Jason Heyward Rumors

John Hart Talks Braves Trades Of Past And Future

Braves president of baseball operations John Hart discussed the upcoming trade deadline and a wide range of other topics in a fascinating Q&A with Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A full read of this excellent interview is highly recommended, but here are some of the highlights:

With July 31 fast approaching, Hart said it’s still an open question: “Do we pick up the phone or answer the phone? I’m not sure yet.” Noting that he “never made any false promises that we were built to win this year,” Hart nevertheless said it’s still possible that the team will make some additions at the deadline. But he cautioned that “we’re not going to be big buyers.”

[RELATED: Braves To Sign Jason Frasor]

Of course, selling is also still a distinct possibility, but Hart made clear that he wouldn’t move veterans just to get something back. “We don’t have the big chip that will take somebody over the top,” said Hart. “If people want good pieces and they can offer us something, yeah. But we’re going to take great care. We’re playing short. There is a very real possibility we won’t do anything.”

Looking back, Hart said that his first order of business upon taking the reigns of baseball decisionmaking in Atlanta was “to rebuild the pitching staff” at the major league level and “grow” the farm system. It was not, apparently, a tough choice to move veteran assets to facilitate those efforts. As he put it: “At some point, you have to stop and ask, ‘How long are we going to chase this?'”

And the major challenge? Per Hart: “[W]e had some economic pieces out there that weren’t conducive to this club making moves. I had to think about moving some good players and I had to think: How do I attach good players to move money? I had some of the most unusual trade conversations I’ve had in my life.”

Hart also talked through the deals that were ultimately made. You’ll need to (and should) read the entire piece for his full breakdown, of course. Hart indicated that he was somewhat disappointed with being unable to add both a current major league starter and a future arm for Justin Upton (after achieving that with Jason Heyward).

“The Justin Upton deal we [discussed] so many pieces. The guys we wanted, [the Padres] didn’t put in — they got put into another [trade],” Hart said. “[Evan] Gattis, we looked at a lot of different names. There were some circumstances that didn’t work out.” (It’s not clear this is the deal he’s referring to, but it’s worth noting that San Diego shipped Jesse Hahn to the A’s, as part of the Derek Norris deal, the day before acquiring Upton.)

[RELATED: Braves Trade Justin Upton To Padres]

As for the deal that sent closer Craig Kimbrel to the Padres on the eve of Opening Day, Hart explaind that it took an exceptional set of circumstances. Questions via Schultz, of course:

Q: But was your only chance to get rid of B.J. Upton’s contract.

A: That was obviously the intent. We had 10 calls on Kimbrel in the winter but we just hung up because they wouldn’t take an off load. San Diego was one of the clubs that came up early.

Q: Did it shock you when they said they would take Upton?

A: Yeah, it did. They put all of their chips in.

Hart went on to address catcher Christian Bethancourt, saying that he believes the youngster needs to improve his “level of preparedness.” As to whether the team moved him to the big leagues too soon, Hart explained: “We talked about it in the winter. We called him up last year and he had a good first month and a not-so-good last month. That sort of left a bad taste. It’s fixable. But at some point the player has to assume some responsibility.”

Finally, Hart offered rather effusive praise for skipper Fredi Gonzalez. He indicated that he felt it would be an easy decision to decide whether to retain him for 2016, though stopped short of making any promises. “I don’t want to go there,” said Hart. “There’s timing. But Fredi’s been really good. He’s been good to work with and he’s done a good job with his staff. And this club may fall apart but I know if it happens it’s not going to be because Fredi forgot how to manage.”


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.