Jason Heyward Rumors

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.”


Braves, Cardinals Trade Jason Heyward For Shelby Miller

The Cardinals have acquired right fielder Jason Heyward and right-hander Jordan Walden from the Braves in exchange for righty Shelby Miller and pitching prospect Tyrell Jenkins, the teams announced.

Jason Heyward

A blockbuster in every sense of the word, the Cardinals will acquire one of the game’s most valuable outfielders in Heyward and an excellent setup man in Walden. Heyward just turned 25 in August yet already has five full Major League seasons under his belt. His offensive game hasn’t developed to the superstar level that many had expected, though he still owns a lifetime .262/.351/.429 batting line. His .269/.335/.479 batting line and 27 homers in 2012 give an idea of the power upside that Heyward brings to the table, however.

Where Heyward truly shines, however, is with the glove, as evidenced by career UZR and DRS marks of +74.1 and +97, respectively (UZR/150 pegs him at +17.6). That excellent glove paired with a solid bat has led Heyward to be valued at 4.3 fWAR and 4.9 rWAR per season throughout his career. There’s little doubt that Heyward is an MVP-caliber talent, although to realize that potential he would likely need to return to his 2012 form at the plate while maintaining his stellar defensive work.

Heyward is only under control for one more season and will earn $7.8MM in 2015, but Walden is a bit more of a long-term asset for the Cardinals, as he can be controlled through the 2016 season. Projected to earn $3MM in 2015, the 27-year-old Walden posted a 2.88 ERA with 11.2 K/9, 4.9 BB/9 and a 45.2 percent ground-ball rate for the Braves last season. Armed with a fastball that averages roughly 96 mph, he should give manager Mike Matheny yet another hard-throwing option to pair with the likes of Trevor Rosenthal at the end of the St. Louis bullpen.

In Miller, the Braves have acquired at least four years of control over a high-upside arm that looked to be on the verge of stardom for much of 2013 before a rough finish to the season and a step backwards in 2014. Miller frequented top prospect lists for his entire minor league career after being selected 19th overall in 2009, with Baseball America ranking him as highly as sixth in the game heading into the 2013 campaign. That season, he posted a brilliant 3.06 ERA with 8.8 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and a 38.4 percent ground-ball rate in 173 1/3 innings. He saw his strikeouts dip late in the season though and was curiously a non-factor in the 2013 playoffs, leading many to speculate that he was either injured or simply out of gas after posting a career-high in innings pitched.

Miller maintained his velocity in 2014, but he displayed some signs of control issues that caused his ERA to jump to 3.74 (while FIP and SIERA pegged him at 4.54 and 4.60, respectively). For one, Miller’s BB/9 rate jumped to 3.6. But looking beyond that, his first-pitch strike rate dropped about two percent, and his opponent contact rate for pitches in the strike zone jumped from 85.6 percent to 90 percent, suggesting that he struggled to command the ball within the zone. Nonetheless, Miller’s upside is sky-high, and the Braves had a clear need in the rotation with both Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang hitting the free agent market. Both Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy are recovering from their second Tommy John surgery, leaving Atlanta with Julio Teheran, Mike Minor and Alex Wood as rotation candidates, perhaps along with swingman David Hale.

Jenkins, 22, isn’t simply a throw-in for the Braves, either. The Cards drafted Jenkins 50th overall in 2010, and the right-hander cracked BA’s Top 100 prospect list following the 2011 season — ranking 94th. Touted for his off-the-charts athleticism, Jenkins has seen his prospect star dim a bit since that time due to shoulder surgery, though he did return midway through 2014 and post a 3.28 ERA in 74 innings in the Class-A Advanced Florida State League. BA ranked him 17th among Cardinals prospects heading into 2014, noting that his fastball sits 93-96 mph when healthy and adding that he features an improved curveball as well.

The trade fills a need for both clubs, although the circumstances in which St. Louis came to have a need for a right fielder are of course tragic. It’s been difficult and felt inappropriate at times to look at the tragic death of Oscar Taveras and his girlfriend through a baseball lens, but many have wondered if is untimely loss would lead the Cardinals to look outside the organization for outfield help. MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth noted in his Offseason Outlook for the Cards that such measures could be necessary, and the path that the team has taken will improve the team in 2015, even if the trade is unfortunately linked to tragedy.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Latest On The Braves’ Offseason Plans

After speaking with president of baseball operations John Hart, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that the team could be aiming for a brief rebuild with an eye on the 2017 campaign.

The Braves’ top priority is to add a couple of starting pitchers that could step into the rotation. However, they’re better positioned, financially, to do that on the trade market, which would likely require dealing some established players, as the team doesn’t have a particularly deep farm system in the way of MLB-ready talent. O’Brien writes that one plan could be to trade both Jason Heyward and Justin Upton, with Evan Gattis sliding into left field and Christian Bethancourt handling everyday catching duties. Hart’s preference is to retain Gattis due to the four years of team control he has remaining.

O’Brien also adds that the Braves appear willing to listen to offers for any reliever with the exception of Craig Kimbrel, specifically listing Jordan Walden and David Carpenter as potential candidates. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweeted earlier tonight that the Braves might have interest in moving a relief arm for a back-of-the-rotation starter. That would provide them with some much-needed innings next season, as the team is currently thin beyond Julio Teheran, Alex Wood and Mike Minor. Swingman David Hale could move into the rotation again, and the Braves have Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy as options with little certainty.


NL East Notes: Stanton, Heyward, Nats, Mets, Cuddyer, Phillies

For those who need further convincing that the Marlins are serious about extending Giancarlo Stanton, president of baseball operations Michael Hill told reporters, including the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo (Twitter link), that teams aren’t even bothering to call and ask about Stanton’s availability anymore. Joel Sherman of the New York Post expands on that quote from Hill, noting that there are some indications that the team is willing to break its policy of not giving out no-trade clauses in order to lock up Stanton. Hill wouldn’t directly state that the team is willing to give Stanton a no-trade clause, but that could certainly be inferred from his comments: “It’s been an organizational policy, but you are talking about a star talent. You look at the marketplace and what other stars have gotten. It will be a topic of discussion.”

More from the NL East…

  • Braves president of baseball operations John Hart tells David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he doesn’t envision an extension for Jason Heyward this offseason (Twitter links). That’s not due to a lack of interest on Atlanta’s behalf, but rather due to Heyward’s proximity to free agency. With Heyward set to hit the open market next winter, Hart said that his assumption is it’s “probably the wrong time,” though he said the team could still try to sign Heyward as a free agent.
  • Nationals GM Mike Rizzo acknowledged to James Wagner of the Washington Post that he’s been in contact with Asdrubal Cabrera‘s agent as the team looks at all options on the second base market (Twitter link).
  •  Wagner also tweets that the Nationals and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann aren’t engaged in any form of extension talks at the moment. The ace righty is slated to hit the open market next winter after pocketing a $16.5MM salary in 2015.
  • Marc Carig of Newsday provides a breakdown of where the Mets are in their pursuit of a shortstop. The Mets aren’t big on the idea of multi-year deals for either Jed Lowrie or Asdrubal Cabrera, and looking to the trade market has been difficult thus far. Arizona’s asking price on Didi Gregorius is high — GM Dave Stewart said the return would need to be “earth-shattering” in terms of controllable pitching — and the Cubs haven’t given indication they’ll part with Starlin Castro. The Mets are concerned about Alexei Ramirez‘s declining range, and while they briefly floated the idea of pursuing Jimmy Rollins, that notion went nowhere when they learned that Rollins wouldn’t waive his no-trade rights to go there. A trade for Troy Tulowitzki is considered an extreme long shot, he adds.
  • Matthew Cerrone of SNY.tv’s Metsblog has some highlights (and the audio) from the Mets‘ conference call announcing Michael Cuddyer‘s signing today. Within, he notes that GM Sandy Alderson admitted to being caught off guard by the Rockies’ qualifying offer, but they ultimately decided that they’d prefer to sacrifice a draft pick rather than sacrifice a current minor league prospect in a trade for an outfielder. That makes some sense, considering they figure to do so in order to acquire a shortstop at some point.
  • The Phillies are willing to trade anyone, writes Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, but they may have to wait until the free agent market pans out a bit further before seeing some big deals come to fruition. If they’re able to find a taker for Ryan Howard, it may not come until big bats like Victor Martinez, Nelson Cruz and Melky Cabrera are off the market. The same could be said regarding Cole Hamels in relation to Max Scherzer, James Shields and Jon Lester; GM Ruben Amaro Jr. might find teams more willing to part with a significant prospect package when there are no longer ace-caliber alternatives in free agency.

Braves Notes: Front Office, Payroll, Heyward, Trades

The Braves today announced five new front office hires as well as a promotion. According to a press release, the Braves have hired D’Backs assistant GM Billy Ryan as director of baseball operations; Red Sox scout Tom Batista as a national crosschecker (marking his second stint with the organization); Astros international crosschecker Marc Russo as director of international operations; Mets international crosschecker Mike Silvestri as director of Latin American scouting; and Angels scout Lebi Ochoa as a senior adviser to the player development department. Additionally, Dixie Keller has been promoted from scouting coordinator to manager of scouting operations after 14 years with the organization.

More on the Braves…

  • CEO Terry McGuirk tells David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the team’s payroll won’t be going down in 2015 (Twitter link). O’Brien expects that payroll will remain around the same $112MM mark that the team saw in 2014. That’s not an insignificant amount, as the Braves stretched their payroll considerably in Spring Training in order to add Ervin Santana on a one-year $14.1MM contract after they learned that both Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy would require second Tommy John surgeries. Atlanta’s Opening Day figure of $112MM was the highest in franchise history. The Braves currently have about $79.6MM committed to eight players (plus Dan Uggla) in 2015, and their arbitration class projects to earn $21.4MM (that number would drop by $1.6MM if Jonny Venters is non-tendered). Factoring in the necessary league-minimum players to round out the roster, Atlanta would be looking at a payroll around $106MM by my calculations, so they don’t have a significant amount of flexibility without subtracting from the current roster or receiving an unexpected payroll boost from ownership.
  • O’Brien also points out that Jason Heyward‘s 2015 salary has increased from $7.8MM to $8.3MM, as he received $500K in bonuses for winning a Gold Glove and surpassing 502 plate appearances in 2014 (Twitter links). Additionally, Heyward can earn another $250K for finishing 11th through 20th in the upcoming National League MVP voting. Based on the points-based incentives system outlined on Cot’s Contracts, that number would rise to $375K were he to finish in the 6-10 range.
  • The trade market figures to be a greater focus for president of baseball operations John Hart and assistant GM John Coppolella than the free agent market this offseason, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. Hart and Coppolella figure to spend some of their time at next week’s GM Meetings getting a feel for what type of return they could attain were they to trade Heyward, Justin Upton or Evan Gattis. Additionally, they’ll likely once again try to determine if there’s a creative way to rid themselves of B.J. Upton‘s contract.

NL East Links: Kaneko, Cuddyer, Ricciardi, Braves

Japanese right-hander Chihiro Kaneko is visiting the United States to get a first-hand look at the atmosphere of Major League Baseball by visiting the World Series, according to Yahoo Sports Japan (Japanese link). The 31-year-old Kaneko is the ace of Nippon Professional Baseball’s Orix Buffaloes and is eligible to be posted this offseason, if his team agrees to post him (and, if he expresses a desire to jump to MLB). Kaneko has been scouted personally by Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. in September as well as the Red Sox and Padres, according to the Yahoo report. In 184 innings this season, Kaneko posted a sparkling 1.91 ERA with 9.5 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9, allowing a minuscule seven homers in an excellent season. In parts of nine pro seasons, Kaneko has a 2.69 ERA with 8.0 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and 0.6 HR/9 in 1279 1/3 innings.

Here’s more pertaining to the National League East…

  • Some familiar with the Mets‘ thinking believe that the team would be interested in adding Michael Cuddyer on a two-year deal, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. The Mets are known to be hesitant to deal from their crop of high-upside young arms, and Cuddyer would provide them with a fairly versatile piece that can add some punch to the lineup. Martino also notes that the Mets are monitoring Yoenis Cespedes and consider Rafael Montero more tradeable than Noah Syndergaard or Jacob deGrom. For what it’s worth, Cuddyer grew up in the same town as David Wright and the two have long been friends and offseason workout partners. MLBTR’s Zach Links recently profiled Cuddyer and projected a two-year, $22MM contract.
  • More from Martino, who wrote yesterday that the Mets could be nearing an extension with assistant GM J.P. Ricciardi. The former Blue Jays GM has been with the Mets since 2010 and currently oversees the club’s pro scouting operations while also serving as an adviser to GM Sandy Alderson.
  • There’s been a great deal of speculation that Evan Gattis could be trade bait this winter, but MLB.com’s Mark Bowman takes a long look at whether or not the Braves should entertain offers for Justin Upton and/or Jason Heyward as well. Each corner outfielder is set to become a free agent next winter. Moving one would allow the team to keep Gattis and play him in the outfield, although as Bowman notes, that would significantly weaken the club’s defense. Still, with each dangerously close to the open market, the front office could move one for a group of prospects that would further position the team for success as it heads into a new stadium in 2017, Bowman writes.

Quick Hits: Braves Outfielders, Romo, Hudson

Here are a few stray notes from around the game …

  • As I recently explored in my breakdown of the Braves‘ offseason-to-come, Atlanta faces some decisions in the outfield. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution goes into more detail on the situations of the disappointing B.J. Upton and corner outfielders Justin Upton and Jason Heyward, both of whom will become free agents at season’s end. The Braves “seem prepared” to take a bath on the elder Upton’s long-term deal to move him off the roster, according to O’Brien, and if the can manage it would probably utilize Heyward or a stop-gap in center. Dealing one of the other two players while trying to extend the other has long been discussed as a plausible option, and O’Brien indicates that it is a realistic option to slide Evan Gattis into a corner role to fill any resulting void.
  • As far as extensions go, O’Brien says the Braves talked with Heyward’s representatives about a deal last winter. The team was interested in something that would have fallen well shy of Freddie Freeman‘s $135MM pact, says O’Brien, and Heyward’s asking price was well out of Atlanta’s comfort zone. His number has, in all likelihood, only gone up in the meantime, as Heyward just turned 25 and continues to rack up production — even though he has not returned to the offensive power ceiling he showed earlier in his career.
  • The Royals passed on a chance to sign Sergio Romo for a meager $1K bonus before the Giants eventually took a chance on the reliever, ESPN.com’s Keith Law tweets. While Kansas City certainly cannot be faulted for leaving the then-unheralded Romo behind, it surely would have been nice to have added him from the team’s perspective.
  • On the other hand, the Royals were willing to pay righty Tim Hudson, who said that K.C. made him a “very good offer” of two years this past offseason, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports on Twitter. Like Romo, the veteran ended up with the Giants — in his case, by choice — and will square off against the Royals in the World Series.

Quick Hits: Towles, Braves, Prospects

There have been 23 perfect games in Major League history and 16 instances of a player hitting four home runs in one game, and both of these rare baseball events have taken place on April 30.  White Sox right-hander Charlie Robertson threw a perfecto against the Tigers on this day in 1922; 39 years later, the legendary Willie Mays homered four times as part of a 14-4 Giants rout of the Braves.  Incredibly, there have been two other instances of a four-homer game and a perfect game on the same day — July 18 (Pat Seerey in 1948 and David Cone in 1999) and May 8 (Josh Hamilton in 2012 and Catfish Hunter in 1968).

Here’s some news from around the majors as we head into May…

  • J.R. Towles is fully recovered from a home plate collision that ended his 2013 season and is receiving some interest from Major League teams, MLBTR’s Zach Links reports (Twitter links).  Considered a top-55 prospect headed into the 2008 season, Towles hit .187/.267/.315 in 484 PA with the Astros from 2007-11.  The catcher spent 2012-13 playing for the Triple-A affiliates of the Twins, Dodgers and Cardinals, and is currently hitting well for the independent Bridgeport Bluefish.
  • Three years ago, Jason Heyward was seen as the Braves‘ signature star of the future while Freddie Freeman was projected to have a more modest ceiling, Sports Illustrated’s Ben Reiter writes.  Now, Freeman is emerging as one of the game’s best first basemen while Heyward has yet to truly break through thanks to both injuries and a hole in his swing.  Reflecting how the two players have switched roles, the Braves only locked Heyward up to a two-year commitment during their offseason extension frenzy, while Freeman was given an eight-year, $135MM contract.
  • In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Jim Bowden looks at seven top prospects who could be making their Major League debuts sometime this season.
  • Fortitude is a quality that every scout wants to see in a pitcher, yet it’s one of those intangibles that is hard to both identify or even define, Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus writes.

NL Notes: Reds, Heyward, Gonzalez, Rockies

MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark doesn't expect the Collective Bargaining Agreement to be reopened before its 2016 expiration to address issues with the qualifying offer system, writes Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. "It’s very difficult to open up a CBA," said Clark. "Suffice it to say, if there are issues during the course of any agreement, we continue to have discussions that may not require the CBA be to opened up, making sure that whatever the concerns are, whatever the issues are, and if they can be discussed in some more formal fashion, so be it, but more often than not, come 2016 when we have an opportunity to sit down is when we’ll do so." Last night, Aaron Steen asked MLBTR readers about the qualifying offer and nearly 47% want to tweak the QO while 25% want to eliminate it entirely.

In National League news and notes on Oscar Sunday:  

  • With the ink barely dry on Homer Bailey's six-year, $105MM contract extension, the Reds will be in the same situation with starters Mat Latos, Mike Leake, and Johnny Cueto next year. Owner Bob Castellini told the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay the team wants to retain all three. "We’re going to try to sign all these guys," Castellini said. "Whether we can or not, I don’t know. I don’t have a crystal ball."
  • Castellini also told Fay he is not pleased with the media's coverage of the Reds' offseason because it has had an adverse affect on the team's revenues. "That season-ticket number is the most important number we can generate," said Castellini. "We knew we wanted to sign Homer. We knew we were going to make some other commitments. It’s not that we didn’t look. It gets written in such a way – 'Well, the Reds aren’t doing anything' – that really does affect people buying season tickets." Castellini provided Fay with details of the club's revenue generated through ticket sales, sponsorships, and the national TV contract adding neither he nor any of the other principal owners or investors have ever taken money out of the franchise.  
  • Last month, the Braves gave Jason Heyward a two-year, $13.3MM contract. In two years, the perfect storm of baseball's economics, Heyward's age, and actions taken by the Braves will set the 24-year-old up for a huge payday on a likely barren free agent market, according to Mike Petriello of ESPN.com in an Insider-only piece (subscription required).
  • With mixed reviews to date, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez made his Spring Training debut yesterday. Phillies GM Ruban Amaro Jr. was upbeat about what he saw, reports MLB.com's Todd Zolecki. "He probably threw better with his stuff as far as his velocity and breaking ball since he's been in camp," Amaro said. "I was encouraged that his stuff was better than it had been in his sides. And hopefully it will continue to progress in a positive way." Pitching coach Bob McClure added (as quoted by Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Inquirer), "I saw a very competitive (guy), and that is what I was really hoping for. And he might be one of those guys that’s not the best practice player, but you put him in a game and he competes." Reports surfaced last week Gonzalez could open the season in the minors.
  • Solid pitching will be key to any improvement the Rockies hope to make this season. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick focuses on young starters Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler while the Denver Post's Troy E. Renck examines the Rockies' adherence to pitch counts to protect their starting rotation and the corresponding reliance on their bullpen, which could be called upon to record 10 or 11 outs every game.