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)?