Contenders valued Heyward far more than Braves

Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman were once considered the centerpieces of the Braves' future. Heyward, traded last year to St. Louis, has agreed to a reported $184 million contract with the Chicago Cubs. (AP photo)

Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman were once considered the centerpieces of the Braves’ future. Heyward, traded last year to St. Louis, has agreed to a reported $184 million contract with the Chicago Cubs. (AP photo)

Jason Heyward is not a Brave today in large part because of a decision made by former general manager Frank Wren two winters ago, not John Hart and John Coppolella last November.

Heyward’s contract expired after the 2013 season and he was due to go to arbitration. But Wren signed him to only a two-year contract, effectively ensuring the player would become a free agent after the 2015 season, because he and the organization didn’t want to commit to Heyward long term.

Wren didn’t believe Heyward hit for enough power and/or drove in enough runs and the two sides couldn’t agree on what the player’s value of. Never mind all of the other ways Heyward could impact a game. When Hart and Coppolella, the general manager in waiting, also declined to commit to Heyward long term and traded him to St. Louis for pitcher Shelby Miller (just traded), it wasn’t a shock. I thought then, and I still believe, keeping Heyward should’ve been a higher priority.

Well, one of the most polarizing yet effective players the Braves ever had is now a very rich man. Heyward was central to a bidding war by three National League contenders — Chicago, St. Louis and Washington — and agreed to a reported eight-year, $184 million contract with the Cubs.

In other words, the player whom the Braves couldn’t decided what was really worth apparently was worth quite a bit. Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ president and overseer of successful rebuilding projects in Boston (two World Series titles) and Chicago (which reached the NLCS for the first time since 2003), clearly believes Heyward can impact games, even if he doesn’t hit homers. So what does that say about the Braves’ judgement?

When I spoke to Heyward in the spring training of 2014, he seemed to have a pretty clear understanding of where things were likely headed. Here’s a link that column.  But he said he preferred not to focus on that, saying, “We’re all prepared to go year to year anyway until we get to free agency.”

Heyward 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 in 2010 and made the All-Star team. Nobody had thoughts of his possible exit from his hometown of Atlanta. He and Freddie Freeman were viewed as the franchise centerpieces and appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

“But this is four or five years later,” Heyward said in February of 2014. “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.”

Heyward has had some stops and starts in his career, largely because of injuries. His batting average suffered. He has a funky hitch in his swing. But he hit a career high .293 last season, won his third Gold Glove, stole 23 bases and received MVP consideration (finishing 15th in voting). He was the Cardinals’ best player in his one year there. The stat his defenders use most comes from the world of analytics: WAR (Wins Above Replacement). Hewyard’s WAR of 6.5 ranked 15th in the majors and led the Cardinals last season, well above second-place Matt Carpenter (3.9).

So yeah, the guy can play and the guy can win games.

Is he really worth $184 million? That’s debatable but that’s the market. Some pretty good teams believed Heyward could help them win a World Series and were willing to commit to him long term. That’s what separates them from the Braves.

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67 comments
TerryDee
TerryDee

The only way you can justify paying Heyward this type of contract is if you can utilize his speed as a lead off hitter. The fact that he is to undisciplined at the plate, has a flawed swing ( his head bobs up & down ) and can't hit lefties (especially breaking ball) makes him inept in the lead off spot.

KirkWilson
KirkWilson

2016 Braves Lineup will be:

RegularsBench

  1. Inciarte CF (L)Bourn (L)

  2. Aybar SS (S)

  3. Markakis RF (L)

  4. Freeman 1B (L)Swisher (S)

  5. Olivera LF (R)

  6. Pierzinski C (L)2nd Catcher

  7. Garcia3B (R)Castro (R)

  8. Beckham 2B (R)Peterson 2B (L)

  9. Pitcher

    Rotation : (righties): Teheran, Wisler, Chacin, Norris;and (lefties):Banuelos

    Pen : (righties) Folty, Vizcaino, Grilli, Johnson , Weber(lefties): Rutckyj, McKirahan

CheesesteakBob
CheesesteakBob

There might be a player worth $184 mil, but it is not Heyward. Could not stay on the field because of injury (You forgetting when Chipper called him out for sitting out another little injury.)


I like the haul we ultimately out for him.  I give the over/under 2 years before Cub fans are ruing this signing.

Beef_Pocoroba
Beef_Pocoroba

while i'm sure the metrics for defense and base-running will be tweaked as the stat-heads fine-tune their instruments, there's no denying that heyward was one of the best in the game in both areas - and the resultant runs from them count just as much as a solo HR. we expected a masher coming up, so some were disappointed that that's not what he's been - at least so far. don't forget that, statistically, heyward is about 2 years from entering his prime. 


if we look at what we got for shelby as essentially being a delayed haul from the Heyward trade, then maybe we didn't come out of it so bad. 


go braves!

Mulk
Mulk

The last time I saw Heyward he couldn't touch a left handed pitcher. No way he is worth the amount the Cubs paid for him.

cdbgolf
cdbgolf

Schultz,you are out of your mind on this one.Heyward is an avg player at best.He got this deal on potential.He will never be what he was supposed to be.He is definitely not worth 183 million.

miked91
miked91

The Braves are a pathetic franchise.They prefer to bottom feed year in and year out . I'll be rooting for Heyward.

KeepinItSimple
KeepinItSimple

Come on Jeff, this article is beneath you.  The Braves DID value JHey, but they realized they had next to ZERO chance in keeping him.  If you know anything about sports and finance then you should know and agree with this line of thought.  


The fact you either can't understand it or cannot let it go is saddening.  In essence, we now have Enciarte, Jenkins, Swanson, and Blair for a guy we had almost no chance of signing (granted we let them StL have a sore armed Walden and Arizona a mediocre prospect).  If you can't see we made out far to the good side on the trades linked to Heyward you should stop writing on sports.


Defense is important(especially in the infield), and Heyward is a beast on D.  That being said, he fields two or three balls per game (303 chances in 140 games last year). Is that really worth what he is being paid?  NOT AT ALL.  Quite frankly, a closer would be more valuable than a MLB average hitter that touches the ball two times per game in the field.


Lastly, I leave you with this.  Curtis Granderson was second in MLB amongst RF's with 12 DRS last year.  Curtis Granderson!  Now you tell me how valid that DRS stat is.  Next to useless.



skeeterN
skeeterN

I bet all the people stating JHey was over paid consider themselves red-blooded American capitalists. So, does the principle of let the market determine your value only applies to a selected group? The man turned down two 200 millions offers from two very legitimate contenders and you yahoos are complaining about that.  If the cardinals offer was 184 mil and he went  to Chicago for 200mil, then he would have been viewed as someone only in the game for $$$. I am so glad he got the hell out of this red state and all that goes with it.  I am so proud of two local young men from the ATL  ( Cam and JHey) who now have 20+ mil contracts.  Not only that, they represent themselves and "THEIR" communities very well.  No one can say JHey doesn't play the game the right way; the guy is at full speed on every single play and for that he has been rewarded!!



Truthyness
Truthyness

Braves and Falcons constantly do not value great players. They trade away franchise players for guys on the decline with just a few years left to play. The best thing in the world for Jason Heyward was when he was traded "away" from the braves. The braves would have kept him five years, kept nice guy, but mediocre coaches and traded him after his body was beaten up. 

McCullar
McCullar

Nope, the Braves are better off without JHey at that price. Now that we have hit the mother lode with the Shelby Miller trade, the return for Heyward has been outstanding. Nothing personal, I was in attendance at his first game when he hit that incredible homer in his first at-bat, and I was in awe of his strength and hitting potential, but he has not fulfilled that potential yet. Heyward has not yet shown he is a franchise-type of player in the mold of Chipper Jones, and there is no reason to pay him like one until/if he gets there.

Pistol
Pistol

@McCullar  You are quite correct. Paying that kind of $ for a corner OF who drives in 60 runs in 154 games last year (batting mostly in the 2-6 slots) is just dumb. The Braves now have those 3 highly rated players (plus Miller for the 1 year), so they came out way ahead by letting him go. Of course, Homers like Schultz continue to live off the 3 run bomb Heyward hit is his very first AB, as if that's somehow relevant. Frank Wren made some dumb moves, but signing JH to only 2 years was certainly not one of them.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Salary indicates value ONLY to the team paying it. Was BJ "worth" what the Braves paid him? Uggla?

peanutgallery
peanutgallery

So we are complaining about trading away a player who was close to free agency for Shelby Miller who in turn just netted the Braves a huge haul from the D-Backs?


Maybe you should mention Heyward has an opt-out clause to his new deal. The only way the Cubs keep him for that time is if he under performs.

jbmickelson
jbmickelson

Hayward is a good baseball player, great hustle, great fielder, and above average hitter. He helps good ball clubs be better. What he is not, is a superstar, which he was projected to be in Atlanta. Small market clubs cannot pay good players, superstar salaries. Wish him the best as he will ad excitement to Cubs.


Ron35661
Ron35661

Wonder how many players 184 million could buy?


KatieR620
KatieR620

Jeff,  no,  you're revising history somewhat. The Braves tried to sign Heyward long term,  probably to the same deal that Freeman got.   Heyward balked.... because obviously,  there aren't many players in the sport anymore who can do what he can do even with the light power numbers.  All of Wren's shopping was at Big Lots.  Salaries for outfielders who can play have skyrocketed,  Justin was brought in a trade relatively inexpensively,  BJ Upton effectively was a bargain signing because it was assumed other players would be asking for over 100 million.... guess that was correct,  BJ just turned into the worst player in baseball,  but Wren was working with the budget he was given,  just like Hart and Cop. 


The Braves would desperately love to have Jason Heyward,  but they have the worst ownership in Baseball,  a shrinking budget,  and they are operating like the smallest of small market teams even though they reside,  in a major market.


He's going to a club that has actually invested in the major league product,  is trying to win,  and will put a line up around him that is competent and won't rely on him to produce power numbers.  That,  and 184 million dollars bodes well for Mr.  Heyward.  Good luck Jason,  hope you can do for that team,  what so many before you have failed to do.


Here in Georgia,  we'll just watch minor league baseball for a few more years until Liberty sells the team and makes out like bandits.

ozwizard
ozwizard

@KatieR620 R620 you hit the nail squarely on the noggin. Heyward is a good player and an even better player on a very good team...a .293 av with 13 homers and 60 RBIs for a team that won 100 games is very pedestrian at the plate...maybe he threw out about 50 runners to get his WAR up...our lot here in Atlanta will be putting a minor-league product on the field for the next three years and Liberty cant get out of town fast enuf...thank goodness

Mr. Negative
Mr. Negative

Funny that he had those numbers last year after receiving some real coaching instead of being preached to go for the showout long ball here. In Losersville its all about the showout. Flash over substance.

Edgar
Edgar

I see you can't read batting average, WAR, runs saved, RBI, OBP, OPS or any other of the metrics of MLB kman81. Heyward was way ahead of Melvin Upton.

TOJacket
TOJacket

FREE CHAUNCEY AND GURLEY!!!!!!!

kman81
kman81

Heyward will be the BJ Upton of the Cubs.  Overpaid for not producing.  The fans will turn on him quickly. 

Edgar
Edgar

The Braves kept Freddie Gonzolas and his staff for a reason. New manager and new staff after the 2016 season. Why? No need to hire a new manager at this point. If they wanted him John Hart would have made it at least a 2 year deal. Heyward wanted out and I don't blame him. St. Louis was a better fit. Now he's with Joe Madden and the Cubs with a staff of coaches even better than St. Louis. He'll thrive there and will be a part of a team that can finally give Cub fans a World Series title.

Who might be the next manager of the Braves? I not going to say but he's a former player that would be a great fit.....

Cousingeorgestone
Cousingeorgestone

Trading Heyward was one of the few decisions the Braves got right.  The guy was mediocrity personified in a  Braves uni and anyone with good baseball experience and knowlege recognized it. He was a graveyard at the plate, leaving runners on base to die inning after inning, especially against lefties.  He struck out over and over, rolled over again and again on outside pitches he would try to pull a la Uggla while hitting into double plays and almost never had a key 2 out hit.  


If you ever interview him, ask him why he choked so much and rarely produced while earning a paycheck in ATL and then suddenly and miraculously produced like never before IN A FREAKING CONTRACT YEAR with STL.   Coincidence?   Hardly…...

jeeperscrow
jeeperscrow

Love your columns for the most part Schultz, but lately I haven't agreed with much of anything you've said. You said the Falcons should hire Quinn. Now not even through the first year you're bashing Quinn. You said the Dawgs should fire Richt. Now it's a mess there and we'll see what happens. You said the Braves should have kept Heyward, but they got a tremendous return on trading him. Would the Braves really be better off right now with Heyward and huge contract compared to all the cheap young players the Braves have gained out of trading him?

Boeingdawg
Boeingdawg

Let's not forget 'Ferry has to go!!' when eveyone who knew him said the man was not a racist, he was reading another man's words. Then after he's fired one of the Spirit Group came out and admitted the words weren't Ferry's, which we all knew anyway. JS response? Crickets.

jeeperscrow
jeeperscrow

@Boeingdawg Great point! And the decision to dump Ferry has already made the Hawks worse this year, and has probably set them back many years. It will be a long time before they have a shot at a championship because of firing Ferry. Another great call by Schultz.

kerryb
kerryb

Jason Heyward got 184 million dollars for being a good fielder with an average bat with average power. Good for him. Glad the Braves didn't make that deal. Frank Wren would have. My guess is that his numbers are going to be worse next year trying to live up to that contract.

kb825g
kb825g

Funny! Folks aren't complaining about the $100 million to Freddie Freeman. What did that get you. We saw he couldn't handle being the guy as he dipped below 285. Looks like Heyward had similar numbers. Braves paid Freddie and not JHey.

Boeingdawg
Boeingdawg

I have. Freddie is a weak ground ball into the shift on an outside pitch waiting to happen.

LOGS1973
LOGS1973

It's pretty obvious the Braves management

has been blind and inept for years. Thanks

Shultzy aka Captain Obvious!

Wayne_stuck_in_AL
Wayne_stuck_in_AL

Frankly, I think the joke's on the Cubs: paying $23M/year for basically .280/15/65; way more than market value.  Nowhere near MVP stats for an MVP salary.

lighteredknot
lighteredknot

Jason like Tony Conigliaro was/is not the same after hit in the face.   A change of scenery is/was best thing for him and Braves. Would believe Cubs have some opt out with said contract.  If he collects the reported amount, the Federal and State Revenue commissioners will be very happy.

mgunter
mgunter

Cubs way overpaid for a great outfielder and an average hitter. MLB has gone nuts with these salaries for playing a little kids game.

Raymond101
Raymond101

B.S.! You are WAY off course Jeff and this article should be mocking the Cubs for badly over paying for a player who is no where near being worth this money. The Cubs will regret this contract.

displayname101
displayname101

I like Heyward, but Jeff's column has a silly conclusion. What separates the Braves is that Liberty Media is the owner and runs the Braves on the cheap. Theo Epstein would not consider paying Heyward an average of $23 million a year if his team had cheapskate owners like Liberty Media. That's probably more than one fourth of what the Braves entire team payroll will be in 2016.

BravesFanInNashville
BravesFanInNashville

If the Braves had kept Heyward long term they wouldn't have, Dansby Swanson, Blair, Enciarte and Tyrell Jenkins who are all under team control for 6 years except Enciarte 5 years.  I personally would rather have all 4 of them and $184 Million dollars to sign other players with than to have kept Heyward...

slydawg
slydawg

If the Braves, under Wren, would've locked Heyward up, he would have been traded anyway. All the others, save Freeman and Tehran, have been.

drew48
drew48

The Cards and the Giants passed on signing heyward. I tend to think the braves made the right choice.

kb825g
kb825g

They didn't pass on him they offered him $200 million! He took less to go to Chicago.

du_rodriguez
du_rodriguez

"Jeff  Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours. "


I think the dude just gets a kick out of trying to get a rise out of people. I can agree that Wren should've locked him up a couple of years ago. But then again, we wouldn't have Swanson, Enciarte and Blair if that had been the case. And Braves can't really afford the $180 million price tag at the moment. To flat out say that the Braves blew it is just a guy yelling out nonsense to see how people react. It's pathetic. Be a real journalist for a change.

kerryb
kerryb

I think Wren tried to lock him up but Heyward turned down the deal. Heyward must have thought that some team would be dumb enough to give him that kind of money. Apparently the Cubs were.

Can'o'corn
Can'o'corn

contenders are seeing a lot of things the braves aren't right now. 

FineousMcDirtyBird
FineousMcDirtyBird

ONE OF THE MOST POLARIZING BUT EFFECTIVE PLAYERS THE BRAVES EVER HAD...


EVER HAD is a pretty bold statement when considering the longest continuously operational organization in Major League Baseball. Was he as effective as David Justice? Hank Aaron? Andruw Jones? Marquis Grissom? Dale Murphy? Otis Nixon? Ron Gant? You said "player" so I assume you meant at any position so was he as effective as Phil Niekro? Greg Maddux? Babe Ruth? Chipper Jones? Javy Lopez? Terry Pendleton? Bob Horner? Steve Bedrosian? Tom Glavine? Joe Torre? Eddie Mathews? Warren Spahn? Ultimately, did he even have a quarter of the impact on this franchise that Raphael Belliard, Jeff Blauser, Lonnie Smith, Sid Bream, Greg Olsen, or even Ryan Klesko had? I'm thinking no. I'm thinking Mr. Schultz took a swig of the ol' Hyperbole Flask before he powered up the laptop today. Guy was the least mediocre player on a lot of forgettable mediocre teams, that's all. Let's all take a deep breath and stop mythologizing his time here like we were witnessing Mickey Mantle in his prime.

slydawg
slydawg

Keyword: Polarizing.... So you wrote all that for nothing.

Chilidawg
Chilidawg

The Braves were wise to trade Heyward.  He may eventually be worth $23 million a year, but not now.  Heyward's contract is evidence of the effect the drug policy has had on baseball. There are not that many sluggers available now, and the price for what is available is much higher.