More Extensions? But Who’s Left?


 

Originally, this article was going to be about exploring what it might cost the Braves to extend Andrelton Simmons, the next logical extension candidate for the Braves. Of course Frank Wren beat me to the punch and answered my question swiftly.

So with four multi-year contract extensions, and a multi-year deal for Jason Heyward later, one might think Frank Wren (or John Hart, whoever you’d like to credit) has done more than enough this offseason. That guess might be wrong, judging from Wren’s comments following the Simmons extension.

Of course, this should be taken with a grain of salt. Frank Wren could very well be done with extensions for this offseason, but at this rate, it’s better to get this piece off my mind before he makes another brilliant move.
Now that the core is locked up long term, there are very few who fall into the extension candidate profile left on the team. Veterans like the Upton brothers and Dan Uggla are locked up for at least two more seasons a piece, and we all know how the fans feel about two of the three. Chris Johnson and Evan Gattis are now the only projected starters without at least a multi-year guarantee, and both players are definitely a “wait and see,” especially with the presence of Christian Bethancourt.

On the other side of the coin we have the pitching featuring an already locked up Julio Teheran and Craig Kimbrel. A rebounding Brandon Beachy and a promising but unproven Alex Wood are both great arms, but aren’t extension candidates at this time. The rest of the bullpen, aside from a hot and cold Jordan Walden, aren’t due for a big pay and middle relievers are typically never extension candidates due to their fragility and abundance.

All of Frank Wren’s good work likely only leaves 3 candidates for an extension at this time: Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, and Jason Heyward.

Medlen:


At 28, Medlen is the oldest of the candidates, and as a second year arbitration eligible player, the closest one to free agency. It’s no doubt Medlen has been rock solid for the Braves, but with pitching prospects such as J.R. Graham, David Hale, Lucas Sims, and Jason Hursh all being within 2 years away, should the Braves invest in their oldest starting pitcher when they have depth or invest in an area where they have little to none?

Minor:


After Monday’s gut wrenching news about Minor’s offseason procedure, it may not seem like the best time to talk about extending a guy we won’t see pitch until April, but Minor is a Super-Two player, under control for what are sure to be 3 more expensive years. His years of control aside, Minor has also grown into one of the best young left-handers in the game after a breakout 2013. The same questions for Medlen can also be applied to Minor, being a part of the organizations biggest area of depth, but Minor has youth on his side (and if Jo-Jo Reyes and his 4 post-Braves organizations have anything to prove, it’s that being left-handed doesn’t hurt).

Heyward:


At just 24 years old, Jason Heyward still has time to blossom into the superstar he was once pegged as. Hitting free agency at 26 is going to land Heyward a large payday, and before the extensions started pouring in, I would have told you that we had no chance at signing Heyward long term. The situation already seemed to improve after Heyward agreed to a two year deal, avoiding arbitration for his remaining guaranteed years in Atlanta, but Heyward, a Georgia native, could be inclined to stay if he finds comfort working with the core of Simmons, Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel, and Julio Teheran that Frank Wren has assembled for at least the next 4 seasons. I’m sure it won’t be cheap, but Heyward could be open to an extended stay in a Braves uniform.

It is my belief that Jason Heyward is the candidate to choose. The Braves have little to no outfield depth, and would be losing Justin Upton in the same offseason as Heyward. While I fully believe in Mike Minor, and am one of Kris Medlen’s biggest fans, Jason is an elite player in a position the Braves could not even attempt to replace from within in 2016. Of course it takes two to tango, but this article is more about the target than the potential end game.

What Could Heyward Cost?

Heyward just watched close friend Freddie Freeman earn an 8 year/$130MM contract after two good seasons and one elite season. A series of unfortunate injuries has slowed Heyward’s career trajectory, and while that could hurt his case in negotiations, it also leaves his agent with reasons to let his client reach free agency. While Freeman has been more solid and consistent, Heyward plays a much more demanding position (very well, I might add), and is also a threat on the basepaths. Heyward’s agent will likely argue his client’s five tool skill set to have nearly the same advantages to the club as Freeman’s consistency. A consistent factor in these extensions, as Alan pointed out, is that while the Braves didn’t receive huge discount rates with their players, they also did not commit any money to any player past their age 31 seasons. Heyward would likely be in the same boat. Applying this model could set Heyward up for a 4 year, $72-80MM deal covering the 2016-19 seasons, allowing Heyward to potentially hit the open market at the ripe age of 30. A deal like this would essentially be the same as if the Braves had extended him for 6 years/$85.3-93.3MM

This all in theory of course, but I believe Heyward should be the next Brave that Wren targets for an extension. Who do you think should be next? Vote below!

Who should the Braves target for their next extension?

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Tags: Extension Jason Heyward Kris Medlen Mike Minor

  • http://tomahawktake.com/ carpengui

    My vote for Minor presupposes the notion that Heyward and Atlanta will put their heads together and get something done next off-season.

    For Minor, the clock is ticking and the numbers are climbing. Admittedly this current ‘sore shoulder’ thing causes some immediate panic, but hopefully that’s no worse than the soreness you get when starting up your routines again.

    • Benjamin Chase

      His “shoulder issues” that led to issues in another part of the anatomy….chicken/egg argument, I suppose.

      That said, Minor would be my choice as well, mainly because looking through the guys making their way up the system, there’s not a lot of left-handed help on the way, so locking in a lefty early would be advantageous.

  • fireboss

    I want Minor and Medlen for very good reasons.
    Medlen should be extended if for no other reason than that is 200 innings of 3.2-3.5 ERA ball make him a solid #3 starter that could easily be moved if the prospects actually turn into pitchers. Meds isn’t a fireballer and just came off of TJ so a four year deal (to age 32) at 40M or a 3 year (to age 31) at 30M would be cost effective and if the Braves have better or need a piece, a very moveable contract. Arroyo got 2 years at 9.5 plus an 11M third year option with a 4.5 buyout at age 37. Medlen is cheap at the price.
    Minor is definitely a prime candidate. His stuff and performance over the last season and a half have been Ace like. That and the fact that he’s a lefty make him extremely valuable on the FA market. Minor plays next year at 25, buying out his years to age 30 for $54M (6M, 9M, 11M, 13M 15M) isn’t unreasonable looking at today’s market and considering inflation. Pitcher’s are risky but Minor shows no signs of a being a health risk. This shoulder thing was simply over eager training after a long layoff. Once again if the prospects turn into pitchers a contract like that would be very moveable.
    I tend to agree with Braves beat reporter David O’Brien who wrote in detail about why Heyward won’t be extended. He said that “he and the Braves were a figurative mile apart in their preliminary
    discussions of what I’m told was a five-year deal after the 2012 season” and there is no reason to think Heyward has moved anyway but up on his position.He goes on to explain as I have written here that Heyward has no reason to extend now. After a good season his price will be higher;how much would it cost to keep him after that? O’Brien says essentially what I said ” I’ve got a feeling (Heyward and his agents) wouldn’t accept anything less for his first
    five free agent years than, oh, the $106.5 million that Freeman is going
    to get in what would’ve been his first five free-agent years.”
    Even with his injury history – his agents will argue that a broken jaw and appendicitis don’t count- teams will pay for his immense talent. In two years right field in the Bronx will be manned by an old man with bad knees and they have nothing in their farm system. . .period. Heyward can envision a huge check to team him up with his old Buddy McCann. The Red Sox too have an understated outfield and could well see a healthy Heyward leading it in 2016. There are just too many teams with deep pockets that will pay more than the Braves can afford.