Jason Heyward Rumors

Quick Hits: Heyward, Segura, Giants, Joseph

Jason Heyward got off to a slow start with the Cardinals but he posted a .960 OPS and five home runs over 100 plate appearances from May 27 to June 27.  As Heyward tells Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the improvement came in no small part due to intensive work on his swing, and it seems like things are finally clicking for the right fielder.  If Heyward can keep this hot hitting going throughout the season, it will send his free agent value soaring; MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes has speculated that if Heyward could land a $200MM contract if he delivers a big season and proves he can be a consistent force at the plate.  Here’s some more from around baseball as we head into the new week…

  • The Brewers haven’t told inquiring clubs that they’re not trading Jean Segura, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes, but the team would clearly want a lot in return for the shortstop.  Haudricourt ranks Milwaukee’s roster in terms of likely trade targets, and the only seeming untouchables being Jonathan Lucroy and young arms like Wily Peralta, Mike Fiers, Jimmy Nelson and others.
  • Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle believes that the Giants‘ top priorities heading into trade season are fixing the bench, improving the outfield if Hunter Pence and Nori Aoki have longer-term injuries, and addressing the rotation.  He adds that while it seems like San Francisco needs to dabble in the market for a front of the rotation starter, it might be too tall of an order.  Over the weekend, Giants GM Bobby Evans acknowledged that it could be hard to pull off a deal for a high-end starter given the team’s glut of pitchers with limited trade value.
  • Phillies prospect Tommy Joseph is being shifted from catcher to first base, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury reports.  Multiple concussions and a wrist injury limited Joseph to just 63 total games in 2013-14, and after suffering another concussion this season, the decision was made to end Joseph’s catching career for the sake of his health.  The Giants drafted Joseph in the second round of the 2009 draft and he came to Philadelphia as part of the Hunter Pence trade package.
  • The Padres may “take a more measured approach” to their spending when the July 2 international market opens, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes.  The Padres are already scouting the 2016-17 international class and may be looking to spend more heavily next year when several big-market teams will be under bonus penalties and out of the market for the top prospects.

NL Notes: Cubs, Nationals, Strasburg, Heyward, Gosewisch, Giants

Earlier, we discussed a report from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times indicating that the Cubs will be players if Ben Zobrist is marketed. In that piece, he also discusses the team’s need for pitching. Chicago is “in the mix” for Rafael Soriano and could also be interested in Diamondbacks lefty Oliver Perez. Discussing the team’s summer plans, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein hinted that the club will be looking hard at additions — as Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago said he expected on last week’s MLBTR podcast“We’re trying to balance short- and long-term interests,” said Epstein. “But we’re in a situation [in which] we have a fairly competitive team right now, and we have some needs. So you don’t ignore that. You keep it in mind. But at the same time you can’t just go out and unilaterally add.”

  • Nationals GM Mike Rizzo indicated that he believes the club can get by with internal options like Michael Taylor and Tyler Moore while Jayson Werth recovers from a fractured wrist, as Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. The left-handed-hitting Clint Robinson could also see time. My own guess is that another lefty bat could be acquired if the right player becomes available, but that the team will not be aggressive unless the need becomes more apparent. It’s worth recalling, too, that Matt den Dekker is still available at Triple-A, with Nate McLouth still a possible candidate to return later in the year.
  • Stephen Strasburg left tonight’s start for the Nationals after just five batters. As Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com reports (Twitter links), Strasburg is said to have suffered a left trap muscle issue of some kind. The righty, who has struggled uncharacteristically, said that his neck tightened up so much that he had trouble turning his head. While it does not appear that there is any concern with arm issues, Strasburg’s general difficulties and neck and back issues are certainly an increasing problem for him and the club.
  • Cardinals GM John Mozeliak says he does not have any retrospective qualms over his acquisition of outfielder Jason Heyward, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. Heyward has shown some signs of life after a rough start, but the outstanding early performance of Shelby Miller stands in stark contrast at present. “I think whenever you make those kind of deals, there are reasons behind it,” Mozeliak explained. “And at the time, we felt that we had to do something. Not only looking at how we want this club to be put together, but we did not feel like there might be any other opportunities that would meet the type of criteria we’re looking for.” 
  • Though he has not yet been evaluated, injured Diamondbacks catcher Tuffy Gosewisch says a radiologist that looked at the MRI on his knee believes he may have a torn ACL, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic tweets. Certainly, that would mean a disappointing end to the year for the 31-year-old, who has struggled at the plate in his opportunity at a starting role. Arizona has called up recent signee Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who will presumably take a good portion of the time behind the dish.
  • Several Giants players have upcoming opt-out dates, Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News writes. Righty Kevin Correia can become a free agent on the first of June, while third baseman Casey McGehee can opt out on June 5.

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.