, he’ll return to Florida to continue the rehab. But there’s obviously some level of concern because the discomfort came back.
  • Former closer Carlos Marmol held a showcase in the Dominican Republic today and displayed velocity in the mid-90s with a new arm slot, tweets’s Jesse Sanchez. Marmol was released by the Reds last November, but has been pitching in the Dominican and Venezuela this winter. Over a nine-year MLB career with the Cubs, Dodgers, and Marlins, Marmol has a 3.57 ERA, 11.6 K/9, and 6.2 BB/9 mark in 577 innings with 117 saves.
  • Cuban right-hander Jorge Hernandez auditioned for 20 teams in the Dominican Republic and struck out 11 of the 18 hitters he faced, according to Sanchez in a separate tweet. The Twins did not have a presence at either the Marmol or Hernandez showcase, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.

Minor Moves: Florimon, Peguero, Adrianza, Tracy

Here are today’s minor moves from around the league.

  • Reds pitcher Raisel Iglesias will make his major league debut tomorrow, writes Jason Haddix for He’ll be opposed by Cardinals hurler Carlos Martinez. The Reds committed to a seven-year, $27MM contract with Iglesias during the 2014 season.
  • The Orioles selected the contract of knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa, writes Brittany Ghiroli of Wesley Wright was added to the disabled list in a corresponding move. Gamboa, 30, had yet to reach the majors although he figures to bounce back and forth this year. He’ll serve as depth in case Kevin Gausman is needed in long relief in the next couple games.
  • Pirates utility man Pedro Florimon has cleared waivers, tweets Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He has been outrighted to Triple-A. Per Brink (also Twitter), since Florimon has been outrighted before, he can decline and become a free agent. Brink is told no decision has been made.
  • The Rangers have announced that they’ve selected the contract of corner outfielder Carlos Peguero and recalled pitcher Jon Edwards. They’ve also moved Derek Holland (shoulder) to the 60-day disabled list and Ryan Rua (ankle) to the 15-day disabled list. Peguero is in the Rangers’ lineup tonight. The 28-year-old Peguero has played briefly, and not particularly impressively, for the Mariners and Royals in parts of four big-league seasons, but he’s demonstrated serious power in the minors (with 30 homers for Triple-A Omaha last year) and in Spring Training.
  • The Giants have outrighted infielder Ehire Adrianza to Triple-A Sacramento,’s Chris Haft tweets. The team designated Adrianza for assignment last week. Adrianza, 25, hit .237/.279/.299 in 106 plate appearances while playing mostly shortstop and second base for the Giants last season.
  • The Yankees have announced that they’ve promoted lefty Matt Tracy. To clear space for Tracy on the 25- and 40-man rosters, the Yankees optioned lefty Chasen Shreve to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and moved Ivan Nova to the 60-day disabled list. Tracy will need to be added to the Yankees’ 40-man roster. Tracy’s stay on the roster could turn out to be short, however — the Yankees can use some quick bullpen reinforcements after their 19-inning game against the Red Sox last night, and Tracy would presumably join the team for that purpose. The 26-year-old posted a 3.76 ERA with 5.3 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 150 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last year.
  • Two players remain in DFA limbo, via MLBTR’s DFA Tracker: lefty Sam Freeman (Rangers) and outfielder Carlos Quentin (Braves).

East Notes: A-Rod, Red Sox, Markakis

We checked into the west earlier tonight; now, let’s look at the latest from the east:

  • The Yankees are prepared to go to arbitration to avoid paying Alex Rodriguez any home run marketing bonuses, Bill Madden and Teri Thompson of the New York Daily News report. Rodriguez is seeing plenty of plate appearances, and it is probably only a matter of time before the issue is triggered. New York will simply not declare any triggering home runs as milestones (click here for an explanation of how the contract works), leaving it up to Rodriguez and the union whether to file a grievance.
  • The Red Sox‘ prescient pursuit of Mookie Betts in the 2011 draft is at least partially attributable to the concept of neuroscouting, writes Alex Speier of the Boston Globe. To some extent, it seems, the club is still working to assess the merits of its neurological program, as well as to delineate between its scouting and development components. GM Ben Cherington explains the intuition that justifies the effort: “If you have that strength, then you might improve that. Hopefully we think we can improve it. But the player who starts with the advantage still probably has the advantage.”
  • At the big league level, Cherington is trying to return the Red Sox to the depth it had in 2013, Tim Britton of the Providence Journal reports. Protecting against (or avoiding) injury and underperformance are key goals, of course, and depth — as well as the intelligent deployment of it — can help to maximize productivity.
  • The Braves‘ offseason was dedicated rather clearly to shedding salary and adding young pitching, with the notable exception of the signing of Nick Markakis. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution looks at the reasoning, explaining that the team was motivated both by near-term and mid-term goals. At its most basic, there was simply a hole in right field that needed to be filled. But the organization also wanted to add a steady, veteran presence to the lineup and clubhouse over the next few years. “This guy’s a great leader and a great player,” said assistant GM John Coppolella. “We thought he fit us really well. We had a lot of inside information from Dave Trembley, who managed him when (Markakis) was a kid with the Orioles. … There isn’t anything wrong with this player, anything that he doesn’t do well. He’s a very good player who fits not only what we’re going through now as we try to remodel, but as we start getting to the playoffs and getting to the World Series, he will be a key part of that as well.”

Minor Moves: Luis Merejo, James Harris

Here are the latest minor moves from around the game, all via Baseball America’s Matt Eddy (links to Twitter):

  • The Braves have released lefty Luis Merejo, who has been out for quite some time after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The 20-year-old international signee had “shown promise” in his debut in the Gulf Coast League back in 2012, says Eddy, and indeed he struck out 11.6 and walked just 2.0 batters per nine in his first 41 professional innings.
  • Outfielder James Harris, who had been released by the Rays, was signed by the Athletics. One of Tampa’s multiple sandwich picks back in 2011, Harris has slashed a meager .215/.291/.305 in 898 turns at bat in his career in the lower minors. He is still just 21 years of age, however.