In all honesty, I was going to wait to discuss this until after the season ended. However, it seems that I’m not the only one who has considered the idea of having Atlanta sell off some of their best assets in order to rebuild this team and its underwhelming farm system.
Interestingly enough, this is one guy I specifically left off that list from mid-July.
Writing for the BostonHerald.com today, Scott Lauber speculates openly that Jason Heyward might very well be the best fit to complete the re-tooling operation that the Boston Red Sox currently have underway after their own sell-off. A better fit, even, than Giancarlo Stanton. But before you write this off an idle gossip, note that there have been major things going on at Fenway.
Since late July, the Red Sox have fearlessly…
- traded RHP Jon Lester and OF Jonny Gomes to the Oakland Athletics for OF Yoenis Cespedes and a 2015 competitive balance draft pick.
- traded John Lackey (and minor league LHP Corey Littrell) to the St. Louis Cardinals for 1B/OF Allen Craig and RHP Joe Kelly
- traded SS Stephen Drew to the Yankees! for Kelly Johnson
- traded LHP Andrew Miller to the Baltimore Orioles for minor league LHP Eduardo Rodriguez
- signed (i.e., outbid others for) Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo
A Bit of History
Lauber compares sending Heyward to Boston as being similar to the deal in which the Red Sox acquired Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Pades during the 2010 off-season. In that trade, the Padres received three top prospects:
- 1B Anthony Rizzo (check the Cubs’ stats about how this has worked out for them; he was the Sox #7 prospect then)
- CF Reymond Fuentes (#9 prospect at the time)
- P Casey Kelly (#2 prospect at the time)
Clearly – regardless of who is at the helm of Boston’s front office – the Red Sox have not been shy about making major moves to revamp their team… whether at the top or the bottom.
What Would be in this for the Braves?
There are two facets to this question: the personnel and the financial implications.
PERSONNEL: Right now, the Red Sox still have a fairly robust farm system, and three top talents could consist of …
OF Jackie Bradley, Jr. (#2) This would be an almost essential part of any such trade, for that would be necessary to fill the hole left by Heyward’s absence. That said, he’s not graded high enough to be the kind of player we see in Heyward today… but if he were to eventually demonstrate the year he had at AAA in 2013, then… maybe. Oh, and he can play center field. Hmmmm…
- 3B Garin Cecchini. (#3). Having few decent 3B guys in the system, Cecchini would be an excellent ‘get’ for Atlanta. Like JBJ, he’s also major-league ready.
- If you actually were to get the #2/#3 prospects from Boston, then that’s probably enough to call this a success. Failing that, I’d consider leaving JBJ and taking one of the top pitchers, be that Henry Owens (#4) or Anthony Ranaudo (#5). But there are several other pitching candidates ranked in the 8-15 range: Allen Webster, Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Trey Ball, among others. Pick one you like and wrap this up.
FINANCIAL: The Braves approached Jason on an extension deal this past off-season, and instead agreed to a 2-year pact through next year. That pays him $5.5 million now and $7.8 million next year.
There has been optimism that the the tenor of negotiations with Jason and his representative have amicable to this point – Jason hasn’t made any noise in the press about fairness or anything else. It seems, rather, that Jason has opted to “bet on himself” to see if he’d finally have that ‘break-out’ year before coming to the table to work on a long-term deal, possibly after the 2014 campaign.
Obviously, Jason is a big fan favorite, and his play is among the best on the team in demonstrating a work ethic, hustle, determination, and … results. His batting average keeps climbing, and he’s everyone’s pick around the league for a Gold Glove in right field with the highest fangraphs defensive WAR rating in all of baseball – at any position.
The Braves will have to ask themselves this key question: how much will all of that cost us?
For 2015, it won’t cost any more than the $7.8m already committed via the existing contract. But with Jason having his best season to date, you’d have to believe that this is the ultimate “sell high” point… if you want to do that.
We’ve already seen the effect that long-term contract extensions can have – especially if you have too many of them. It creates difficulty in being able to handle players performing poorly, or in being able to promote those from the minors who could improve the team.
Not that this applies to Jason – except that his departure would create an empty slot into which others could be placed.
We also mentioned the farm system: transferring 3 solid prospects in means a brighter future with a better likelihood of performance in the future.
So the big-picture question – and I think it’s an open question – is this: should Jason Heyward be one of the marquis faces of this franchise along with Freddie Freeman? How much money is that going to cost and for how long will that commitment last?
Or: this winter, should that cord be cut in favor of a decidedly different future?
I could see this as an opportunity to keep up with the already-retooling Mets and Marlins, who are both on track to be significantly improved for 2015 and beyond. There are other ways that Atlanta could do so, but moving Heyward and/or someone such as Evan Gattis might be ways to do so with big results.
One final thing to consider: if not Boston… others would line up for the chance at Jason Heyward, too. The faces would change, but the above questions will remain the same.