Baseball’s general meetings opened today in Phoenix and already sparks are flying off Twitter feeds that the team is seeking to trade catcher Evan Gattis. That should come as no surprise to anybody in Atlanta since this has been a topic for months.
What’s significant about these meetings, and this offseason, is that new team president (and acting general manager) John Hart has been entrusted to make the major decisions. It’s the first new decision-maker the Braves have had since Frank Wren was promoted to general manager in 2007.
The Braves need a leadoff hitter, a center or right fielder and a lineup with higher-percentage hitters. The problems certainly are fixable. Hart hasn’t asked me, but these three players should be in his outgoing tray. I’ve referenced them in other columns and blogs since late last season:
— B.J. UPTON: This is sort of the “duh” move of the offseason. I won’t go as far as saying there’s zero chance of Upton returning because I never thought Dan Uggla would be with the Braves in spring training last season after he had been left off the 2013 playoff roster. What I underestimated was how stubborn Wren would be as far as how much of Uggla’s remaining contract he would be willing to eat. Wren paid for that decision because the second basemen struggled for the first three months of the season before being released and Wren could’ve had another player on the roster rather than force manager Fredi Gonzalez to play lineup roulette.
Dealing Upton (who has three years left on his contract) will be even more difficult than getting rid of Uggla (who had two). My guess is Hart will try to work a trade where he: 1) Takes back another team’s problem contract, hoping/believing that anybody would be an improvement; 2) Also will get approval from ownership to pay a significant chunk of Upton’s deal.
— EVAN GATTIS: I like Gattis. You like Gattis. Everybody likes Gattis. But Christian Bethancourt will be the team’s starting catcher. Gattis doesn’t fit the mold of a veteran backup catcher that the Braves need, nor is he strong enough defensively that a team would want to keep him as a starting outfielder.
Equally important: Gattis, unlike B.J. Upton, has value. He is young, cheap and can hit for power. He isn’t arbitration eligible until 2016 and free agency until 2019. He is an ideal candidate to be a designated hitter in the American League.
— JUSTIN UPTON: He’s a terrific player, even if he runs hot and cold. But he and Jason Heyward both will be going into their free agency seasons and I doubt sincerely the organization will be able to re-sign both (if either). Trading The Good Upton should bring a solid player in return and it would enable the Braves to send a message to Heyward that they are committed to him (assuming they are).
Depending on what players could be acquired in trades or free agency, Heyward could play in either center or right. He obviously has the speed and the arm to play either. Offensively, Heyward hit .271 last season, his highest since .277 in his rookie year. It’s still not as high as most would’ve projected for his fifth season but he hit over .300 in July and August and .298 after the All-Star break, despite dividing his time between first and fifth in the batting order.
•Recent tunes on digital jukebox
— MyAJC: Falcons’ division hopes hinge on beating teams other than Bucs — AJC: Short takes on Falcons’ win over Tampa Bay — MyAJC: If Georgia Tech has come together, we’ll find out against Clemson, UGA — AJC: Short takes on Georgia Tech’s win over N.C. State — AJC: Weekend Predictions: Falcons’ find their penicillin — the Bucs — MyAJC: Amid Atlanta misery, can Hawks really be shining light? — AJC: Election Day: Vote to keep or fire coaches (polls) — MyAJC: Georgia blows it all with inexcusable performance — AJC: Short takes on Georgia’s stunning loss to Florida — AJC: Weekend Predictions: No Gurley (oooh, scary); but Dogs over Gators — AJC: Rules are dumb but that’s no excuse for Todd Gurley — MyAJC: Mark Richt deserves credit for holding Georgia together — AJC: NCAA mum but Muschamp expects Gurley to play vs. Florida — AJC: Will Arthur Blank make move with Mike Smith (and reader poll)? — MyAJC: Georgia Tech takes advantage of Pitt’s fumble-fest — AJC: Short takes: Georgia Tech 56 (points), Pittsburgh 6 (lost fumbles) — AJC: LIVE: Tech’s defense must improve vs. Pitt — AJC: Weekend Predictions: Falcons lose, Jackets pull upset, Dogs in prayer circle — AJC: Will a fresh perspective elude Braves? — MyAJC: Todd Gurley’s return would raise Georgia’s ceiling again — AJC: Why did NCAA say yes to Mo’ne Davis but no to Todd Gurley? — MyAJC: Why playoff picture looks good for SEC (and Georgia) — MyAJC: Here’s good news: Falcons are leaving country — MyAJC: Georgia Tech continues to stomp on hope — AJC: Weekend Predictions: Dogs win, Falcons lose, Jameis enabled — AJC: Georgia dealing with reality, FSU avoiding it — MyAJC: Does NCAA care that public sentiment favors Gurley, athletes? — MyAJC: Georgia’s response heard loud and clear — MyAJC: NCAA needs to realize amateurism is dead — AJC: Minus Gurley, Dogs must overcome flaws — AJC: With Gurley suspended, is Georgia done? — MyAJC: If Gurley broke rules, that’s on him — AJC: Weekend Predictions: No Gurley, no Dogs, no kidding — AJC: Blank stands by Smith, Dimitroff. What say you? — MyAJC: Arthur Blank won’t give Falcons’ mandates, speculate on future