The Jadeite Jewel: So It Begins

Andrelton Simmons standing on a baseball field with a glove on his hand is a web gem waiting to happen, and this winter Braves Journal is going to determine which of his gems is the best of his best—his Jadeite. For the full rules check out the introduction.

Round 1: The Blind Basket Catch vs. The Video Game

Narrowing down Simmons’s top plays to 32 is hard, so I’m throwing you voters straight into the fire. Voting will stay open through Wednesday night since I’m posting on a weekend before a holiday. Feel free to include an explanation of why you are voting the way you are to try to persuade others to vote your way!

The Blind Basket Catch

Editor’s pitch: The runner was going with the pitch, which creates a distraction for the defenders before the batter even swings. To make the play, Simmons is running with his back to the infield straight toward two outfielders barreling in. It’s nearly impossible to track a ball in that situation, much less make a basket catch over top of Emilio Bonifacio‘s glove. Then Simmons not only avoids a collision and holds the ball, but spins around and throws to try to double off the runner. The blend of athleticism and mental awareness is beautiful.

The Video Game

Editor’s pitch: The video is worth a thousand words of commentary, so just watch it again. Okay, now watch it one more time. Can a mere mortal even bend like that? He’s covering the bag, bends against his momentum to catch the ball, and then flips back to tag the base. The baserunner was already running and was nearly on top of him…and he got the out. This play defies the laws of physics and it made his pitcher laugh in disbelief. The cherry on top is he tried to turn the double play and was disgusted with himself that he couldn’t. Unbelievable.

176 thoughts on “The Jadeite Jewel: So It Begins”

  1. He’s so good. The video game, I guess.

    Pitching and Andrelton’s defense will win a lot of low-scoring games.

  2. Does anyone remember what Smoltz had to say about Simmons’ setup before pitches that makes it so unique? That part got cut off.

  3. Mike Smith was fired after the season anyways, but now I think he should be fired right now. Like literally right this very minute.

  4. @6 Thanks! Using the poll will definitely make it easier for everyone to vote. Do you know if that’s something I can change, or do you want me to notify you when I’m going to post new rounds so that you can update the poll?

  5. In the name of all that is holy, why do 95 percent of football coaches have absolutely no idea how to manage their timeouts and the clock? That was one of the worst coached games I have ever seen in that regard, from both coaches. It’s not that freaking difficult! In fact, it’s not difficult at all!

  6. Was there international bonus money thrown into the Miller/Heyward trade? Castrovince said there was, but he could have been confused.

  7. Also said they won’t move Gattis without BJ. I suppose the outfield has to get slower, one way or another.

  8. The Braves traded Tommy LaStella and their fourth international signing bonus slot to the Cubs for Aroldys Vizcaino and their third international slot. That amounts to something like 800K for international signing money, so LaStella to the Cubs for Vizcaino and 800K towards the Cubans.

    The Cards trade was Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden for Shelby Miller and Ty Whosnameicantremember. Not Skaggs. That guy is with the Angels. No money was exchanged that I know of in the Cards trade.

  9. 16—Actually, the Braves got the Cubs’ 2nd-, 3rd-, and 4th-round slots. And the only Cuban that money applies to is the 19-year-old, not Tomas. For what it’s worth.

  10. I knew how much came from the La Stella trade. I assumed Castrovince looked at the Heyward-Miller trade more closely than I had. That was probably a bad assumption.

  11. @19, Yeah to elaborate on Stu’s point, as I understand it Yoan Moncada, 19, is considered an International Amateur Free Agent. That means that he’s subject to international amateur signing pool rules. A little screwy since the international amateur signing pools are designed to regulate the signing of 15 year old Domincan kids who go for $25,000 to $1m, and as a “proven” player from the Cuban league, Moncada might sign for up to $30m. Since the signing pools for each team range from $900k to $4m, with a 100% overage tax, a $30m bonus will cost a team $56m or more, total, ASWELL as prohibiting them from spending more than $300k on any international amateur for the next two years.

    And as I understand it, the other guy, Yasmany Tomas, 24, is just a regular old International Free Agent. He’s just like a Japanese or Korean player who has played long enough to avoid being “posted,” and is instead free to come to the US and sign with any team.

  12. That level of coaching ineptitude would even get you fired at Kentucky.

    I simply cannot believe what I just saw.

    Are Smith and Dimitrov still employed?

  13. Gosh I bet the Giants wish they traded Sandoval before he played his final year in San Francisco.

    Teams who hang onto their guys until their free agent years are so dumb.

    (Apparently I’m not quite tired of arguing with everybody.)

  14. Apparently not. I guess the Giants thought they could win in 2014. And they did!
    Apparently the Braves didn’t think they could win in 2015. And, they won’t.

  15. @27/28, Did you purposefully sit out during the “Hart quoted as saying Heyward isn’t worth $100 million” part of the last thread?

    We had better sign Tomas, is all I have to say right now.

  16. I’m sure the front office was correct about the chances of winning in 2015. All they had going for them was a nucleus of youthful veteran ballplayers who hadn’t won anything since 2013.

  17. @30

    I’m just a weekday warrior. That one seemed like it was over before I showed up this morning.

  18. Simmons/Jones/w.h.y….monday morning what ifs…

    My wife is taking a Caribbean cruise next month with her sister and leaving me behind back home to feed the cat…

    How ironic i should only now discover their itinerary includes Curacao..clearly, the wrong family member will be there,local talent will pass unnoticed beyond her fascination with the host of local multilinguals showing off their vocabularies…

    It might have been so different…with me as our man in the Antilles in situ, however briefly, another Andruw/Andrelton might have been spotted horsing on the quayside…we could have been a contenda, again.

  19. 31: And who had turned into one of the worst-hitting lineups in the league in 2014. I’ve never seen anyone offer a plausible plan for turning that around. To be sure, I’ve seen plenty of implausible plans, like “Everyone gets better for no reason.”

  20. Sandoval at 5/100MM. Yikes. Seriously, Heyward has a year like last and he’ll get 100MM easily. He has a year north of an .800 OPS, he could push 200. This market it crazy.

  21. I’m thinking this particular poll is the 1-16 matchup on its side of the bracket.

    Video Game is going to easily win I’m thinking.

  22. Yes, this market is crazy. Especially because Hanley isn’t a shortstop and Xander Bogaerts is, and Hanley presumably can’t play third base because that’s where Sandoval would play, and Mookie Betts is presumably their center fielder.

    Anyway, we should try to trade for Will Middlebrooks. He needed out of there even before they blocked him with a $100 million player. I don’t know if he’s a starter, but I do know that he’s probably better than Chris Johnson.

  23. I think the Red Sox are just signing guys. Maybe we can get Middle Brooks and Bogaerts and have him play second.

  24. @37

    Seriously. Worth noting, more because it’s interesting than because it contributes to an argument, that Sandoval, a switch hitter, hit lefties worse than Heyward last year.

  25. Man that is big money for a guy like Sandoval. He may be Fielder light. I get it though, he was a good hitter in SF, a tough ballpark to hit in. In Boston he could become a great hitter. I don’t get folks that say Bogaerts blocks Ramirez. Ramirez is a way better player than Bogaerts.

    Boston can afford to roll the dice on free agents. Must be nice.

    edit: We may have change our definition of the elite contract number. 20AAV may not be enough.

  26. I don’t think we’re even in the discussion for elite FA contracts. We’re pretty the Padres and the Astros until we stop paying guys mega-millions not to play.

  27. Bogaerts is all of 22 years old, he was an absolute monster in the minors, and odds are that he’ll be very good very soon. Ramirez is 30, mercurial, with wild swings in his performance from year to year, and he’s only played 150 games or had an OPS above .820 once in the last five seasons.

    That said, the Sox are loaded with cash, and there’s no reason for them not to drop $200 million on two guys who are likely to be great hitters over the next few years. I just don’t know where they’ll play, and having too many guys for too few positions is not a great use of organizational resources.

  28. Best of luck there Ryan.

    I think this is what the Braves were fearing with Heyward and Upton, which shows us why they were so willing to move them. It also shows why we probably weren’t able to lock Heyward up last offseason.

    Getting these big bats off the market should help drive up Upton’s value, however I guess teams could realize that he’s going to be very expensive to lock up long term.

    Boston isn’t trading Bogaerts. Hanley is going to LF and Cespedes is getting traded for pitching. Boston’s bench could be Middlebrooks, Nava, Holt, and Allen Craig.

  29. @35

    The hopes aren’t so far-fetched if you whittle them down to the essentials. (Again, I’m in time capsule mode for, say, 2 weeks ago.)

    -Heyward is a darn-good hit better candidate (the Steamer projection really thinks so)
    -Simmons is a guy you hope hits better; something in the 90 WRC+ range isn’t an absurd thought. It’s what he hit in 2013.
    -One of the second-basemen in the organization sticks it out as a league-average hitter.

    From there you figure out a way to marginalize BJ Upton’s role, get Chris Johnson a platoon partner, and either keep Gattis or replace his production, either in left field, center field, or catcher, depending on who you’re trading.

    Say Justin Upton/Jordan Walden gets us Shelby Miller or James Paxton. Use the money for Tomas or Russell Martin and a bench player.

    Then you’ve still got an expensive guy to trade: Craig Kimbrel. He either returns or frees up money for the third base platoon guy.

    This is not a perfect plan; I’m not sure how it gets us a guy to play center field–but it’s plausible.

    Anyway, it starts with the idea not that everyone will hit better, but that a couple guys will, and that way you reduce the 2015 opening day shopping list to a manageable goal.

  30. @35

    Except that, had they gotten better, it wouldn’t have been for no reason. It would have been because they all have had at least some history of significant success at the major league level, and no evident physical reasons preventing them from repeating said success, or even improving upon it. Seriously, go to BBRef and take a look at some random players who had careers of ten years or more. Performance varies, Hank Aaron excepted.

  31. Then you’ve still got an expensive guy to trade: Craig Kimbrel.

    I think this is the nub of the problem. The Braves like Kimbrel more than they liked Heyward, from a marketing and long term lock in standpoint.

  32. @50

    I’m reading between the lines and nodding my head and I’m not going to get closer to the no-politics rule than to say: I think there’s a good chance you’re right.


    I feel like I have to re-adjust my idea of salary inflation every day. Dude’s already 27 years old.

  33. Kyle Seager’s an excellent player who’s just entering arb. I don’t get the puzzlement.

    Again, CRAZY to say Heyward’s prime FA years aren’t worth $100 million.

    @53, Sigh…agree.

  34. Heyward will get a $100m deal, maybe $150. I think it was a broad statement that just meant the Braves didn’t want to overpay (or pay MV) for his services.

  35. This is the offseason that Braves Journal realizes that the FA market might as well exist in an alternate universe as far as the Braves are concerned.

  36. DOB just said that we have NOT made an offer to Yasmany Tomas

    We have expressed interest in bringing back David Ross

  37. @60

    I think there’s a secret strategy where the Braves are getting kickbacks from agents for having “serious conversations” with free agent players to drive up the price. Call it the new Braves Way.

  38. 49: Simmons has a “significant” track record of success at the major league level? I say he has a significant record of lucky wall scrapers in 2013, and that there was no reason to expect that to continue, no reason now to expect it to return in 2015, and every reason to doubt that he will ever be an adequate major league hitter.

    La Stella and Phil Gosselin have significant track records of success at the major league level?

    Hell, even Chris Johnson… pre-2013, he had a significant track record of being a below-average player, not a starter. I grant you, he is a better hitter than he showed last year, but he is not a player that should be starting for any team with playoff aspirations.

    Meanwhile, B.J. Upton really does have a significant track record of major league success, but there is also hard data indicating that whatever has happened to him over the past two years, he can no longer catch up to fastballs, leaving him essentially helpless at the plate.

    Even before they started trading, this was a bad team. I’m not saying that trading Heyward was necessarily the right move–I think he should have been their #1 extension priority, far ahead of Craig Kimbrel–but I am saying that it would have been managerial malpractice to build for 2015.

  39. @53 – I don’t think, much less “know” that it’s a “politics” thing per se, but I strongly suspect that the Atlanta Braves have sold more Craig Kimbrel jerseys to the season ticket base that is located in the northern arc where they are building their new stadium than they have sold Jason Heyward and Justin Upton jerseys combined.

  40. They’re also talking to AJ Pierzynski, which is just… ugh. Regardless of how good a player he is or isn’t, AJ Pierzynski is a player I want to go to my grave having never had to root for in any capacity.

  41. You know I’m not talking about La Stella and Gosselin, and to clarify, I sure as hell wasn’t meaning to include BJ. But wasn’t it just a year ago that we considered Freeman, Simmons, Heyward, Gattis, Jupton, Teheran, Minor, Wood, Kimbrel, and Walden an enviable core for a promising roster? 10 players 26 or younger (I’m not even including Medlen and Beachy, who we managed to adequately replace), all of whom had done enough to be legitimately excited about? And while there were a few disappointments among that group last season, certainly, why conclude they’re a permanently hopeless bunch? It was mostly the performance of our worst players who torpedoed our chances last year, not the best ones. I submit that there is a contingent of fans who just plain watch too many games, frankly, and take ordinary performance fluctuations as personal affronts to their time commitments. They’ve seen all they can stands, and they can’t stands no more.

  42. 65: It’s a good core, but a) it loses some of its luster if Simmons can’t hit a lick, and b) you have to be able to fill in around it with decent players at most of the remaining positions. Punting on three position players just doesn’t work; you don’t need an All-Star CF, 3B, and 2B in addition to the guys you mentioned, but you also can’t settle for replacement-level players, which is what the Braves were forced to do last year and bid fair to do next year.

  43. Hey, if you’re going to flush all the Wren hires out of the system, why stop at the front office? That’s completely what the conclusion that this core can’t compete looks like to me. The big glaring issue is that fans don’t care about the front office roster but do have actual feelings for players. Tear it all up and start over is a helluva thing to say when millions of people have invested a lot of emotional capital in the players you’re flushing out of the system for no better reason than that they’re not the current leadership’s guys.

  44. @53, that whole line of thinking is ridiculous, but arguing the point just gives it more validation than it deserves, so I won’t. You don’t need to make up conspiracy theories – the obvious answer is the one staring everyone in the face – the team doesn’t have enough budget to pay market FA rates. Getting return for the players we’re losing anyways is the right thing to do. It has nothing to do with “politics”.

  45. @57, I bet you’re going to be off by about $50 million.

    I’m having a hard time deciding if I should attribute the sticker shock going on here to Liberty Media Stockholm Syndrome or chronic undervaluing of defense/overvaluing of OPS. Either way, Seager got what he’s worth, Heyward will also finally get his too, and it’s not your dad’s favorite baseball columnist’s world anymore.

    @67, It’s not like Wren was so eager to keep Heyward around either.

    The “better” reason apparently is that we didn’t think Heyward was worth even close to what similarly skilled/productive players (recently, Jacoby Ellsbury, or from a while back, young Carlos Beltran) got, adjusting for inflation. We’re cheap, and we’re idiots.

  46. @68

    Yeah, I wouldn’t go there, either. But in a broader sense, I have no trouble believing that the impending move warps the FO’s typical offseason incentives. What other team has reason to prioritize not just “the future” over “the present”, but a specific year in the future?

  47. @70, the same demographics will attend games in the new stadium as they do now in the old. Look around the stands in Turner Field at any home game – it’s not exactly a study in diversity. Fielding a winning team with marketable players puts fans in the seats. We’re going in the wrong direction with both the “winning” thing and the “marketable” thing. It’s an absolute disaster, and it’s why I wanted the entire FO cleaned out. The timing of our rebuild couldn’t be any worse.

  48. @68

    Wrong, maybe–probably?. But not at all ridiculous, considering other recent local revelations.

  49. Offense gets the 100 million dollar contracts. Seager also plays in a an extreme pitchers park, correct? In this market that seems like a good deal.

    Most of you all think Heyward is worth 100 million right now. I disagree. Oh I think he’ll make 100 million but how many contracts will it take? If he has another 2012 with the bat he’ll get it easily. Another 2014, I don’t think so. It’ll be interesting. The Braves decided to let the Cards decide if 6.5 WAR heavily influenced by defense is worth the big bucks.

  50. Good lord. I realize Jason Heyward was a few of you kids’ totes fave, but seriously, he’s not an irreplacable part.

  51. @74

    No, the Braves decided to let the Cards pay Jason Heyward (relatively) small bucks to help them win in 2015 with his bat and his glove.

  52. I predict we send Justin Upton and Mike Minor to the Rangers for Jurickson Profar, Michael Choice and three or four prospects, including one of their top-3 SP prospects and either Nomar Mazara or Lewis Brinson.

    Then we will in fact sign Tomas.

  53. We need another transaction to occur because they Jason Heyward love on here is becoming nauseating.

  54. What do we think these Lester-Tomas talks are like?

    My hunch: “We’re interested. Hold out for another ten days and we’ll get you a real offer.”

  55. We could always go back to glorifying a 2.5 win catcher that can’t stay on the field. I mean, talk about irreplaceable!

  56. Heyward’s bat and glove didn’t win us anything. I don’t think it would’ve been any different in 2015.

  57. @75

    The day we get 5 WAR production from another right fielder, I’ll be sure to say you’re right.


    Really, we didn’t win 96 games and the division in 2013?

  58. No, Sansho. The Braves are terrible and they’ve always been terrible. It’s unbelievable how quickly you forget.

  59. When Jason Heyward hits 756 next year for the 162-0 World Champion St Louis Cardinals, you all will be sorry!

    Heyward’s 2015 Fan Boy Line

    .725 BA .999 Slug .803 OPS. All balls hit to RF are outs. He resigns with the Cardinals for 15 years $15 million. He does this because, “No one bothered to ask. I’d play for free!”

  60. #82 – Freeman and Simmons had better seasons in 2013. Heyward is a nice piece, again, he’s not irreplaceable.

  61. I like how the Heyward fanboy mockery:
    – Sticks to batting average, slugging, OPS
    – Still gets Heyward’s likely AAV wrong by $5 mil. Maybe even $10 mil, if he’s great next year.

    RF-eligible, batting-title eligible players who put up a 5 WAR or better last year: Bautista, Stanton, Puig, Heyward.

    Werth and Pence were close. Then there’s a steep drop to Kole Calhoun.

    In 2013: Victorino and Pence were the only ones. Werth and Gerardo Parra were in the ballpark.

    In 2012: Heyward, Zobrist, and Torii Hunter did it. Doubtful that either of the latter two do it again. Josh Reddick and Bryce Harper were more in the 4 WAR range.

    I realize the team is probably not making an attempt to “replace” Heyward this year. I don’t question that, given Liberty, it’s smarter to move Heyward now, and when I embrace my own Liberty Media Stockholm Syndrome, I acknowledge that the Heyward deal was a good deal.

    I guess if ownership and fans don’t value Heyward, then ownership and fans truly do deserve each other, is all I’m saying.

  62. I, as well, am kind of over the Heyward argument. I was over it back during the season, even. It’s not even worth arguing with people who think he is one of the five best players in the league, quite honestly. Their cult-like fervor is really fairly admirable, in a way. I’m not entirely sure what it’s based on, other than potential, but whatever. Now we’re brining race into it (though we’re not really, because we’re not actually mentioning it…what’s that?…I can’t hear you! LA LA LA LA LA!!!), so it’s just becoming absurdly ridiculous at this point. He’s gone and people are gonna have to get over it…or start rooting for the Cardinals. I honestly don’t care which at this point.

    As a thought experiment, though, I wonder what would happen if we assumed that Andrelton Simmons was a year away from free agency and we traded him. It seems fairly equivalent. Simmons is better than Heyward defensively (though I’m sure I’ll get some number thrown at me showing me I’m wrong about that…I look forward to that) but worse offensively. Both of their values to the team are primarily defensive at this point. I’m sure there’d be some people upset (I mean, we are running a bracket in the offseason to see which Simmons play is the best one), but I don’t get the feeling that there’s quite the same fervor. People are willing to give Heyward a pass for his lackluster offensive performance and aren’t for Simmons. And I wonder why that is.

    I do look forward to the massively annoying next few years where the Heyward trade is brought up after every marginal thing that happens, a la the Yunel Escobar trade. We didn’t stop hearing stuff about the Escobar trade until Simmons came on the scene and made people forget about Escobar, so here’s hoping whoever plays right field for us next year has a breakout year so we can move on from this crap.

  63. I think the fans value Heyward plenty. The fact that most won’t be needing therapy sessions to get over him being traded doesn’t mean that we didn’t like him. We did like him.

  64. I loved Jason Heyward. I still do. He’s a very good player who could break out to become great. And he’s obviously a super nice guy to boot.

    But you don’t break the bank for a defense first RF.

  65. 87: Assuming you’re right that people would be less torn up over a Simmons trade, I don’t think it’s hard to understand why. Heyward was with the team longer, facilitating a greater fan investment in his career. Moreover, his debut coincided with a Braves resurgence after several seasons in the wilderness following the division run, so there are a lot of positive feelings associated with his time in Atlanta.

    And finally, he does have the potential to be the proverbial five-tool superstar; at various times, he has flashed superior offense, defense, and baserunning, although he hasn’t had one season where he’s put it all together to have an MVP-caliber year. None of Simmons’ offensive tools are particularly strong; indeed, they are weak enough that they might push him out of a starting role if not for the fact that he is a generational defensive talent. You can dream on Heyward putting up an all-around season for the ages in a way you really can’t with Simmons (because even at his best, he will probably never be much more than a league-average hitter).

  66. having too many guys for too few positions is not a great use of organizational resources.

    Fortunately, the local nine has dodged that bullet for the time being.

  67. The local nine will be competitive again within a couple of years. You guys are making this out to be the second coming of the 1970s.

  68. “Competitive” meaning “We’ll make a run for the second wild card!” Fans will act like it’s the second coming of the 1990’s when ownership and the front office act accordingly.

    Two things:
    -If you really think Heyward is all glove, you’re wrong. So wrong. Recency-bias alarm-blaringly wrong.
    -A player that combines Heyward’s full track record of production, age, skill set, and breakout potential could easily command $20 million a year — and quite number of years — on the market. Because that’s what he’s worth. If you don’t think he should be getting paid to that tune, you’re joining Hart, evidently, in not valuing him appropriately. It’s not about feelings. It’s about comparing him to similarly skilled and productive free agents and adjusting for inflation.

  69. It doesn’t matter what he’s worth. It only matters what the Braves would pay. Neither you nor I nor anymore here knows what he was asking for, or what he was offered to play here. If he makes $20M per for some other team then more power to him. We can’t pay that for a defense first RF and still field a competitive team. We weren’t competitive this past year even with him making peanuts by comparison. How could we possibly get better by paying him more? Why is this so hard to figure out?

  70. The argument for not flipping Heyward and Upton for young, cost controlled players is “maybe Chris Johnson or Andrelton Simmons will magically hit again and we make a run at the second wild card!”

  71. It doesn’t matter what he’s worth. It only matters what the Braves would pay.

    I’d like to think it matters why the Braves wouldn’t pay it. Whatever mix of miserliness and compounded incompetence (Wren’s and now Hart’s) you come up with, it warrants days of unending bitterness.

    And Heyward’s not a defense first RF.

  72. The argument for not flipping Heyward and Upton for young, cost controlled players is “maybe Chris Johnson or Andrelton Simmons will magically hit again and we make a run at the second wild card!”

    That is absolutely not the full set of arguments and you know it.

  73. 98: To be fair, the full argument also involves imagining implausible trades and payroll the Braves don’t have.

  74. Heyward is not in the top-50 in offensive WAR. Can someone provide his ranking amongst qualifying RF? The interwebs confuse me.

  75. @99, Just like David Hale belonged in the rotation at the end of 2013, and Alex Wood didn’t.

    Last year, Heyward was an above-average offensive player. His wRC+ was 110. His defense was a lot better than his offense last year, but his defense was a lot better than most things most people did last year.

    It would be foolish to pretend the 120 wRC+s he put up in his age 23 and 24 seasons never happened. Like he’s magically not capable of doing it ever again.

    That is the definition of recency bias.

  76. 101: I mean, they have a set budget from Liberty Media. The front office can’t just “choose” to add $30 million in payroll that the parent corporation declines to authorize.

  77. So this team is going to sell off my favorite players for parts because they “don’t have the money,” then take $300-400 million from a local municipality to relocate into a suburban shopping mall.

    Fun fandom we’ve got here lately. I became a fan of this team when it was about the pursuit of excellence. Now it’s about the pursuit of profit, and I don’t quite know what to make of my legacy attachment to the laundry.

  78. @102, Heyward was 11th among MLB RF’ers if you go by wRC+. The argument is that he’s capable of much better. That may indeed be true. The gap between his current performance and the guys in the top 5 is huge though.

    If he had put up a career year in 2014 I wonder if we still would’ve traded him. I think we would have, but for different reasons (e.g. definitely priced-out vs. sorta-giving-up-on-him).

  79. He was a “defense first RF” last year. I don’t argue that characterization, just the use of the phrase as a perjorative, or as something that exists in such numbers that some conventional wisdom has developed as to what “you don’t do” with them. Anyway, the primary reason he was “defense first” is that he was by far the best fielding RF in the game. Way to twist it, though. And what, he won’t be a great defensive player for at least a few more years? He’s not like Winfield or Francoeur — heavy-legged and arm-dependent for their value.

  80. Y’all, I know we had the poll up early in the year about how much we’d pay Jason Heyward–but that’s not how much he was going to get paid this year. The decision was not whether he was worth $20+ million per year–Sam seems like the only one here arguing the pro-trade side who understands that.

    Fast forward to November 2015 and the Braves decide they can’t afford what he’s asking for free agency–then the decision is understandable.

    Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Shelby Miller’s the missing piece. But I can’t imagine him pitching much better in 2015 than Aaron Harang did last year, and now we have glaring offensive holes at catcher, right, center, and third and huge offensive question marks at second and short.

    Both of the last two world series winners were coming off seasons worse than the Braves’ 2014. You go for it. What else are you going to do with the money? If you’re terrible through June you put on a fire sale. That’s when you trade Heyward if you’re going to trade him.

  81. @105, the laundry’s just as fun to root for, for me. It’s just that the ownership and front office are a lot less fun than they used to be.

    I just find it really hard to fault the team for being willing to take a multihundred million dollar free money giveaway. I have no problem faulting the people who think it’s a good use of local money to do so, since virtually every stadium deal is a horrible deal for the poor saps left holding the bag, but it ain’t the Braves’ fault that the suckers are handing it out.

    On the other hand, I have no problem faulting them for their cheap miserliness.

  82. @103 – Your kidding right? Evaluating baseball players is all about recency bias. The thing with Heyward is that it has been a trend. For a good portion of 2013 he was a substantially below average hitter, then he got hot, then he got hit in the face. 2014 he got on base and that was his main offensive contribution. He hit for little power and he was totally helpless against Left handed pitching. For most here Heyward is a special player because he puts up the gaudy 6.3 WAR. A metric that in his case is inflated by the defensive portion of the metric. Thats why some of us are calling him a defense first RF.

    I wish that the Braves could have kept Heyward, he is a very good baseball player with tons of potential to become a star but I fully understand why they traded him and I think they made a good deal. I have come to terms with the trade. Upon further reflection, I have come around to the FO’s thought process that too many variables were in the mix for the team to compete in 2015. When the budget was announced and they said they were going to try to fix BJ I should have seen the handwriting that 2015 is going to be a rebuild season.

  83. The argument is that he’s capable of much better. That may indeed be true.

    How about: that was already true in three out of the four seasons of his still-young career? It actually happened that he did better, more often than not.

    In order to get Heyward down to the level you’ve got him at, you have to:
    – Forget what he’s done in the past, and at a young age too
    – Ignore that he was still above-average offensively in a down year
    – Pretend that platoon splits and ISO don’t fluctuate from season to season, as they do for a great many hitters
    – Pick decimal point-sized nits in the formulas that spit out his defensive value
    – Or just arbitrarily cut his defensive value in half, which strikes me as at least as arbitrary as the dWAR formula is now, because getting outs just isn’t that high a priority for you?

    Doesn’t that feel like too much work? I guess not. I guess that’s why we’ve got a president of baseball ops and an assistant GM!

  84. Wow, now the horse is out of the can, out of my dog’s intestinal tract and on the ground in a stinky pile.

    @87 – ‘cult-like fervor’ I wish I had thought of that.

    Trade complete. Jason Heyward a Cardinal. Shelby Miller a Brave. Go Braves.

  85. @109 – Agreed. I am a fan of the Atlanta Braves. I don’t always agree with the actions taken by the front office but at least we aren’t owned by Jeff Loria.

  86. @109

    I agree. The MLB is a lot like college football now. Every four years guys leave and new ones come in.

  87. Smitty, that just isn’t true–or it isn’t any different than it has been for the last 40-ish years.

  88. @111, slightly above average doesn’t cut it when you want $20M+ a year. You need to be the best hitter in the league. I don’t disagree that he might turn out to be close to that one day. But he’s not right now. Not even close.

  89. @116

    Well, in a way it is. Sure, there are guys that stay with one team longer. But every winter is like spring recruiting.

    I would consent a little on the 40 years part, but I think there is way more to what goes into building a team. The money is a lot more than it has been. With social media, we have more insight into what goes into building a team.

    But just like college football, you are pulling for laundry.

  90. Pablo Sandoval, offensive and defensive rankings last 3 years (among 3rd basemen):
    Offense: 14th, 12th, 12th
    Defense: 29th, 13th, 6th
    Contract: 5/100MM

    Jason Heyward, offensive and defensive rankings last 3 years (among RF)
    Offense: 9th, 17th, 5th
    Defense: 1st, 7th, 1st

    End discussion.

  91. At this point, we still have the same opportunity to sign Heyward to a long term contract next offseason. That hasn’t changed.

  92. Better than the paper-pusher like fervor with which people insist that it’s no big deal and was inevitable.

  93. @122

    Is it? Because believe it or not, I was initially upset about the trade, too. I’m still kind of unsure about it, especially if it means a rebuilding year. But in getting over it over the course of an afternoon, I was able to to move on and am now able to think about my favorite team on the planet without getting upset that Heyward is gone. It’s two weeks later and you’re still spinning around on your eyebrows. Again, you’ll eventually have to choose one of these two things: get over it or stop rooting for the Braves.

  94. @126

    LOL…OK, you’re right. It’s a little over one week. I honestly thought it had been two. I’m not sure whether that’s more illustrative of the fact that I don’t have a stop watch counting up from the exact moment that I found out that Heyward got traded (I know, that makes it unlikely I’ll be able to plan out a well-timed memorial service at this time next year…my loss, I guess) or of the fact that it feels like two weeks with all the incessant whining on here, but I’m sure it’s one of those things. Either way, thank you for making my point for me.

  95. @128 – I am with you, but I’m sure it will trigger extreme outrage that someone actually gave us more for JUpton than we recieved for Heyward.

    I hate that we are rebuilding too. I went through the last Braves rebuilding period, it was called the 80’s. Go Braves.

  96. We need to trade Justin Upton for much better reasons than that.


    I think it best illustrates your tendency to ignore, omit, forget, or misinterpret recorded facts when you start filling in the text box.

  97. Dude, lighten up. Folks are just busting your fanny a little bit. We get it, Jason Heyward is the best thing since the gas grill, the leaf blower and the internet. Welcome to the Braves new world.

  98. Hell, I’m GLAD we’re rebuilding. We couldn’t keep bailing water and trying to plug holes. I’m happy to see a clear direction.

    Coming in to the offseason, two of our best 4 offensive contributors had 1 year of control left. (Heyward and J Upton, the others being Freeman and Gattis.) Literally ALL of our other offensive players are as likely to be replacement level on offense as they are to be All Star level (Johnson, Simmons, La Stella, Bethancourt and B Upton.) Two of our 5 starting pitchers were just absolutely stop-gaps, in Harang and Santana, and the other three are quality young starters.

    We had a great young core of players, but it was the core of a top heavy team with a lot of holes, with no quality role players, no more youth in the pipeline, and no real money to spend due to the disastrous decisions to spend on Uggla and B Upton. Sure, we had young studs at 4 offensive positions and 3 starting pitcher positions. But even that youth wasn’t as advantageous as it could have been, because both Heyward and J Upton had debuted so young.

    We could have paid Heyward, or Upton, or maybe both. But then we’d still be looking for a Santana or a Harang for the rotation, we’d have no money to sign a quality role player to take AB’s away from B Upton, another one to take AB’s away from Chris Johnson or a quality backup for Bethancourt, or a utility IF who can do SOMETHING well. You’d be paying MORE money for the same team, except without Santana or Harang.

    Seriously, a series of deals like what Ryan C has been talking about sounds great to me. You could send out 1 year of Heyward, 1 year of Upton and maybe even 3 years of Mike Minor and getting back 4 years of Shelby Miller, 5 years of Taijuan Walker (or someone similar) plus 3 or 4 years of some quality position player to take AB’s away from one of Johnson or B Upton, and taking the money you’d spend on Jason Heyward and getting 5 years of Yosmany Tomas and 6 years of Jon Lester. You’d have a similar financial outlay, but you’re diversifying your spending, making a more balanced club, stabilizing ALL FIVE SLOTS of your rotation for HALF A DECADE, and POSSIBLY, just POSSIBLY, making a team that would be as good or better in 2015 as the one that had Upton, Heyward and two journeyman starters on it.

    I loved Heyward. I think the people calling him a “defense first RF” are being reductionist and silly. Jason Heyward, on any given day, was the best player on our team, the best player on the field. And until the day he was traded I had convinced myself he’d be a Brave for life, that they’d find a way. But the front office’s job isn’t to cater to the fans favorite narrative. It’s to win, with the expectation that winning will create it’s own engaging narrative. We could be the Rockies, paying Tulo to go out season after season, getting older by the year, anchoring a team of losers. I don’t want to watch that team.

    I understand I’m giving Hart credit here for deals he hasn’t even made yet. But that’s just the flip side of judging him for the roster he managed to complete by Thanksgiving.

    I get the idea, I’m on board. I’m eager to wait and see.

  99. @117, Pablo Sandoval (111 wRC+ last year vs Heyward’s 110) just signed for 5/$95 guaranteed. He’s two years older than Heyward and unlikely to age well. I will echo Edward in pointing out his platoon issues.

    I think the best recent FA comparable to Heyward is Jacoby Ellsbury. He got 7/$153, and prices are going up. This is the world we live in now. Well, by “we,” I obviously don’t mean to include the Braves.

    I’m also gonna point out that Steamer thinks Heyward’s going to provide as much offense as Jupton next season, and the reason for that is a combo of his age / skill set (better baserunner) / track record.

    OK, done with this topic. Bring on more Andrelton web gems.

  100. 132: You said it about as well as it can be said. Anyone who looked at the roster the Braves entered the offseason with, added ~$20 million and came up with a plausible contender was deluding themselves. The front office’s job is to recognize that reality and set to fixing it. I am as cut up about Heyward leaving as anyone–I wanted him to play out his whole career in Atlanta–but wasting the trade value of four months of Heyward to give this group of losers one last run at the second wild card would have been managerial malpractice.

  101. New shit has come to light, man. Lester predicted to get 25MM/year. Braves will have to pass on that.

  102. @134, the Sandoval signing seems terrible. I wouldn’t want the Braves to do that either. If 5/$100 gets you a 110 wRC+ then we are going to be way better off just staying out that market entirely and spending the money on pitching.

    I’m not arguing that Heyward isn’t going to get paid. I’m arguing that we shouldn’t be the team that pays him, or any position-player FA for that matter. Those deals rarely give good value.

  103. Also of note – if a player is traded mid-season the acquiring team cannot make a Qualifying Offer to that player for the following season. That means if we held JHey and traded him midseason, not only would his value be reduced by only having a partial season of play left, but also the acquiring team could not offer a QO and ensure at least a draft pick return if JHey goes elsewhere for 2016. (The same logic would seem to ensure a pre-season trade of JUp but not necessarily Gattis, since he has many years of team control remaining.)

    On a non-baseball/personal note, I’m moving from Atlanta to Athens for life reasons (wife took a job at UGA Law, but if anyone from the Braves asks I’m moving in protest of the team’s own decision to leave Atlanta for the suburbs). If anybody wants to grab a beverage in downtown Athens (or at Normal Bar), email me at I would also be interested in playing some pickup ultimate if anyone here does such things (Edward? Mavery?). Also also, I’m a lawyer and will likely be doing general practice work in Athens so if anyone needs legal assistance feel free to contact me for that too.

  104. My barber went for Texas BBQ today and the Rangers want to do the following:

    Lewis Brinson, Mike Choice, Robbie Ross and Luis Sardinas for J UP and Terdoslavich

  105. @ 141…

    Smitty, your barber is approaching mythical status…

    a bunch of the boys were trading it up in the Barber Shop Saloon
    a pitcher here they really fear for a bat they must platoon
    back of the bar, in a game of bluff, in seats for the monied few
    with the feint of Hart, two men apart,was the slugger known as Lew.

    the real thing, Robert Service

    Were you ever out in the Great Alone, when the moon was awful clear,
    And the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most could hear;
    With only the howl of a timber wolf, and you camped there in the cold,
    A half-dead thing in a stark, dead world, clean mad for the muck called gold;

  106. I will always remember 1) where I was when the Challenger exploded, 2) where I was when the planes hit the Towers, and 3) where I was when Jason Heyward was traded. Some things are big deals, man. Never forget.

  107. Braves rule 5 eligibles: Johan Camargo, J.R. Graham, and Robbie Hefflinger.

    Sean Gilmartin made that list…man, what an awful draft pick he was. Most intriguing? Delino Deshields, jr., good power and OBP for a wickedly fast guy, but a poopy attitude. He’d be worth a look, if he got to us.

  108. By all the rules that I can find, Cody Martin should be rule 5 eligible, but he’s not. Can’t say I understand why. Alex? Anyone?

  109. @149, where do you see he’s not? I think he definitely should be. It’s also interesting that Peraza is on the 40-man when there’s really no reason at all to put him there yet. I bet we trade him.

  110. He was older than 19 when he signed and this will be his 4th draft. He’s eligible unless there’s some loophole we’re missing.

  111. DOB has been tweeting all kinds of pro-Lester stuff today. I’d be shocked, but if it happened then at least we could stop talking about Heyward for a day or two.

  112. @152
    That’s the info I have as well, but he’s not listed in their post.

    Edit: Nevermind, just got word from JJ Cooper of BA that he is indeed rule 5 eligible. Really stupid move by the Braves should they not end up protecting him prior to the draft.

  113. If the Braves want to protect Graham and Martin, it’ll be easy to do so. There are a few players that won’t likely be on the 40-man much longer: Medlen, Beachy, Constanza.

    Edit: Well, poop. I’m learning a lot tonight. Apparently the deadline to protect rule-5 players was last week. I can understand not protecting Graham, but Martin? Dude’s been really good.

  114. …where I was when Jason Heyward was traded.

    I didn’t notice until hours after it hit the media. Went to Twitter and saw Heyward was a trending topic, and knew right then either he got traded or signed an extension.

    I was yet to be born when the Challenger exploded.

  115. @DOBrienAJC: Yes “@baldheaded1der: @DOBrienAJC can’t seem to get an answer anywhere. Is Cody Martin rule 5 eligible?”

  116. Happy Thanksgiving Eve, y’all. Travel safely, indulge wisely and be thankful for all the wisdom shared on Braves Journal.

    Thanks, Alex, Rissa, Sam, Ryan, and the rest of you guys for making the (off)season bright.

  117. You know… it seems confusing that the Red Sox would buy the top two 3B free agents (HanRam and Sandoval) when they only needed one, leaving the rest of baseball to fight over Chase Headley and not much else. That said, perhaps it leaves an opening for the Braves to trade Chris Johnson? I realize the Braves don’t really have a great candidate to take over at 3B (Kyle Kubitza maybe?), but it’s clear that ol’ Temper Tantrums Johnson isn’t the long-term answer. Perhaps the extreme lack of 3Bs will make Johnson and his 3 year / $23M deal (plus an option year!) tradeable in exchange for a fringe prospect or something.

  118. 163: I really think after the season Johnson just had that he is worth less than the remaining money on his contract. Someone would take a flier on him at closer to $2 or $3 million per year, but I don’t see the Braves unloading the whole contract unless they send value along with him.

  119. Seems like the FA dollar figures are extremely high right now so there might be a desperate team willing to take a chance on CJ. Good thing the option year is a club option with only a $1M buyout. It may be another situation where we are swapping just mediocre players with contracts that don’t match up to their performance.

  120. @160

    This isn’t especially relevant to the main story, which is awful, but my question is about one of the other instances they used as background toward the end of the story: What good is a face-protecting grill if it gets smashed by the ball, allowing the wearer to have his nose broken?

  121. The Heyward trade is upsetting, the BJ Upton signing has been a disaster, and Thunder Dan Uggla’s extension was short-sighted, but the Chris Johnson extension is, I think beyond a doubt, the least defensible move the Braves have made in the ’10s.

    I mean, with Heyward it’s clear what the Braves are going for; with BJ they were doing what they needed to do to get a center fielder from free agency; with Dope Boy, they thought he was going to be decent for longer.

    What on earth were we doing competing against ourselves to sign a mediocre (at best) player to an extension? How much of it can we blame on John Hart?

  122. I just read a story that the BoSox are stocking up on hitting. They understand that hitting is the hot commodity now. Hanley will go to LF and with Sandoval penciled in at 3b. This makes Middlebrooks (he has had one good season), Nava, Craig, et al available as trade bait. All the above have had some good years in the majors but recent performance has been wanting. A trade partner would have to roll the dice that they can return to form.

  123. @168 The Chris Johnson extension wasn’t nearly as harmful as the BJ signing, but I would agree that there was no good basis for the CJ deal (whereas the BJ signing was a calculated gamble that has simply turned out terribly).

    2014 was CJ’s 2nd arb year (out of 4 total) and he was under contract for $4.5M. The Braves bought out his last two arb years (2015-16) at $6M and $7.5M, and bought out one FA year at $9M. On one hand, that’s not much money for a starting position player these days… but on the other hand, the Braves already had CJ under team control for 2015-16 already if they wanted him, not to mention the fact that CJ’s value rests almost exclusively on maintaining a high BABIP, and he’s not a young guy (just turned 30).

    Essentially, the Braves assumed the downside risk that CJ’s production would collapse/return to career averages in exchange for locking in one FA season (age 33!) at $9M. Seems they were hoping against hope that CJ’s magical 2013 season was the ‘true’ CJ rather than an outlier. The potential costs greatly outweighed the potential benefits on the CJ deal, and there was no compelling reason to make it.

  124. Allen Craig is the interesting one. His 2014 season was awful, which I think was caused due to numerous injuries. He doesn’t have a spot on that roster right now, but his contract is also a question mark.

    2015 $5.5M, 2016 $9M, 2017 $11M, 2018 (club option) $13M $1M buyout

    I wouldn’t mind having Nava or Holt. I don’t know about Middlebrooks at this point.

  125. @166…

    nick, as reported Hughes was hit on the side of the head in an unprotected area, thus the grave injury…it’s hard to understand the other guy’s broken nose as you say because that’s slap in the middle of the area protected by the face mask…

    going back to Hughes and comparing this incident to it’s baseball equivalent there are two additional factors in play here – the ball is much harder, feel one if you get the chance but not the kid’s version…and the ‘pitch’ is not arriving at a descending or level angle but rising up sharply from where it was deliberately aimed into the ground to land, say, eight feet in front of him. As the batter twists and ducks and turns away – like baseball – that dangerous upward angle has the chance to find a gap beneath the well padded helmet and the face mask.

    Also, as an aside, apart from the wicket keeper(catcher) all the other fielders stop/catch the batted ball with their bare hands throughout maybe a long 6 hour day in the field. Just recently though fielders in positions of high risk close to and in front of the batter are starting to wear face masks. Those two positions have been historically defined as ‘silly mid on’ and ‘silly mid off’. Yeah, silly indeed, they can be as little as ten or twelve feet away from the batter..

    For all that though isn’t it quite astonishing that baseball has only had one on-field fatality? All those games. Cheers.

  126. Since we’re not going to compete anyway (all due respect, Ryan C) we should sign Ichiro because it would be super-fun for everyone. He’s the kind of guy who could move to a contender in July, too, for some kind of useful piece.

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