Jason Heyward Rumors

NL East Notes: Hand, McKirahan, Hand, Olivera, Heyward

Confirming an earlier report, the Marlins are discussing Brad Hand with the Rangers, reports Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. Hand is not a lock to make the club out of spring training, but the club is also motivated by a need to replenish some minor league depth. The Marlins included minor leaguers in trades for Dee Gordon, Dan Haren, Mat Latos, and Martin Prado.

  • A “host” of clubs have inquired about Rule 5 pick Andrew McKirahan, per Spencer. The Marlins selected the southpaw reliever from the Cubs. The Marlins don’t have a spot for McKirahan, so they’ll attempt to trade him. It’s expected that another club would claim McKirahan if he were exposed to waivers.
  • Miami is shopping left-handed relievers, but they’re not interested in trading Mike Dunn, tweets Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. Dunn is the most established left-handed reliever on the Marlins staff. Last year, the situational lefty pitched to a 3.16 ERA with 10.58 K/9 and 3.47 BB/9.
  • Verifying an earlier report, the Braves will not go to six years for Hector Olivera, tweets David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. We heard earlier last week that Olivera was seeking a sixth year.
  • The Braves played against Jason Heyward and the Cardinals for the first time since trading him, observed Paul Hagen of MLB.com. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez hears that Heyward has already made an impact in the Cardinals locker room. While trading Heyward was painful for Braves, they acquired a couple important, long term building blocks in Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins.

Quick Hits: Ferrell, Heyward, Cardinals, Fuld

Forty-seven-year-old prospect Will Ferrell showed his versatility by playing all 10 positions for 10 different clubs during a whirlwind single-day tour of several Arizona Spring Training camps, an event was dedicated to raise funds for the Stand Up To Cancer and Cancer For College charities.  Ferrell’s day included two at-bats (both strikeouts), a helicopter landing in center field, serving as the Cubs’ third base coach and actually recording an out during his 1/3 inning of work on the mound.  Ferrell was in such demand that he even switched teams within games, so it’s probably just a matter of time before the phenom inks a nine-figure contract.

Here’s some slightly more serious news from around the game…

  • Six of seven general managers polled by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman don’t see Jason Heyward landing a contract in the $200MM range next winter, though one of the naysaying GMs was open to the possibility if Heyward had a huge season.  Heyward brings youth (he turns 26 in August) and elite defense into his walk year, though it seems like he’d need a big power season to make $200MM a realistic possibility.  Most of the GMs and assistant GMs Heyman spoke to thought Shin-Soo Choo (seven years/$130MM) or Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years/$153MM) could be good comparables for Heyward’s next deal, though one GM noted that Heyward’s price could be elevated by the general lack of strong position player talent in next year’s free agent market.  MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently placed Heyward second in his 2016 Free Agent Power Rankings, behind only Justin Upton.
  • If Heyward’s price tag does approach $200MM, it will probably mean the Cardinals won’t re-sign him, some of the GMs noted to Heyman.  The Cards seem to have a player contract “limit of around $120 million,” as that was their outlay for Matt Holliday and around what they were willing to pay Jon Lester and Max Scherzer this winter.
  • A’s outfielder Sam Fuld discusses how he deals with the pressure of constantly fighting for spots on Major League rosters in an interview with Nico of the Athletics Nation blog.
  • In his latest piece for Gammons Daily, Peter Gammons cites the Dodgers as the “clear winner” of the 2014-15 offseason, praising Andrew Friedman for adding a great deal of flexibility and depth to the club’s roster while also bringing several good baseball minds into the front office.

White Sox, Giants Pursued Heyward; Yankees Also Inquired

11:15am: While the Yankees did indeed ask about Heyward, along with many other teams, the White Sox and Giants were actually the teams that came closest to landing him before St. Louis pulled the trigger, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link).

That is not necessarily surprising, in the sense that both clubs were obviously in need of corner outfield help. The former ultimately signed Melky Cabrera and the latter added Nori Aoki. While Chicago ought to be set for the foreseeable future in that position, assuming that Avisail Garcia can fix his hold on one corner, San Francisco could be on the market (though it holds a club option over Aoki).

8:11am: The Yankees engaged the Braves this offseason in trade talks regarding outfielder Jason Heyward, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. Atlanta ultimately dealt Heyward to the Cardinals, of course.

While the report does not indicate how serious the interest was or whether any actual offers were submitted, it does suggest that the Yankees are a plausible suitor when Heyward hits free agency. The team already has Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, and Carlos Beltran under contract for 2016, and prospects like Aaron Judge coming up behind them. But New York had a plan to shift Beltran to a DH role if it acquired Heyward, per Martino, and could certainly chart such a course next season.

The other salient takeaway — the item is otherwise largely of historical interest — is that there is increasing evidence that the Yankees are now targeting a certain type of player (young, defensively valuable) that does not quite align with the club’s offseason acquisitions of yore. Indeed, Martino notes that the team also asked the Braves about Andrelton Simmons, although it is far from clear that Atlanta ever engaged on him. New York ultimately traded instead for another fielding-first infielder in Didi Gregorius.



NL Notes: Turner, Heyward, Holdzkom, Pence

Shortstop Trea Turner, the reported player to be named later in the Wil Myers deal, will be headed to the Nationals organization in June, but for right now, he’s enjoying his time in Padres big-league camp, MLB.com’s Corey Brock writes. “It’s been great. It’s been everything I’ve hoped for and more,” says Turner, who adds that he’s liked working with Padres third base coach Glenn Hoffman. Turner’s situation is unusual, though it sounds like he and the Padres are making the best of it. The team can’t simply trade the 2014 first-rounder now because they’re not allowed to deal him until a year after he signed his first pro contract. At the same time, it’s widely known that he’s in the trade and will be with the Nationals in June. Here’s more from the National League.

  • Free-agent-to-be Jason Heyward doesn’t know what his future holds, but he’s happy to have a new start with the Cardinals, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. “I spent five years at this level with one organization and I still don’t know if I’ve seen the best of myself,” Heyward says. “I do feel that this is the best thing that could have happened to me as far as playing this game, getting a new start somewhere else. Absolutely.” Heyward adds that money will be part of the equation in his search for a new team, but that it will be secondary. “Who is going to provide that environment on a daily basis that says you have a great opportunity to be great for as long as you can play? That’s the biggest thing for me,” he says.
  • The Pirates signed reliever John Holdzkom out of independent ball last season with the idea that he would be an extra arm for Double-A who might turn out to be something more, Bucs special assistant Jim Benedict tells ESPN 970’s David Todd in an interview Todd transcribed for Bucs Dugout (a website for which I also write, in the interest of full disclosure). Benedict saw Holdzkom pitch last summer at Triple-A Indianapolis. “I remember telling Clint (Hurdle) like a lot of other guys, ‘There’s a guy down there that can help us. He’s downhill, he’s 98 and it cuts. And I know that’s hard to hit, so let’s keep our eyes on this one,‘” Benedict says. “And all of a sudden he’s on the Pirates pitching meaningful games.” Holdzkom, who began the season pitching for independent teams in San Angelo and Amarillo, wound up striking out 14 batters in nine innings down the stretch with the Pirates.
  • Giants outfielder Hunter Pence is out six to eight weeks with a fractured forearm, but assistant GM Bobby Evans says that injury is short-term enough that the Giants will simply replace him internally, MLB Network Radio tweets.

NL Notes: Heyward, Cards, Roenicke, Padres, Rockies

Minor league coaches and instructors earn relatively meager salaries, reports Fangraphs’ David Laurila. The minimum salary for one club is $30K while multiple sources pegged the top end (for long-time managers and coordinators) between $150-175K. One source told Laurila the Marlins pay poorly while the Braves are among the most generous (“That’s why Miami has a lot of turnover and Atlanta doesn’t.“). Another reason Laurila cites for the low pay is the number of people who want those minor league positions with one front office executive saying his club receives between 300 and 400 resumes per year.

Here’s the latest news and notes from the National League:

  • The Cardinals have the payroll flexibility and the prospects to either extend a player like Jason Heyward or acquire a high-profile contract like that of Cole Hamels, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Within the same article, Goold notes GM John Mozeliak has fielded calls this winter on out-of-options players like infielder Pete Kozma and left-hander Sam Freeman.
  • Brewers manager Ron Roenicke told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he is not concerned about being on the hot seat as he enters the final year of his contract. “I know I’ve got a contract this year and I’ll try to do the best I can. I can’t control what happens with that. I just plan to get the guys playing well, and hopefully we’ll get off to a good start again and we’ll see what happens.
  • Despite the dramatic overhaul of their roster, the Padres have plenty of questions to address this spring, Jeff Sanders of U-T San Diego writes.
  • Nick Groke of The Denver Post takes a position-by-position look at the Rockies in 2015. This offseason, the Rockies put a heavy emphasis on improving their depth across the board.

Outfield Notes: Aoki, Blackmon, Heyward

New Giants outfielder Nori Aoki could have scored multiple years and a larger guarantee elsewhere, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, but he preferred the opportunity to receive significant playing time for a contender and also liked the idea of living in San Francisco.

  • The Orioles are “doing their homework” on Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon and could become involved in trade talks, but seemingly have not yet engaged in any discussions, per Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Baltimore does not consider it a fit for Dexter Fowler of the Astros, says Kubatko, and is still considering a run at free agent Colby Rasmus. The club is looking for left-handed-hitting outfielders, though Alejandro De Aza and David Lough remain under contract.
  • Jason Heyward and the Cardinals have each expressed general interest in exploring an expansion of their current one-year relationship, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. A feeling-out process seems in order first, and neither side appears to be in a rush to sit down at the negotiating table.
  • Heyward also offered some interesting words on his past talks with the Braves and why they never proved fruitful, in his view. “For me, I’m from Georgia [and] I grew up playing baseball in that state,” said Heyward. “I grew up watching the great teams of the 1990s and got to play for a Hall of Fame manager [Bobby Cox] who helped build that organization. For me, I was never opposed to [staying]. There wasn’t a lot of time put in on their part, I feel like, getting to know me as a person and getting to know my mindset on it.”

Jason Heyward Open To Extension With Cardinals

Outfielder Jason Heyward is open to the possibility of an extension with the Cardinals, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch writes. The Casey Close client adds that he would have no problem discussing an extension even during the season.

They asked me to be here and I was traded into this situation, and it’s a good situation,” says Heward. “[W]e’ll see what happens. It’s kind of a unique situation because this is my last year before free agency.”

The Cardinals acquired Heyward from Atlanta earlier this offseason, and Heyward says that he was frustrated by the Braves’ lack of initiative on extension talks. “For me, I was never opposed to (staying),” he says. “There wasn’t a lot of time put in on their part, I feel like, getting to know me as a person and getting to know my mindset on it.”

Heyward is right that his case is unique. He’s set to hit the free agent market next offseason as a 26-year-old, and his combination of youth, defense, on-base ability and pedigree should make him very valuable once he does, even though his power perhaps hasn’t developed as anticipated. His age, in particular, is a huge asset, since free agents tend to be much older — Heyward could be the rare free agent whose best years are still ahead of him. Last month in a post on Heyward’s extension candidacy, we noted that Heyward could easily receive a deal of at least eight years and possibly $200MM or more.

As Goold notes, the Cardinals should have a reasonable amount of money available to sign Heyward, should they choose to do so, especially in seasons beyond 2015. Adam Wainwright and Matt Carpenter are the only players they have signed beyond 2017, and Carpenter’s is their only veteran contract that’s backloaded.


Extension Candidate: Jason Heyward

New Cardinals outfielder Jason Heyward only has one season remaining before free agency, and St. Louis likely has the financial flexibility to sign him long term. It’s not surprising, then, that there’s been some discussion in the St. Louis media about the possibility that the Cardinals would extend him. For the right price, Heyward (who’s already set to make $8.3MM in 2015) would be an exceptionally strong extension candidate.

USATSI_5294908_154513410_lowres Heyward won’t turn 26 until next August, and he has an excellent all-around game that includes plus defense to go with good on-base ability, reasonable power and above-average baserunning. He might also be able to retain his value as his defense declines, too — his control over the strike zone and toolsy profile suggest he might still have headroom as a hitter.

Of course, the same factors that make Heyward a good extension candidate would also make the Casey Close client a very attractive free agent. The fact that free agency is so near makes an extension a different proposition than it was when MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes examined Heyward’s candidacy early in the 2013 season.

Perhaps the best precedents for an extension for a top position player with between five and six years of service time are those of Matt Kemp (eight years, $160MM) and Adrian Gonzalez (seven years, $154MM). Heyward isn’t, or isn’t yet, the offensive player that Kemp or Gonzalez were — Kemp was coming off a .324/.399/.586 season at the time of his extension, while Gonzalez had just hit .298/.393/.511 in pitcher-friendly San Diego. But average salaries have skyrocketed throughout the game since those contracts were signed in 2011 (the average MLB salary jumped 12 percent just last year), and we should expect extensions to keep pace.

Also, Heyward is two years younger than Kemp was and more than three years younger than Gonzalez at the times of their contracts, a significant matter when the contract would begin with the player heading into his age-25 season (or age-26, depending on how one wants to look at it) rather than his age-27 season (Kemp) or age-29 season (Gonzalez). And Heyward is a far better defensive player than either Kemp or Gonzalez, with a UZR of 24.1 last season and of at least 12 for three seasons straight. Historically, that’s not an attribute that figures to get Heyward paid like huge power numbers would, but it makes it that less likely that his next contract will be a bust — Heyward’s on-base ability and excellent defense significantly limit his downside.

Jacoby Ellsbury‘s seven-year, $153MM deal with the Yankees, signed as a free agent after the 2013 season, provides a recent precedent for a contract for a star-caliber, left-handed outfielder with defensive value. Again, though, Heyward is far younger than Ellsbury, an enormous point in his favor.

Given Heyward’s youth, it isn’t hard to see an extension heading toward at least eight years rather than seven — a nine-year extension would only go through his age-33 season, and even a deal of ten years or more doesn’t seem ridiculous. Heyward isn’t likely to reach the same stratospheric heights as Giancarlo Stanton ($325MM) or Miguel Cabrera ($248MM), but those head-spinning deals should help keep the market trending upward, and it isn’t hard to see Heyward clearing $200MM, as Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron proposed last month. Heyward could also seek an opt-out clause, like Stanton, and like fellow Close clients Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Masahiro Tanaka.

Or maybe the idea that Heyward is a $200MM player after a .271/.351/.384 season simply won’t add up, regardless of his youth and defense. But perhaps, from Heyward’s perspective, not matching the Stanton or Cabrera deals doesn’t mean he can’t come out ahead in the end. Heyward is so young that he could play his way through a nine-figure extension and still be young enough to land another.

Seen from that angle, a shorter deal, perhaps modeled on Mike Trout‘s six-year, $144MM contract, might make sense. Heyward isn’t as young or as good as Trout, but he might be able to land only a similar total over six years because Trout’s contract began with three pre-free-agency seasons and Heyward’s would only begin with one.  That way, Heyward could hit free agency heading into his age-31 season, at which point he would still be young enough to hit it big. A nine-year deal, say, would be much more lucrative, but would probably leave him too old to net another huge contract after it’s over.

That route is probably unlikely, however. Heyward is only one year from free agency and has little reason to give the Cardinals a discount, and he was not particularly motivated to sign an extension with the Braves. That might suggest Heyward could either sign a huge deal for eight-plus years, or hope for a big season, test the free agent market and perhaps wind up with a contract that’s even longer. When you’re as young and as good as Heyward, there are few bad choices.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


NL West Notes: Preller, Montero, D’Backs, Anderson, Giants

A pair of rival executives described Padres GM A.J. Preller as “all over the map” when asked by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Preller, Rosenthal writes, is furiously exploring both trade and free agent possibilities to boost his new club’s offense. According to Rosenthal, Preller was in contact with the Braves about Jason Heyward prior to their trade with the Cardinals, and he’s also called on Jay Bruce and Matt Kemp in addition to showing legitimate interest in Pablo Sandoval. One of Preller’s colleagues estimated to Rosenthal that the San Diego GM has had “baseline discussions” on at least 200 players this offseason. Suffice it to say, Padres fans should likely expect some form of significant move in Preller’s first offseason at the helm.

Elsewhere in the division…

  • Trade talks regarding Miguel Montero have not escalated significantly since Russell Martin came off the board and signed with the Blue Jays, reports the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro (the Montero portion comes at the bottom of the article). However, the D’Backs have spoken to the White Sox, Cubs and Dodgers about Montero, who is owed $40MM over the next three seasons.
  • MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez tweets that Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart was recently in the Dominican Republic, and senior vice president of baseball operations De Jon Watson is in Mexico scouting some of the top international teens on the market. The D’Backs are hoping to make waves on the international front soon, he adds.
  • The Rockies are still interested in re-signing Brett Anderson to a more team-friendly deal than the $12MM option they declined, tweets the Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders. However, the Royals and Astros are interested in adding Anderson under similar circumstances, he adds.
  • Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans said on KNBR radio yesterday that his team is very interested in both Yasmany Tomas and Yoan Moncada (via Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle). However, Evans wouldn’t commit one way or another when asked if his club had the money to sign both Tomas and Sandoval.

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.”