The Jason Heyward Trade: One Day Later


If you missed the big news yesterday, the Atlanta Braves parted ways with Jason Heyward (and Jordan Walden) in exchange for Shelby Miller (and Tyrell Jenkins) from the St. Louis Cardinals.

Odds are you didn’t miss that news.

Today, I wanted to take another look into the deal. Our good friend and Editor Brad Rowland gave us his thoughts on the deal almost immediately yesterday, but we disagree on several different levels. I figured it would be good for myself and everyone else if I gave this post some time between the deal’s announcement.

Here we go.

I don’t think this is a bad baseball move for the Braves. In fact, I think it’s a good one–depending on what the team does from here on out. After botching the contract negotiations with Heyward a few years ago, John Hart and the front office was apparently left with the feeling that Heyward wasn’t going to be signable long-term.

Whether or not the team tried it’s best to re-sign Jason Heyward is certainly up for debate. Heyward himself claimed that he wanted to stay in Atlanta, but didn’t feel like the team wanted the same thing:

Regardless, this offseason Hart knew that Heyward was going to become a free agent, and instead of keeping him and competing for him on the free agent market (where the Braves would certainly lose, without an extremely favorable home town discount) next offseason, Hart decided to package him in a deal for the future.

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And make no mistake–this is a deal for the future.

Hart has said multiple times that this was a deal that benefitted the team in both the short and long-term. That’s a load of crap. Heyward was the best player on the team last season and not having him for 2015 is certainly going to hurt more than having Miller in the rotation is going to help.

That said, this doesn’t mean the deal is bad for Atlanta. If Hart and the “Braves Way” front office is indeed keen on rebuilding completely for 2017, then this deal makes a lot of sense.

Four years of Miller and six years of Jenkins (who Keith Law says immediately becomes the team’s best pitching prospect) is certainly a good haul for one year of Jason Heyward and two years of Jordan Walden.

Before you freak out and call me crazy, go read Law’s article and his break down of Miller and Jenkins. Both of these players are much better than the vibe you might have gotten from Twitter yesterday. Here’s part of what Law says about Miller:

"He’s a mid-rotation starter at worst, as long as he stays healthy, and given his delivery and the evolution of his approach, I believe he can end up as a solid No. 2 starter."

Four years of a mid-rotation starter and six years of a pitching prospect with the potential of a No. 2 or 3 starter is a good return for one year of Jason Heyward and two years of Walden. If you don’t agree with me, well we’re probably going to forever have differing opinions on this deal. Either way, I’d urge you to understand that Miller is better than his 2014 season might suggest–as many people have already pointed out.

In my opinion, this is a good deal if the Braves are committed to doing the a full rebuild. Yes, rebuilding is always brutal but a complete rebuild is always preferable to half-way rebuilding (*points to the Phillies*).

So, it’s time for the Braves to start selling off parts who aren’t named Freeman, Simmons or Teheran.

That means you Justin Upton, that means you Evan Gattis, and yes that certainly means you Craig Kimbrel.

It’s time for the Braves to start selling off parts who aren’t named Freeman, Simmons or Teheran

Justin Upton

Aside from the three untouchables* mentioned above Upton has the most value on the team. He was arguably the best hitter on the team last year and with a contract that is expiring after 2015 makes perfect sense for the Braves to try and move. Upton is an excellent major-league bat and at just 27 years old would certainly look attractive to a competing team–or even a team with money, interested in resigning him. Trade him.

Evan Gattis

Given the defensive… uncertainties… of Evan Gattis, he would bring much more value to a team in the American League, where he can get time at the DH spot. Since the Braves don’t have the luxury of having him just hit, trading him now after a 22-homer season looks like a better option than having him clown around in left field next year. Gattis is 28 years old and certainly shouldn’t be a long-term solution in the outfield. Trade him.

Craig Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel is the best closer in Major League Baseball and has been for the past three or four years. It’s great to have a great closer. But you know who doesn’t need a great closer? Teams that aren’t competing. There’s no point in Atlanta holding on to Kimbrel if the team is going to rebuild, and with the way bullpen arms tend to flame out and the rising price tag that he commands now is the perfect time to dump him for some pieces that will help when the Braves actually want to try and win.

In conclusion

Trading Jason Heyward to the Cardinals for Shelby Miller was a good baseball move. It’s sad to see Heyward leave the team, but he was gone after 2015 and getting a good return on him now is obvious. Failing to build the team around Heyward is another question entirely, and one that can certainly be debated. It likely comes from the combination of handing out bad free agent contracts (see: Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton) and poor communication in dealing with Heyward in-house/the belief that he was simply going to ask for too much.

This trade only makes complete sense if the team is going to commit to doing an entire rebuild around the players they have chosen to build around (Simmons, Freeman, Teheran). Regardless of what Hart says, this is a move for the long-term and it’s only going to pay off if the Braves start dumping players with value now and stockpiling talent for the future.

TL;DR: Jason Heyward is a great baseball player. For whatever reason, he wasn’t in the team’s plans for the future. Trading him now with Walden for Miller and Jenkins undoubtedly makes the team better in the long run. Prepare for a rough two years and hope the Braves can do this rebuild right.

Or buy some Cardinals gear.

*No player on any team should ever be untouchable. There is price for anyone, always. But the Braves should certainly be focusing on building around Simmons/Freeman/Teheran.

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