Braves trade Jason Heyward; John Hart just took a huge risk

Jason Heyward recently was selected as defensive player of year. (Curtis Compton, AJC)

Jason Heyward recently was selected as defensive player of year. (Curtis Compton, AJC)

Jason Heyward recently was selected as defensive player of year. (Curtis Compton, AJC)

Updated: 1:30 p.m.

I understand that Braves president John Hart believes the team needs significant changes in the everyday lineup. And he’s right. But by trading Jason Heyward, he just took a monumental risk.

The Braves dealt Heyward and pitcher Jordan Walden to St. Louis for young starting pitcher Shelby Miller and minor league pitcher Tyrell Jenkins.

So gone is a home-grown player, a standout who figured to be a franchise centerpiece for years — and probably should have been.

It figured that either Heyward and/or Justin Upton would be traded this winter because both have value and are one year from unrestricted free agency. But the preference here would have been to keep Heyward, who because of his defense, speed and bat impacts the team on a daily basis more than any other player in the lineup, regardless of where he is batting. Heyward also recently was selected as the defensive player of the year.

Had he ever reached the superstar level that was projected when he first came into the majors? No, not yet. But he was a player worth keeping and investing in. Heyward certainly has the potential to be great, and if he realizes that potential with the Cardinals or another organization, that’s on the Braves.

Hart realized re-signing Heyward was going to be a problem so he figured he might as well try to get a player now. “He was going out (into the free agent market) and we didn’t want to be left (with no return). … It was incumbent on us to see what we can do,” Hart said on a conference call today.

But in doing so, the Braves take a hit in the immediate future — that being the 2015 season — even if Hart maintained that the team is better “in the short term and the long term.” Hart’s hope is that Miller will have a significant and immediate impact on the starting rotation.

Pending other moves, Hart also said there’s a possibility that catcher Evan Gattis will be moved to left field and Justin Upton will be moved to right. Well, from a defensive standpoint, that certainly would be adventurous.

For what it’s worth, Hart did not create this situation. That’s on former general manager Frank Wren. He is is the one who signed a number of core players to long-term contracts last winter and spring but agreed to only a two-year extension with Heyward. It was clear then that Heyward’s time as a Brave could be nearing an end.

I spoke with Heyward at length in spring training last year on the situation. Here’s a link to that column. An excerpt:

But now there’s a backdrop of other Braves players getting long-term contracts and economic realities for 2015.

“I don’t have to focus on that,” said Heyward, who recently signed a two-year contract that will take him to free agency. “We’re all prepared to go year to year anyway until we get to free agency.”

He was drafted in 2007 out of Henry County High School. Three years later, he crushed a three-run home run in his first major league at-bat. A city exploded. There were no thoughts of his possible exit.

Heyward acknowledged the change, saying, “But this is four or five years later. All the player can do is show up, give it his best and try to help his team win games. That’s all I can do. It’s not up to me to say who comes here and who gets how much.”

Miller and Jenkins may end up being nice pieces for the future. But Hart had a piece for today and potentially the future and he just dealt it.

A recent writer’s dozen from the digital jukebox
— MyAJC: It makes no sense but Falcons are in first
— AJC: Short takes on Falcons’ win over Panthers
— MyAJC: Dogs have a statement win, now hope for best with Gurley
— AJC: Short takes on Georgia’s win and Gurley
— MyAJC: As hoops open, Tech looks far more ready than Georgia
— AJC: Weekend Predictions: Dogs, Jackets cross bridge, Falcons back to normal
— MyAJC: Ladies and gentlemen Georgia vs. Georgia Tech (in basketball, yes now)
— AJC: If Georgia wins out, would it sway playoff committee?
— MyAJC: All eyes are on Gurley (even if you can’t find him)
— AJC: Hart should deal both Uptons and Gattis
— 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)?
 

Reader Comments 0

137 comments
Ersatz
Ersatz

Does this mean Jason won't be able to enjoy unlimited tater skins, brewskis, and babyback ribs at the 17-story Applebee's in barvesworld, paid in full by cobb taxpayers?

Cousingeorgestone
Cousingeorgestone

Kudos to Hart for having the Stones to do this- The guy is a great defender to be sure but other than that, average at best and he is going on his 6th year in the bigs.  Forget this fantasy known as "potential", give me a break.   Heyward has underachieved for years, his OPS shows it big time, lifetime .262 hitter, still has holes in his swing galore, is worthless against lefties, has way too many Strike Outs and is another in a long line of rally killers.  May be a great guy and teammate but one can certainly do better for far less money, at least with respect to offense.

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

Agreed. The Braves have relied on 'potential' far to often in the past with guys like Andruw Jones and Jeff Francouer who are currently struggling just to keep their jobs in Japan and AAA Philly respectively. Heyward seems like a good guy but where it counts he's not an overly productive hitter (particularly at the $12M/year he's rumored to attract in free agency). Good move by the Braves to let him seek his potential elsewhere and hopefully move on to someone with a better chance.

DocRivers
DocRivers

@GeorgeJetsen

$12M/ per year??? The Braves would jump all over that.  Try $20M+/per year. That's what is rumored to be what he will ask for and command on the open market.

TheVoice
TheVoice

I'm not sure about all the stats but J Hey was the most interesting Brave to watch for me. He just seemed to make games more interesting by either great D or timely O.   We'll miss that piece of the season on a day to day basis.  


At least things are changing!  Another round of doing the same thing was going to be hard to follow.  It may not be better but at least its different.


Go Braves!

GASports
GASports

Still more work to be done....Ok now....please find a lead off hitter and a 3rd baseman! 

Bogey
Bogey

@GASports  Parazza is coming to hit leadoff....patience please.


Thinking outside the box at 3B......would you take ARod in exchange for the Yankees taking BJ off our hands as long as it didn't cost us anything?


Personally, I can't stand ARod, but he's still better than Upton.  In fact, I just got ill typing this post.....

TideDawg
TideDawg

For all of those lamenting the trade of a homegrown product that was average offensively and great defensively. Don't think for a minute that Heyward would not abandon the Braves for a contract offering a few million $$s more. At that point he would say "I love the Braves but this is a business decision". Loyalty??? There is no loyalty in major league sports where millions of dollars are on the line.


About Gattis: He is a catcher that was thrown into left field, a position he had never played at the major league level, and some of you expected him to be great?? He will never be great at that position, but with winter ball he should come into spring training as an adequate left fielder with a big bat. He will be better than J. Upton because he will hustle and J Upton was a loafer like his brother B.J.


Sorry to see LaStella go!! I think they should have tried him at 3rd base. He was quick but not great range for a 2nd baseman. He started out hitting .300 but my guess is that Walker started helping him and he like the other Braves couldn't hit after that. Let's see.....Terdo came out of the minors hitting over .300, LaStella over .300, and several others came up hitting over .300. After a month of Walker instruction they couldn't hit their butt with either hand.

Bogey
Bogey

@TideDawg  Hart hit a homerun  on the LaStella trade!!  We're getting a big bullpen arm in Viscaino (sp?) AND getting over $830K to spend on bonuses for signing international prospects - Hart estimates he'll bag up to 7 or 8 good prospects with that $.


If only 2 of those prospects make the Braves club in 3-4 years, that means Hart would've got 3 major leaguers for LaStella....brilliant if it comes to pass.


Hart's batting 1.000 so far.  JUp is next: should get a good starting pitcher and strong young OF prospect in return at least.  JUp, BJ, Heyward and Uggs $ off next year = over $40m available to spend on FA in 2016.

KatieR620
KatieR620

We've already seen Gattis in left,  losing a playoff game chasing down doubles.



KatieR620
KatieR620

The Braves have a staff full of nice average not great starting pitchers,  they have found parts all over.


Everyone saying they can find outfielders...oh yeah? It's been at least a decade now since the outfield was watchable,  and they just traded the one guy who could play a lick. 


Justin Upton has the most hollow numbers in existence.   Shelby Miller better strike out 350 because you're not shaving off any runs in that outfield and you're not producing any either.

KatieR620
KatieR620

Braves traded the one piece in the outfield that could and would actually play defense for a 2 or 3 pitcher (6 innings every 5 days)


This is an abomination of stupidity brought on by god awful ownership. I hope less than 15,000 a night show next year. 


Shelby Miller,  sounds like someone who should be onstage at the Grand Ole Opry tonight.  


The management of sports teams in this town is an absolute JOKE.   Fire Everybody.  Braves are a grease fire.

GeorgeJetsen
GeorgeJetsen

Don't worry. Turner Field attendance was already going to be way down even before this trade due to the stupidity this organization has displayed over the last 10 years. They have clearly made a decision to enter rebuilding mode so I'm sure they expect fan support to be down the next few years.

A-pride
A-pride

@KatieR620 Right and what did we win by having Jason Heyward on this team the past 5 years. Bottom line is he didn't do enough while he was here. Like it or not he's considered a veteran now and more was expected of him

LegalBeagle3
LegalBeagle3

I posted this the other day, but I think it bears repeating in the wake of the Heyward deal and in preparation for what will surely be more deals to come.In the offseason of 1989 the Braves could’ve traded the beloved Dale Murphy to the Mets for Howard Johnson, Len Dykstra, Rick Aguilera and others.The Padres were willing to give up Sandy Alomar Jr., John Kruk, and Greg Williams among others.Either trade would’ve stacked the team for years to come.Instead, the Braves gave into the temptation to keep a fan favorite, the team continued to suck even with Murphy who also began an unprecedented decline that season.End result: Braves traded Murphy anyway the next year and got NOTHING in return.Here, they absolutely did the right thing.It was basically a no-lose deal for them.

ChuckinAlpharetta
ChuckinAlpharetta

@CarrollSanders 

Night and day - you're talking about fan favorites on the upside and downside of their career - this was only about payroll and the fact that our ownership's tight pursestrings make it impossible to keep Heyward - one of the most gifted outfielders in the game.

LegalBeagle3
LegalBeagle3

@ChuckinAlpharetta @CarrollSanders Nonsense! Murphy was in the prime of his career as evidenced by the bounty of players that teams were willing to part with for him.  He was coming off a 44 HR season in 87, regularly winning gold gloves, all-star appearances and having won 2 MVPs a few years before.  he was clearly a very talented and highly coveted player, far more so than Heyward will ever likely become.  That said, the right thing for the team at that time considering all factors including payroll constraints would have been to move him.  They didn't, he declined, and they got nothing for him.  Similarly here, if Heyward fails to improve this season or regresses, the whole aura of potential is gone and we get nothing.  if he excels, he will command stanton-like money and we can't afford him anyway. Like I said, it was a no-lose proposition for the Braves to trade him.

Falcons63
Falcons63

It was becoming increasingly obvious that Heyward was simply not going to develop into the offensive player the Braves and everyone else thought he would be.  Another year of .271 and 11 Hr's was not going to increase his value. Before the sabermetrics craze Heyward would be considered a weak hitting good fielding RFer.  Now there seems to be an infinite number of stats used to justify a players worth... or lack thereof.   I find it interesting that Mr. Shultz talks of the huge risk of trading for a top 2 rotation guy and a good bullpen asset for a weak hitting corner OFer and a 30 something often injured reliever.  This is the same Jeff Schultz that argued passionately with me via email exchange about the logic of the Braves giving most of the farm system to the Rangers for Mark Texeira.. though his numbers and Adam Laroche's numbers weren't that different the year before.  I loved Heyward's hustle.  But this guy is as fragile as glass.  Remember Chipper basically questioning his toughness and commitment to the team?  There is always an element of risk in any trade.  But teams that want to win usually require bold moves to do so.  Only time will tell, but I think this stands to be a good trade.  I think Miller helps stabilize the starting staff.. Vizciano becomes a valuable bullpen piece... and Heyward continues to put up pedestrian offensive numbers for the Cards before departing to another team willing to pay him for his potential. Bradley in his column pointed out he is 25. with great potential.  But he was also 22 with potential.. and 23 with great potential.. and last year 24 with great potential... but simply not a lot of production. His potential is an asset.  But every year that ticks by he become less and less potentially "that player".  Use that asset now while this value still exists.  He may well become that great player.  I just don't think it will happen.  More likely he will continue to make the "all airport" team.  Looks the part but simply doesn't perform.   I applaud bold moves.  Right or wrong this is a bold move.. but a move which unlike the Texeira move is not based upon mortgaging your future for a guy that was going to bolt for brighter lights in a year.  As far as the possibility of the White Bear in the LF?  I remember a time when some pretty good Phillies teams had a galloping elephant named Greg Luzinski out in Left.  I know the sabermetric guys will cry and gnash their teeth but I think Gattis with work will be an adequate LFer.  Give him 450 ab's without spending the summer crouching behind home plate and there is no telling what offensive numbers the guy might put up.  Looking forward to spring!

Bogey
Bogey

One of the most sensible posts regarding Hart's trade. JHey has been vocal that the Braves cut off talks on a long term deal quickly?....that tells me all we need to know:

He wanted "potential" money, not "productivity" money.....no doubt a huge gap, and the Braves can not afford big money going to an underachieving player (learn anything from Uggs and BJ?)

Why would he even be coming out NOW with these comments? Sounds like sour grapes, and only confirms the Braves belief he would leave in FA.

We all like Heyward, but this was a great move by Hart.

Oh yeah, for all of you who are in love with JUp.....get your keyboards ready for Round 2 of whining, because he 's the next to go. Expect another very good pitcher and likely a good young OF prospect coming back to us for him.

skeeterN
skeeterN

Somebody explain to me what's the use for having good pitching, but AA position players. I don't see no Maddux, Smoltz or Glavine on this roster. Even when they were pitching, there were some all star players behind them. After the purging, who is the remaining all star, Freeman? 


This organization is regressing back the 70's and 80's.  Hell!!, I say change their name to Cobb/Marietta Braves since y'all are in the mood for changing.

NajehDavenpoop
NajehDavenpoop

The Marlins opened up the checkbook to the tune of $300 million to keep their home grown star. The Braves traded theirs for an average pitcher so they could control his rights longer. This is who we are now. We have switched places with the Marlins.


If there is any position where the Braves have been able to turn lemons into lemonade over the years, it is starting pitcher. Since when does this franchise give up valuable position players for other teams' pitchers? 

Lemke_Knuckler
Lemke_Knuckler

@NajehDavenpoop Heyward is a slightly above average offensive OF.  That does not make him a star.  Judge the move based on what Heyward has done the past 5 seasons, not on what we expected he should have done the past 5 seasons.

Bogey
Bogey

I'm sorry, but if you believe the Stanton signing was a great move by the Marlins, you are wrong. A small market team with laughable attendance/support/revenue just committed ridiculous $ to ONE player. How will that play with their other good young players who feel underpaid? How many arb and DA players will be traded because there 's insufficient funds available?

This isn't basketball' where a Lebron or Jordan can absolutely carry a team by himself.

The first big money/long years deal that brings value, let us know when that happens. The Braves are doing it right....Hart WILL clean up Wren's mess.

A-pride
A-pride

@NajehDavenpoop Make no mistake the Marlins are still gonna be the Marlins because they won't have enough money to sign anyone else to protect Stanton in the lineup. And he will absolutely sign with another team after his 30th b-day because he will have already gotten paid but sick and tired of losing...imo

Jerry916
Jerry916

The Braves still don't have a leadoff hitter, and Heyward was the closest to that on this team.  They lost speed on the base paths and exceptional defense in the outfield.



A-pride
A-pride

@Jerry916 And where did that get the Braves by hitting Heyward leadoff? One playoff game and packing their bags for the winter.

Jerry916
Jerry916

The runs that Heyward didn't produce at the plate, he saved from the outfield on a few occasions.  You'll realize just how valuable he was when Gattis, BJ, and Justin play their version of "Keystone Cops" in the outfield.


Does the trading of Heyward mean that the Braves are going to resign Justin? 



Bogey
Bogey

JUp is next to go.....and rightfully so. He will demand even more $ than Heyward, he's not worth it, and once the Braves dump his big brother Justin will get very upset and would definitely NOT resign with the Braves for less (or even comparable) money than elsewhere.

Hart will get strong value by trading him.

GWJ0525
GWJ0525

Based on Everything I like the trade, and will still like it even if Heyward finds himself at the plate in St Louis.

Jerry916
Jerry916

@GWJ0525  What are your likes about the trade? 

Share with the board how this moves improves the Braves.


It saves them some money, but they have enough #3 and #4 pitchers on the roster all ready.

Lemke_Knuckler
Lemke_Knuckler

@Jerry916 @GWJ0525

  1. Heyward never really had a good home in the lineup.  He's not an ideal leadoff hitter.  He can't hit #2 in front of Freddie because of the lefty thing.  He hasn't shown enough consistent power to handle #4 or #5.  
  2. Shelby Miller is a huge talent, picture Jason Schmidt in his prime and that's what this kid is capable of.  Putting his potential alongside Teheran & Wood was a good move in the pitching rich NL East.  He's a #3 or #4 right now, but profiles as a workhorse ace.  I bet 
    Roger does some good things with him.
  3. The Braves were not going to give Heyward the big deal he was likely seeking.
  4. This doesn't make the Braves better in 2015, but it does put them in position to be back in the postseason in 2016 and beyond.  In terms of rebuilding, this organization was desperately in need of something like this and what usually takes most organizations 2 to 3 years to accomplish, I think the Braves will be able to turn it back around in a year or 2.

KENCOWART
KENCOWART

TO 30 YEARS BRAVE FAN.  " MERICLE" IS SPELLED  MIRACLE , BUT YOUR VERSION IS ENTERTAINING.

the doc is back
the doc is back

greater risk to not do it. he has been inconsistent where he needed to make the biggest impact, with his bat. weakest part of his five tools were at the plate.

SOB
SOB

My take is if you're gonna have a bush league manager, you might as well fill the roster with bush league players. No player of any worth is going to come to Losersville, USA by his own volition -- and the few good ones already here are going to leave first chance they get. Get used to it. That's the way it is going to be for, well, probably forever. Nice knowing you, Freddy Freeman. Andrelton. Kimbrel. Many greener pastures to play in elsewhere for ya'll when you can escape this black hole of a MLB farm team...

Iluvnutella
Iluvnutella

@SOB  Wren wrecked the farm teams. It will be fine again after a few drafts.

the doc is back
the doc is back

@SOB like td did with the falcons, trading away draft picks for julio, schuerholz damaged the farm trading about four major leaguers for a one year rental. JS damaged and ignored the farm and left it barren before wren walked in.

SOB
SOB

@Iluvnutella My point was that there is, or soon will be, a AA baseball team and manager, masquerading as a Major League Baseball team.

SOB
SOB

@-sting- @SOB Hi sting. My point was, and is, that the farm team is pretty much what the Braves are now putting on the field as the Atlanta Braves. And it will get worse as the few quality players still here under contract will leave for greener pastures (better teams and better organizations) first chance that they get. Thus, a continuing the downward spiral.

armchair
armchair

Heyward put the Braves in a bad position. He's not come close to living up to his potential as a hitter--very mediocre--and yet they would probably have to give him a lucrative contract next year, and if it's one thing that Braves can't afford, it is giving big money to another mediocre player. The Braves also need pitching, and we'll just have see if Miller has the goods or not. Heyward still has the potential to be very good, and if there is any franchise that it will get more out of him it will be St. Louis. Let's face it: The Braves are now in a complete rebuilding mode after the disastrous moves made by Wren. 

Jerry916
Jerry916

@armchair  Wha t mediocre players did the Braves give "Big Money"?  Please don't say BJ and Uggla.  Their performance in the Braves' uniform was no where near mediocre.  Ha they performed mediocre, the Braves would have kept Uggla, and made the playoffs last season.


Those two players (top FA contracts for the Braves) performed at the bottom of the list of players in MLB.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

One of the dumbest trades in Braves history.

And how is it that a crummy franchise like the Marlins can pay for name-brand talent while the Braves can't even hang on to a not-quite all star?

Braves:  Losers

BravesFanSince1961
BravesFanSince1961

I like this trade.  The OLD Braves problem was they fell in love with the players and couldn't see the forest for the trees. In J-Hay's defense he was never the same player (hitter-wise) after getting his jaw broken by the hit by pitcher. Both Miller and Hayward get fresh starts with new teams.  Thank you Jason and Jordan for what you did for the Braves.

gtech10
gtech10

St. Louis fans...y'all may have gotten the best of us again. When you see Heyward go from first to third or score from first on a double in the gap, you are going to fall in love with him. The guy can flat out run and is all effort all the time. If he can put it together at the plate you may have a MVP.

Bogey
Bogey

@gtech10  We ALL loved seeing JHey run the bases.  However, you can probably count on two hands how many times he actually went 1st to 3rd while here.  With that and a sub .270 batting average, are you as GM ready to commit 7 or 8 yrs and $150m + to that production?  Because that is what he'll demand, and likely get from some other team.


The Braves may not be completely rebuilding, but they are retooling.  Hart will get this done.  The best thing that may have happened for the Braves is Hart agreeing to take this job, mentoring Coppy to do things as Hart is doing, AND Schuerholz is no longer making player decisions - he'll be tied up building the new stadium.

BooBooBear
BooBooBear

Someone needs to tell Dave O'brein (who normally gets over 1,000 Braves blog posts) to click the "expand" button so if someone posts at 3:00 PM that someone can see at 3:30 PM if anyone commented on that post.  He still has the 25 limit button clicked.


As to the Heyward trade, the next up is Gattis, then J. Up, and then Freeman.  After all, when you trade anyone worth a dime as a hitter it leaves players like BJ and Johnson looking pretty good.  Gotta love it.