We’ve been whispering about it for more than a year now in this dark corner, but with the Miller-for-Inciarte/Swanson/Blair trade it’s actually, unquestionably the move for the Braves to make now—if they can swing it:
Outbid the other teams and bring Jason Heyward back to Atlanta.
I’ll answer some questions you’re all asking yourselves:
- Do we want him as a player? Ummm, yes. Depending on how much you value his handiwork in the field, he’s a top-10 to top-40 position player in the game. And he seems to fit the offensive profile the Braves are looking for. And there’s upside. The power he used to show seems like a pipe dream now, but he hit 27 home runs once and he’s only 26 years old—long odds, but he could return to being a superb hitter instead of a good one.
- Can we afford him? Yes, actually. A general consensus (which might come to nothing) thinks he’ll go for around $200 million over 9 years. That works out to just over $22 million a year. With Shelby and Andrelton and Minor out of the picture, opening day payroll looks like it’s around $80 million. Unless the Braves trade Teheran—or perhaps even if they do—they don’t need to go out and pay for the services of any other free agents. We are set for 2016, and after that it’s nothing but blue skies.
- Does he look good in a Braves uniform?
- Would we rather have a different free agent next year? Good question. Presumably the Braves have to be a little choosy about whom they offer the big money. The combined commitments to Heyward to Freeman would probably preclude any other big signings for a couple years. Taking a look at next year’s crop of free agents, the only name that jumps out is Stephen Strasburg. If he has a poor season, we don’t want him. If he has a good season we can’t afford him anyway. So the answer is probably not.
- How many outfielders is too many? Another good question. Inciarte, Nick Markakis, Michael Bourn, Dian Toscano, the Olivera–Garcia contingent, a little bit of Nick Swisher, a vaudeville appearance from Mallex Smith at some point. You can’t add Jason Heyward without sending one or two of those logs down river. Inciarte isn’t going anywhere, obviously. We could cut Bourn and Swisher loose, but it wouldn’t be worth the cost of the phone call to do it. It doesn’t seem likely the Braves trade Toscano or Olivera until other teams get to see how good they are. Adonis will get a shot to man third until he proves he can’t. Welp, I guess that’s th—wait! Nick Markakis!!! Because he can hit, he’s actually a good buy at $33 million over the next three years. There is definitely a team out there who will take the Cakes. Get the best return you can for him without being a total stickler. Move the man and re-allocate some of his salary to the real #22.
- Would Heyward come back? Ay, there’s the rub. I think the money will be there, but I don’t know how burnt the bridge is. I don’t know if he’d be willing to play for Fredi. I don’t know if, after winning a cool hundred with the Redbirds, he’d want to jump to a rebuild, even one with a rosy outlook. I don’t know what kind of relationship he has, if any, with the men in charge these days. And I don’t know if any of that is any reason not to go all in right now.
Get it done, Johns.