Trade Recap: The Jason Heyward/Shelby Miller Trade

Ed. note: Click here to see Rob’s recaps of the other major trades from the Great Teardown.

The first big trade that Coppy made was trading Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden for Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. Like Justin Upton, Heyward was one year away from free agency, and with seemingly no hope of re-signing him, they decided to get something significant for him instead of leaving for free agency. By this point, it was not publicly declared (and perhaps not even internally decided) that they were in the midst of a rebuild, so receiving back a major league piece like Shelby seemed to be important.

Who We Gave Up:

Jason Heyward – Bad Henry County. The next Braves Hall of Famer. The next Hank Aaron? A true 5-tool player who could perform each of them at an elite level. He dumped the first fastball he ever saw into the Braves’ bullpen in 2010. The expectations were enormous. He should have had the bat of Fred McGriff, the defense of Andruw Jones, the arm of Jeff Francoeur, and the leadership of Chipper Jones if you talked to enough Braves fans. But instead of being a cornerstone player for the next 15 years, J-Hey was simply… an excellent major league baseball player. He was an All-Star, finished second in the RoY, has now won 3 Gold Gloves, and sabermetricians think he is one of the most valuable players in baseball. As it stood, he had a .781 OPS, stole bases at a 75% clip, and played perhaps the best right field defense in the game. He was mostly durable aside from some hamstring issues and a very unfortunate pitch to the face in 2013.

In his lone season in St. Louis, he had one of his best seasons since his rookie season. He managed his highest stolen base total (and success rate), he hit .293/.359/.439, and won another Gold Glove. St. Louis, perhaps, hoped that he would sign his inevitable long-term mega deal with them, but he went to their rival, the Chicago Cubs. But after signing up with the Cubbies for 8 years in exchange for $184,000,000 in payment, his first season at Wrigley was a very forgettable one. He turned in his worst OPS of his career (.631), played his fewest games since his injury-marred 2013 season, and didn’t steal nearly as many bags as he had previously. It got so bad, in fact, that he was benched multiple times during the Cubs’ World Series run.

He’s perhaps the most enigmatic player to play for the Braves. Do you really pay $22M a season for a guy who is not a transcendent offensive power? But at the end of the day, a penny saved is a penny earned, and advanced defensive metrics say that he saves significantly more runs over an average right fielder than he “loses” at the plate over an elite offensive player. To many, the balance tips to his side, and the value is there.

Jordan Walden – Classic Atlanta with this one. We picked him up by trading the late Tommy Hanson in 2012. For a total of $2M, he provided two solid relief seasons for Atlanta. For St. Louis, he pitched 10 1/3 innings in two seasons due to injuries. The Braves signed him last week to a minor league deal with an invite for Spring Training.

Who We Got Back:

Shelby Miller – Shelby, we hardly knew ye. Shelby clearly was the centerpiece of the deal, and like his counterpart in this deal, he played one season for his new team. He didn’t produce the WAR that Heyward did (6.5 to 3.6 WAR, with much of that gap due to Heyward’s controversial defensive contribution), but he turned in a valuable season for the rebuilding Braves. He led the league in starts, pitched 205 1/3 innings, produced a 3.02 ERA, and made the All-Star team as the Braves’ lone representative.

But where the story changes is what the Braves did with Miller next. While Heyward left for the Cubs in free agency, the Braves traded the big Texan to Arizona for Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte, and Aaron Blair. Considered at the time to be one of the biggest heists of the decade, the progression of value certainly is to be taken into consideration for what the Braves received with Shelby Miller.

Tyrell Jenkins – Another big fella from Texas, Tyrell was originally committed to Baylor to play quarterback. He’s a high-ceiling-low-floor prospect who possesses a 94 MPH fastball, average breaking ball and change, and struggles to match his secondary stats with his otherwise strong ERAs. He struggles to consistently throw strikes (3.5 BB/9 in his ML career), doesn’t strike out enough guys (6.5 K/9), and that came to a head in his time in Atlanta in 2016. His inability to master those things in the minors led to an alarming walk rate (5.7 BB/9), a simply unacceptable K/9 (4.5), and that led to a 5.88 ERA in 14 games. The Braves at a couple different points have said that his future may be as a reliever, and the jury is still out over where he slides into Atlanta’s plans long-term. He has been rated as highly at #6 on some prospect charts as the Braves have continued to tinker with their farm system.

So What?

If the trade evaluation ended at the end of 2015, then you’d say that the Braves traded a cornerstone player for a very good right-handed starting pitcher. That may not sound particularly appetizing. But with Heyward now in such an enormous contract, Shelby sold for a king’s ransom, Jenkins still having potential, and Walden back in Atlanta, you’d have to conclude that the Braves sold at a great time on Heyward and maximized his value.

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156 thoughts on “Trade Recap: The Jason Heyward/Shelby Miller Trade”

  1. I sometimes wonder what the state of the organization would be if Heyward had been the one who wanted long-term security and Freeman wanted to test the market. Freeman would be a free agent this offseason and he’d be far and away the top player on the market given his age and the season he had.

  2. Freddie ultimately signed his deal in 2013, and as early as 2011, there were red flags with Heyward. He missed significant time in 2011 and 2013, and in those seasons, he had OPSes that have never matched even Freeman’s worst season. When Freddie signed his deal at 23, he was coming off a .897 OPS season, and he had never played less than 147 games in a season.

    Were there any actual numbers publicly mentioned for what Heyward was offered? Could it be that Freddie was given an offer reflective of his incrementally increasing and consistent production, and Heyward’s deal was reflective of his inconsistent production and concern for his durability? The Braves may have offered him an offer so low that Heyward was forced to bet on himself.

  3. And what in the bloody hell is going on in the SEC?

    I like Jim McElwain ok, I guess, but he’s no Steve Spurrier or Urban Meyer (who are?). But as it stands, Georgia has employed a guy who is no better than his predecessor, LSU just traded Les Miles for Ed freakin’ Orgeron, and South Carolina talked themselves into a guy who has already failed in the SEC (and will fail again). Oh, and Tennessee’s coach is a dumpster fire too, and they had Phil Fulmer at one time.

    How did the SEC go from Urban Meyer, Les Miles, Steve Spurrier, and Mark Richt to this dumpster fire? Lane Kiffin is starting to look like a better option than some of these clowns. If the SEC is not careful, they are going to be firmly behind the Pac-12 and Big Ten with these coaching hires.

  4. McElwain and Smart may turn out okay, but they have a lot to learn. I don’t see much hope for Muschamp. I really think we have the coaches we have in the SEC because of the Saban effect. If coaches can’t win 10 games every year and they don’t make win the SECCG every other year, it’s time to find someone who can. Rotating coaches so much also thins out the field of proven available coaches. Does anyone actually think Ed Orgeron is an improvement over Les Miles? I think that was a panic move after Herman turned them down.

  5. Rumors all over about Kiffin joining Orgeron at LSU. Not sure why he’d do that, but I guess they can pay him whatever it takes.

    If you keep hiring Saban’s understudies and expect them to be Saban, then you aren’t fit to be hiring. No idea what UGA is doing and I’m pretty much done caring.

  6. The SEC will be fine. It will continue to shower more money on its coaches than it does on half of its academic programs. It will continue to make football coaches the most highly paid public sector employee in more than half of the states. It will continue to recruit the best talent by combining not being a freezing hell hole in the rotting underbelly of the corpse of the American Midwest with the academic admission standards of a Taco Bell internship.

  7. It’s a series of evaluating these trades after a couple years to get a better understanding of how these trades have ended up. I guess the better term would be “trade retrospective”.

  8. I’m not so sure the SEC will be fine. CFB is so coach-driven, and in the last 3-4 years we’ve seen a huge shift in the coaching landscape. Only 3 of the 10 highest paid coaches are in the SEC (with Miles most likely becoming someone else’s financial responsibility soon), and only 1 of the top 7. So I don’t think the “SEC would rather spend money on balls than books” routine doesn’t hold much water.

    And perhaps more importantly, the SEC will inevitably lose their winning robot (Saban) soon, and Meyer, Franklin, Richt, and (most likely) Miles have left the SEC for other conferences. Along with that, Herman, Jimbo, and Harbaugh could have easily chosen SEC schools and did not. And while those guys have populated other conferences, SEC schools have hired McElwain, Smart, and Mason to replace far superior recent coaches, and they’ve hired clowns like Muschamp and Jones. The SEC has been striking out on coaches pretty consistently, and because of the Saban effect, it seems like the top coaches don’t want to be in the SEC. You win 10 games too many times, and an SEC school will fire you. They’re not going to do that at Clemson, FSU, OSU, Michigan, etc. And with top coaches doing satellite camps in the south, the defense of the coveted real estate down here could be futile. I think this is a problem.

  9. @15, I don’t think the SEC is too cheap (I mean we still have the highest paid players don’t we?), I think it’s more that there’s just not many good coaches. The Saban blueprint isn’t about X’s and O’s, it’s about having better players than everyone else. Trying to replicate that elsewhere is quite an uphill climb. I’d rather see some innovative risk-taking coaches in the league. Muschamp and Smart are bad for the sport.

  10. There are plenty of good coaches, but they’re just not in the SEC. Look at LSU. They fire a perfectly good coach (probably the second-best coach in the conference), and they could have a) stuck with who they had or b) given Tom Herman or Jimbo Fisher enough money. Fisher makes $5.1M at FSU, and from what it seems, they wouldn’t give him a 10-year, $6.5M deal. Obviously the term is the problem, but $6.5M would have only been a $1.4M yearly increase over what FSU was paying him, and they wouldn’t do it. And if Herman indeed leveraged LSU into getting a higher offer from Texas, then they could avoided that by, ya know, offering more. At the end of the day, the good coaches don’t want to be in the SEC.

  11. Texas is the easier path to winning. Teams rebuilt by Strong already. Conference is weak. Don’t have to beat Bama to just make the playoff.

  12. Boston Herald speculating Blake Swihart could be on the move this offseason, and if that’s the case then I would love to make a run at him.

  13. @12 – I believe that Alex is still looking for some content for the offseason. If you have some ideas, you should send them in. Otherwise, y’all are going to be stuck with some more of my “book reports” for awhile.

  14. +1 on the Trade Retrospectives. It’s much like the NFL Draft – you don’t really know who won until 2-3 years down the road.

  15. Rob Cope,

    An observation on the ending passage. I would say as of end of 2015 you should say “Braves gave up 1 year of a perplexing good, but not great, player and the draft pick associated with him, and 1 year of a good but not great reliever for 4 years of control of an up and down pitcher who just had his best year ever, but could turn back into a pumpkin and a bad command and control minor leaguer with velocity who is some sort of lottery ticket.” Since then, the lottery ticket missed on the big jackpot but has one of those “redraw” things where you still can get something for it.

  16. @15: “CFB is so coach-driven.” And recruit-driven. That’s what I love about Paul Johnson (besides the fact that he’s fat and old.) He goes his own way and creates winning football teams with second-rate talent. (OK. He gets a few great players, but not top-to-bottom.) There’s no way that GT will ever compete for a national championship again with this level of talent, but they’re entertaining and unique. More teams ought to strive for this, and probably would if coaches like Paul Johnson weren’t so scarce.

    (I never see a lot of GT love here. So I just thought I’d throw this out there and see who calls me an idiot.)

  17. I would like to see what would happen if Paul Johnson had Georgia’s talent level. CFB is fun because there’s innovative/unique offenses, and some of those innovations and trends even graduate to the NFL on occasion.

    All the Saban disciples are trying a pro-style offense to copy Alabama, meanwhile Alabama is incorporating spread concepts and dual-threat QB’s because they’ve struggled to defend it. Hiring a defense-first head coach is going to usually mean that your offense is going to be unwatchable – Saban is the only notable exception that I can think of.

  18. There’s no way that GT will ever compete for a national championship again with this level of talent, but they’re entertaining and unique. More teams ought to strive for this, and probably would if coaches like Paul Johnson weren’t so scarce.

    I agree, but with the caveat that Johnson really needs to get a QB who can see over the defensive line and throw the ball 20 yards down field without rainbowing it, and he really needs to learn how to recruit either 1) real receivers again (i.e. Calvin or Bebe types, who open up the option by being real threats downfield) or 2) something approximating defensive talent.

    I’ll also caveat that Johnson’s refusal to innovate his innovation; that is to say his refusal to move to a spread option rather than his beloved triple option wishbone under center; is annoying as hell. If he would just open up the spread a little more and use an occasional shotgun outside of 3rd and long, he might actually recruit higher level mobile QB options. Put Lamar Jackson in his system and he’s threatening to get into the CFP…

  19. Glad to see some GT talk (or a least not just SEC or Harvard v Yale – sorry …). No question that the option is much more effective when there is a legitimate throwing threat – when GT ran the option with Joe Hamilton at QB it was pretty deadly. As for not innovating, let’s do remember that there are some non football constraints at GT. I don’t think Lamar Jackson is too interested in derivatives or integrals.

    I love what Johnson does at GT. Are we going to win a CFP ? Nope. Should we be aiming for that ? Nope. We’re GT. We are closer to one of the Military Academies than we are are to Bama (or even to UGA to be honest) in terms of the talent pool we can draw from. Johnson’s offense is a unique approach that is the football equivalent of guerilla warfare – a way to compete with larger opponents that would otherwise mop the floor with us. I like it and always have. Of course it is worth noting that CPJ’s successor has arguably done more with his talent at the USNA.

    Of course, why Kirby Smart put it in the air in the 4th quarter with a freshman QB is another more fundamental question. We’ll just say thank you and enjoy the victory. When they don’t happen too often you have to savor them when they come along. Go Jackets !

  20. As Pepper Rodgers was reputed to have said when he returned to GT to coach: “The calculus requirement shouldn’t be a recruiting problem. I cheated my way through it and I’m sure my players can today.” And while I guess if I were a very talented wide receiver I’d think twice before going to Tech, it didn’t hurt Demariyus Thomas any (although he came to GT before Johnson did.) But I think of Johnson as following a Moneyball strategy: get the best athletes that other schools don’t want because they don’t fit: short quarterbacks, fullbacks, receivers who can block downfield. It’s not that he wouldn’t want Jalen Hurts or even John Franklin III (could he get into grad school at Tech? Has everyone watched Last Chance U? If you haven’t, do.) it’s just that you can’t get them even by promising to diversify your offense for them (which I agree, Sam, he probably wouldn’t do anyway.)

  21. I don’t think Lamar Jackson is too interested in derivatives or integrals.

    As if Josh Nesbitt was there for the architecture program? Please. GT has higher standards than UGA, which is the categorical definition of “damning with faint praise.”

  22. @18

    I recognize that 6-6 is a big improvement for Vandy, but I wouldn’t be getting excited about any SEC East coach’s performance against largely that division.

    It’s like with McElwain today. He said he was “brought in to get to Atlanta”. Oh, c’mon now. He has gotten to the SECCG twice now, and that’s fantastic. A lot of money into the program. And he was dealt a bad hand with the QB situation. But beating up on Butch Jones and Kirby Smart and Derek Mason and some guy named Coach Boom while you elude Nick Saban, Kevin Sumlin, and even Hugh Freeze and Dan Mullen is hardly a feat. It’s not too long ago that in order to get through the SEC East, you had to play against Urban Meyer, Mark Richt, Phil Fulmer, Steve Spurrier, and Bobby Johnson (who was pretty good at times).

    @24

    I think you’re under-selling Miller a tick. He was hardly up-and-down, even going into his age-24 season. That is entirely a reaction to his bizarre 2016 season, which no one could have seen coming at the time. And you can’t turn back into a pumpkin if you never were to begin with.

  23. No. He’s a 35-year-old catcher with bad knees. St. Louis had him under contract and decided he wasn’t worth keeping around, not even as insurance for their other ancient, injury-ravaged catcher.

  24. The big problem with going after Pena is that he would block Tuffy Gosewisch in AAA. It has always been my philosophy that you need at least one guy named Tuffy in your minor league system. The other problem with going after Pena is that he’s terrible.

  25. 32—Look, I’m not just scouting the record; I watch all the games. As I said, Mason is growing very nicely into the position. He was a disaster in his first year, and merely bad last year, but this year, despite some painful bumps, there’s been marked improvement. He’s always been a coaching whiz, but the very real questions have been about his Program CEO chops.

    He’s learning, and he’s assembled a pretty good staff — I’m optimistic about the future.

  26. Jackson certainly has tools, but hasn’t been able to convert them into game skills yet. And the Braves haven’t necessarily shown a lot of aptitude at converting toolsy athletes into baseball players in the past. On the other hand, Whalen and Povse were certainly likely to be victims of roster crunch in the near future, so you might as well try and get something for them — preferably position player talent. There are fair odds this trade is a flat nothing on both sides, but it could go either way.

  27. He instantly becomes our top outfield prospect. I like the move at first glance – shore up a deficiency from an area of strength (and not dealing from anywhere close to the top of that strength).

  28. L-O-V-E this deal.

    43—He was a catcher in HS. Mariners converted him to OF to get him to the big leagues faster, but it hasn’t helped.

  29. victims of roster crunch

    If the Braves feel like they’re getting good value in Alex Jackson, then great, but if not, then they’re solving a problem they created. A great way to avoid having nine people for five spots is to not consciously acquire the other four. They asked for it. I was kind of hoping they would turn the pitching glut into something that is a pretty good bet to help the 2017/2018 roster. This guy, not so much, but like I said, if they feel like they’re getting good value, then it’s fine, I guess. It just seems like a lot to give up for a guy who hasn’t yet hit in the low minors.

  30. Pretty cool. We now have the 6th, 14th, 15th, and 32nd players picked in the 2014 draft, and the worst performing one is the one we picked. Zing!

  31. I would’ve been ecstatic if one of Whalen/Povse turned into a backend starter. It seems they are most likely relievers. I’m skeptical about Jackson since he hasn’t hit yet but if he can play catcher he doesn’t have to mash.

    I love that the FO is comfortable enough with their pitching prospect depth to take on this type of risk with Jackson.

    I bet the PTBNL is intriguing.

  32. Can anyone explain the purpose of a player to be named later at this time of year? I wonder if whoever that is will be a major league ready player, albeit below average, or a lottery ticket.

  33. @47, That’s a very good second point.
    @48, We have definitely increased the ceiling of what the value of Whalen + Povse can become.

    Between Demeritte, Jackson, and Acuna, we have three position player prospects who could conceivably make it as high as AA next year.

    MLB Pipeline has slid Jackson into the 13th spot on our list with Povse and Whalen coming in at 10th and 14th, respectively.

  34. @ 49 I read that PTBNL at this time of year often involves a player eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Eligible players cannot be traded until after the Rule 5, so PTBNL is likely to be announced afterwards.

  35. From @gondeee: “Ha! To make space for Whalen/Povse, the Mariners DFA’ed Ryan Weber, whom they had just claimed off waivers from Braves on Nov. 2.”

  36. @54, If Brett Butler is not on that list, it’s a stupid list.

    UPDATE: Just checked. Brett Butler’s not on that list. That was one of the weirdest trades in MLB history, but a lot of people forget that Butler was a PTBNL in the Len Barker deal (even though he was the primary target for Cleveland). That was a surreal time to be a 12-year-old Braves fan.

  37. @56, Haha! True. Ted kept everyone on their toes. That said, I was just a kid and it was my first full year of following the Braves. I thought that kind of a trade was normal.

  38. Bowman

    If the Braves non-tender anybody before Friday’s deadline, Chris Withrow and Paco Rodriguez would be the most likely.

  39. Feeling pretty torn about the Alex Jackson trade – I’m happy to have another high-ceiling bat added to the minor league system, and will lose no sleep over trading Whalen, but it hurts to have to give up Max Povse in the deal.

  40. @55 – Are you sure? I thought it was always Butler, Jacoby and Behenna with Butler being the centerpiece. That was the Indians Shelby Miller trade.

  41. I don’t hate the trade, though I haven’t thought about it a lot. Povse clearly increased his value a lot last year, but presumably our scouts see him as no more than what the MLB.com prospect guys say: “More athletic than you’d think given his gangly frame, Povse fields his position well and repeats his delivery better than you might expect, giving him the chance to be a back-end rotation guy in the future.” (That’s at http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2016?list=sea.) And Whalen… I didn’t see a lot from Whalen to believe that he’s a major loss. He could be a decent fifth starter, I guess, but I just don’t see him as someone worth crying over.

    We’re buying low on Jackson, but he’s just two years from being the sixth overall pick, and you have to buy low to get a guy like that. There’s some serious talent in there, and maybe their scouts feel like they can fix him. I like the idea of collecting some lottery ticket hitters for once.

    On the other hand, this Fangraphs analysis hates the trade: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/instagraphs/projecting-alex-jackson-max-povse-and-rob-whalen/

    So, we’ll see.

  42. AAR – Fangraphs also posted an article focusing on scouting reports of Jackson, Povse and Whalen (which you’ve probably read but others on BJ may not have). It basically paints Jackson as an intriguing player who’s done poorly since the draft but is still young; Povse and Whalen are both written as safer assets but lower-ceiling arms (of which the Braves have many).

    Jackson: “It’s possible that, with a change of scenery, the traits that made Jackson one of recent memory’s most successful prep hitters could reappear as quickly and mysteriously as they evaporated. The arrow is unquestionably pointing down here, but it’s an interesting buy-low opportunity for the Braves…”

    Povse: “…back-end stuff and an inning-eating body.”

    Whalen: “Whalen could be a fifth starter or up-and-down arm if his command improves significantly, but his delivery features some effort and he’s a likely reliever.”

    My takeaway – I had only scouted Povse’s nice stat line; I didn’t realize his stuff was not all that highly rated. That being the case, I can definitely live with this trade. The Braves will certainly need more bats in the pipeline in the coming years.

  43. What if we flipped a few more prospects and threw in Rodriguez and Garcia for Kyle Seager? I think I could live with that. If Jackson can play catcher, why wouldn’t Seattle stick him there. He shouldn’t be blocked by their 3 current catchers who hit between .207 and .221.

  44. @60, As I recall it, the trade happened and we somehow got Barker on the mound before ANY players went to Cleveland. Rick Behenna was the first. Jacoby, a minor leaguer, would go over at the same time as Butler. It was widely known that Butler was going to be going over to Cleveland but never confirmed. The fanbase flipped out that they’d be losing Butler. There was a huge amount of cognitive dissonance because Butler was in the thick of the pennant race and literally playing behind the guy he was “traded for” for several weeks.

    I remember Ted making noise that he was trying to figure out an alternative to sending Butler over because fans were so apoplectic. And especially since Barker wasn’t all that good and we didn’t make the playoffs. It was all a big mess, starting with the deal itself. That should have been the clue right there.

  45. The reports were that the M’s flipped him to OF to get him to the bigs faster, not because he couldn’t play C any more.

  46. He’s only 20. Changing his position after HS might be a reason for his struggles. If they are going to convert him back now is the time.

  47. Povse and Whalen are nothing special. I don’t know anything about the guy we got back, but if he’s a high ceiling player then good.

  48. @70 Heck, the Cubs converted Willson Contreras from an infielder to a catcher in 2012, when he was 20, and he’s now catching at the MLB level. If Jackson played as a catcher all the way up through age 18, it seems likely he can go back to doing that now. That said – it may have a negative effect on his potential at the plate – that’s something for the Braves’ staff to determine.

  49. Withrow and Paco would have to be in the,”too injured to ever play again” boat to be released ahead of Chase and Chaz, wouldn’t they?

    Povse has a non-zero chance of becoming Doug Fister, so there is some loss there. He provides depth to a system that has no upper minors pitching at all. Whalen is capable of MLB innings right now, which the M’s need. On the other hand, Jackson has some chance of being really good. given we are also getting the PTBNL this could be a very good deal for us

  50. Trade makes no sense unless the PTBNL is good. Trading surplus pitching for guys that aren’t likely to even make the majors is not going to move the needle at all.

  51. I’m not sure if a 20 year old top 10 pick from three drafts ago who had a very solid second half in his second full minor league season is a guy unlikely to reach the bigs. I don’t love the trade, but still….

  52. Well, yeah, if we’re operating under the assumption that Jackson is a nonentity, sure, trade’s bad. He isn’t, though. He’s only 20 and was a top-flight talent as recently as two years ago. This isn’t roster filler, here.

  53. Really? That article had more hedges than Sanford Stadium and not much else. Also never mentions the age difference of Jackson relative to the league he was playing in, let alone that he OPS’ed 100 points above league average last year if I am reading things right –

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/register/league.cgi?id=c9c43ea4

    Not saying he was a world beater, but I’m not getting the massive amounts of pessimism for someone who’s just 20 and holding his own relative to level.

  54. I will say this – the Braves appeared to get a better prospect (Travis Demeritte) for less in return (Lucas Harrell and Dario Alvarez) just a few months ago. We may just have gotten spoiled and now assume that every trade the Braves are going to do will be lopsided in our favor.

  55. @78

    I agree. We have a ton of pitchers. We gave up two guys who were middle relievers (at best) with the Braves. We got a guy who has all the ability in the world. Maybe he gets there, maybe he doesn’t.

    I don’t think we will ever say “Povse and Whalen would have been the difference.” “Did you guys hear Povse and Whalen’s HOF speeches?”

  56. I think some of the ways of looking at this trade have been kinda odd. Are Povse and Whalen future #3+ starters? Probably not. But as the Fan Graphs article outlined, they had lots of value. It doesn’t matter that we had too many pitchers. If I have too many cars, I’ll sell one at fair market value. It doesn’t matter how many I have. The return, on this trade, appears pretty light. I’m going to reserve judgment until we find out what the PTBNL is, but this guy has a very high degree of likelihood to contribute almost no WAR at the major league level whereas Max Povse was a pretty intriguing prospect who has just as much chance to become Kyle Hendricks as Alex Jackson is going to become Wilson Ramos.

    This is kind of like the Andrelton Simmons trade. Was Simmons going to “be on the next great Braves team”? Was he a “luxury on the current roster”? It doesn’t matter. The return is what overwhelmed a lot of fans. This seems to be a similar situation if the PTBNL doesn’t turn out to be something that projects to be useful.

  57. It doesn’t matter that we had too many pitchers. If I have too many cars, I’ll sell one at fair market value. It doesn’t matter how many I have.

    Except your HOA and neighborhood association have rules saying you can only keep 25 cars at your house at one time, and only 40 at your house or in storage, and you really need a new roof more than you need that 41st car.

  58. Did you own the house before you bought all the cars? Did you have a copy of the HOA docs? If you knew the rules of the game, you shouldn’t have bought all of the cars, especially since it meant selling your nice Terracotta tile roof so you could later throw a 3-tab shingle on.

    Like I said, the return appears light. And the question (and it’s simply a question) is whether or not we created a situation where we acquired assets we couldn’t keep (and we knew it at the time) to have to sell them off and not get full value. That’s what it appears in this case, but it’s really hard to evaluate prospect-for-prospect trades, so that’s why I’m being pretty soft in my wording.

  59. I think you’re doing that thing where we over value marginal Braves prospects and under value marginal prospects from other orgs. With the PTBNL I expect this will be a wash in terms of talent.

  60. @86

    I agree with that. If the tea leaves suggest that there’s a PTBNL at this stage of the offseason because of a 40-man issue, then I think it could definitely tip the scales. It’s a tough trade because based on the information we have right now, it doesn’t look particularly appetizing. We only have half the return.

    To Alex’s point, the premise of the trade is great. Trade low-ceiling prospects you don’t have a need for to get high-ceiling prospects down the rung (something JohnWDB had suggested many times). Higher risk, higher potential reward.

  61. First, it’s impossible to sell at “fair market value” when the rest of the market knows you have to get rid of something. When that happens, there’s a new fair market value, and it’s considerably lower. For another example, see the value we gave to get Mark Teixeira and then the value we got back for him a year later. Is it possible we could’ve gotten more than Casey Kotchman and Stephen Marek for him? I suppose, but certainly not much more than that. The Rangers didn’t need to trade him and we did. That plays into fair market value.

    I also think this is a classic example of fans overvaluing their own prospects. I think if you look at it from a perspective where you never had an attachment to Rob Whalen or Max Povse, this deal makes perfect sense. I think it’s very difficult to say that we didn’t get “fair market value” here. You’re picking apart the other team’s prospect while giving our prospects a pass.

    I would literally throw Rob Whalen into any deal where the other team asked for him without thinking about it. He’s a non-entity. I wouldn’t have been upset had we lost him in the Rule 5 draft, really. Getting something for him is a bonus.

    I don’t know much about Max Povse, but a trade of him for a position player prospect who was talented enough to be drafted in the top 10 overall at one point seems like a worthwhile gamble to me.

    If we lost both of these guys to the Rule 5 draft, I would say you could then complain about overloading on pitchers and not having enough foresight to know this would happen. Instead, you got something for them. Something that might be worthwhile and might not (plus a PTBNL) in exchange for a pitcher who was probably not and one who, like Alex Jackson, was a toss-up. I mean, I really don’t see how this is something to worry about.

    If you’re this upset over Rob Whalen and Max Povse, I can’t wait to see the reaction over who we have to trade to get into contention when we finally decide to cut this BS and make an effort to put a winning baseball team on the field.

    And as an aside, comparing the loss of Rob Whalen and Max Povse to the loss of Andrelton Simmons is a little much, don’t you think? Simmons was a part of winning baseball teams and fans had rightfully gotten attached to him through his amazing defensive play. If you got attached to Rob Whalen and/or Max Povse, that’s on you.

  62. Point 1 @89 is a classic fallacy – assuming monopsony power for the “buyer” (in this case the M’s). There’s no reason to believe the Braves didn’t get what they consider fair market value in this deal.

  63. I figure they see something in his swing to be corrected. I haven’t heard much detail, but character concerns were alluded to by Pipeline and Fangraphs. Maybe getting traded helps him get his head on straight.

    It’s another trade of present and near-future value for value down the road, which is a good sign in my book considering where they’re at right now.

  64. @90 One could convincingly argue that the notion of “fair market value” is a fallacy or at best some imaginary line. Market value for a potential 1.0 WAR player is going to be different for each seller due to the context of the trade discussion. There’s no magical “going rate” for 1.0 WAR. Even in free agency, there are numerous factors to consider when gauging salary. Opinions will vary on each contract.

    I do, however, think it’s far more important to get more in return for a prospect than what you gave for him.

  65. The point is that the Braves could have traded pitching to 29 teams, but this is the trade they chose to make. They think it’s fair — and so do the Mariners.

  66. We are swapping some of our low ceiling (safe) pitching for high ceiling (risky) hitting. That’s exactly right. We’re doing exactly the thing we should do.

    This isn’t the kind of pitching that you use to trade for Evan Longoria. That takes Kolby Allard type pitching. This is the kind of pitching you can trade for Luis Valbuena, and this team doesn’t need Luis Valbuena.

    Which is to say, if we’d traded these guys for big league players, they’d be the kind that doesn’t move the needle in the long term. They’d land the kind of player you can sign for 2 to 3 yrs at $6m to $8m per. We shouldn’t be trading for that type of player. If a team in our position wants that type of player, its just to stop the bleeding at the ML level since we’re in a new stadium now, not because we have visions on actually winning anything. And we should find them on the FA market, ala Sean Rodriguez.

    If we’re going to give up controlled assets, we should be looking to acquire assets that have the biggest chance to alter the course of the franchise. Alex Jackson has a chance to do that, even if it’s not a dead-lock. Dead-lock franchise players don’t get traded for Rob Whalen, Kelly Johnson does.

  67. Here’s what I don’t understand about the negative reactions to this Alex Jackson trade:

    Some of these same folks have been astutely saying we should package together some of our mediocre pitching surplus and get a high upside bat. I liked the idea, I just thought you guys were being a tad optimistic to think someone would trade us a high upside bat for 2 or 3 of these fringy back-end starting prospects. What I didn’t count on was the availability of a buy-low guy like Jackson who has a high ceiling but has disappointed enough to actually be attainable for our scraps.

    Now that we’ve made this trade, which is a good one, I am perplexed by the negativity. We were ready to give away Whalen. Povse seemed a little more intriguing because he hadn’t disappointed us with a lousy big league debut yet.

    Either one of these pitchers may be decent eventually, but neither is going to be a cornerstone. They are unlikely to be any better than the vets you can pick up for cheap any given year like Harang, Colon, Floyd to fill out the back end of your rotation.

    Jackson, however, does have a shot to be an impact player. He has high bust potential, but that’s the trade off we need to make in order to thin out the glut of fringe pitching we have. Thanks Rob @87 for remembering ;)

    I would rather have shipped them Gant and Jenkins, and we probably tried, but Seattle probably asked for Weigel and Povse and we met in the middle.

  68. @96, Thanks for that link. A thoroughly enjoyable read. Rome was a fun team to follow in the second half, that’s for sure! Those last four paragraphs are heartwarming…

  69. @98

    The long and the short of it is that our fans have changed their mindset to square with the front office plan (I think Sam equated it to Stockholm syndrome at one point) to such an extent that a large portion are probably going to wail at us trading any prospect for anything until we actually start winning again.

  70. @98 Good points! I especially appreciate the bit about how piling up our mediocre pitching prospects in a single trade will not net us a premium return. Nobody is going to take Jenkins, Gant, Whalen, and Sims and give us back an All-Star. (In other words, you cannot trade four 4’s and get back one 10). The Whalen-level prospects are important depth for the Braves’ system (and some will pan out as starters/relievers) but as trade chips for an impact return they’re really just filler material added in with the higher-ceiling prospects.

    That said, it appears you may be underselling Povse for the purposes of arguing on behalf of this specific deal. Whalen’s stuff is fringy in MLB terms; I don’t think you can exactly say the same about Povse considering his height, velocity and deceptive motion. However, I’m willing to give the Braves’ scouts the benefit of the doubt on agreeing to let Povse go as part of the deal to get Jackson.

    If I’m the Braves, I’m very tempted by the idea of telling Jackson he can move back to catcher if he’s comfortable there. The baseline for offense at the catcher position is so much lower than corner OF, and if Jackson can still catch then his chances of making the Braves increase drastically (especially considering the team’s lack of catching prospects).

  71. So, why did the Braves sign Tuffy (aside from his awesome name)? Is the idea that he’ll back up Flowers and Recker will play in AAA?

  72. @104 – we all laugh, but I’m not ruling out the scenario where he shits the bed in a high leverage MLB situation next year, and we have to listen to Snitker justify it by expounding upon the superfluous amounts of grit Tuffy possesses.

  73. @106, Have we “had to listen” to “justifications” “expounded upon” by Snitker yet? Seems a gratuitous characterization of someone who hasn’t earned it.

  74. Haha – Replace gratuitous with hyperbolic and you’re a little closer to where I was going. Also, “superfluous amounts of grit” wasn’t “exactly” to be taken “literally” if that was also “unclear”.

  75. Looks like the new CBA puts a hard cap on annual international spending, so the Braves went all-out while the getting was good. It also seems that teams will only forfeit draft picks if they sign players to a deal totaling $50 million or more, and the pick will be dependent on the market size of the team losing the player.

    No changes to roster size, September roster expansion, or the number of games in the season. Starting in 2018, they’ll start the season in the middle of the week to accommodate more off days.

    Also they’re banning chewing tobacco by incoming players. Chew has been a baseball cliche for so long it’ll be weird not having it around anymore.

  76. So the All-Star Game will no longer determine home field advantage in the World Series.

    I’m going to miss Simpson’s annual rants about that in July.

  77. The other major rant by our broadcast team is the September roster expansion. I agree that managers abuse this and rotate pitchers every batter, but I’m still in favor of the callups. If we can audition a few players and reduce injuries caused by arm fatigue, I’m all for it.

  78. The World Series used to just alternate. That was random, but clearly fair. Then they went to the All Star Game. Still random, still fair, unless you thought that there was inherent AL advantage, since that’s the way the results tended, but it’s hard to see any unfairness in principle. Now it will go to the best regular season of the record of the two teams. Still random, but now there is an advantage for teams playing in divisions with weak teams at the bottom, allowing them better records simply because they play more games against weaker opposition, all other things equal. For the first time, unfair. Prediction: a disproportionate share of home team World Series will come from teams playing in divisions with the worst two (combined) teams.

  79. That’s a very good point. With that said, the worst team, by far, was in the AL winner’s division this past year, and while the second-worst team in baseball was in the NL winner’s division, that team was tied with three other teams (all in different divisions) for the worst record.

    Regardless, it does suggest that the AL East, currently, will have a really hard time getting HFA. Four teams in the East had over 84 wins, while all but one other division didn’t have more than 2. That was a really good division, but it was won with a mere 93 wins.

  80. @115

    That’s a good point, and I never really thought about record-based home-field advantage that way. However, baseball has already been using it in every other playoff series, so there’s that. Secondly, you have to ask yourself if the team with the best record were in another division, would the last-place team in that division then have the worst record? It goes both ways.

    At the end of the day, I think people see giving the team with the best record in baseball home-field advantage as more fair than giving it to the league who won the All-Star Game. Perhaps they’re erroneously equating randomness with unfairness, but I would guess that’s how people see it, by and large.

    For me personally, I would much rather have the team with the best record hold home-field advantage. I’ll take minor unfairness over extreme randomness in this case. I would be open to some sort of metric that takes strength of schedule and whatnot into account deciding home-field advantage, I suppose, but I think people would probably hate that, too.

  81. Someone had a funny way of putting it: (Referring to the ASG) A pitcher for Pittsburgh served up a double to a guy from Kansas City in San Diego and that determined that a team from Chicago had to play a game that should have been a home game in Cleveland. It sounds kinda nutty, huh?

  82. Apparently talks between the Pirates and Nationals about Andrew McCutchen are getting serious.

    Washington or no, I think trading McCutchen this offseason would be the biggest mistake by the Pirates since letting Bonds go. Trading him a) when he’s at the nadir of his value and b) in a free agent market whose only real strength is decent outfielders and corner players just stinks of a salary dump.

    McCutchen needs to move to a corner, but I don’t think he’s anywhere near finished, and trading your franchise player who suffered through years of losing and emerged as a team leader when your team got good after the first bad season of his career just to save a few bucks is a bad message to send to the rest of your organization.

  83. I actually really like all of the rule changes, and thank you to Tanto and Dan for summarizing them. I wish they would have gone a step further to remove some of the pace of play issues, but I’m glad we have a commissioner that will take the incremental steps to improve the game.

    Rob Cope’s Proposed Rule Changes:

    1) Shorten the season to 150 games. Every sport can figure out how to compare statistical eras, and we’re already doing it anyway. Keeps players fresh, the quality of play improves, and the individual game becomes more important.
    2) Only two pitchers per inning. Sign guys who can pitch, and with reducing the games played, you don’t need as many total arms.

  84. @115 More to your point regarding regular season records, didn’t MLB adjust scheduling several years ago so that teams play A LOT more games against their divisional rivals? I seem to recall that little gift coming down in an effort to strengthen inter-divisional rivalries and make the run up to the playoffs “more exciting.” My memory is foggy though… that did happen didn’t it? Yeah, I’d like to see it reversed. I prefer facing other teams more and offering everyone in the league a balanced schedule.

  85. I like McCutcheon. I will be forced to not like him if he plays for the Nationals, and I do not want to be forced to do that.

    The thing about HFA in the World Series with the All-Star game was inherently dumb. Tying it to “best record” is inherently dumber, for the reasons Rob broke down earlier. If there was a truly balanced schedule (which I’m a big proponent of, but it seems that ship ain’t never coming back into port), then there’s an argument. But the fruits of an unbalanced schedule is no way to measure the comparative quality and deservedness of two opposing teams in the World Series.

    My vote would have been to return to alternating years. It is neither fair nor unfair, but it is a method that equally distributes baseball’s main event between the two leagues in a predictable manner with no whining attached, and there’s something to be said about that.

  86. I’ve never been a big fan of inter-league play but it was tolerable when it was relegated to just a couple of designated weeks of the season. I really don’t like it now that it happens all season long just mixed into the regular schedule. I always liked the idea of the World Series having two teams playing each other who had not met in the regular season. Just my $0.02 while we’re talking about changes to the game.

  87. @117, 123: Sure, if Washington beats Atlanta 13 times Atlanta would have had a better record if they hadn’t had to play Washington. There is, by the way, an easy way to adjust for this, which is to use a Poisson-regression-based strength index or, even simpler, a Bradley-Terry strength index similar to the KRACH index used in college hockey. Using either of these indexes would solve this problem, at the cost that the methodology would seem less than transparent to those without backgrounds in statistical methodology, ie. no chance in hell. And by the way, Hap, these methods only work if you have a substantial amount of interleague play….

    Come to think of it, AAR, this might form a diverting little hot-stove blog post. There’s not nearly enough statistical methodology on this blog! Interested?

  88. NFL owners only get 15 gates per year, and the reason that makes sense is because there’s an additional interest in each game. If you decrease the amount of games by 6% but increase admissions for the other games by 6% and maybe even ticket prices increase because the games are more meaningful, then you decrease your operating expenses because you’re playing less games, and you probably have ownership cooperation. It’s not as cut-and-dry as “they lose 12 games”.

  89. BPro has a new stat called DRA, or “Deserved Run Average”, which adjusts for multiple variables (defense, errors, catcher framing, etc.) Here are their numbers for last year’s Braves…

    Ian Krol – 2.85
    Jim Johnson – 2.90
    Julio Teheran – 3.88
    John Gant – 3.93
    Mike Foltynewicz – 4.20
    Matt Wisler – 5.54
    Williams Perez – 5.77
    Joel De La Cruz – 5.91
    Aaron Blair – 6.73
    Tyrell Jenkins – 7.42

  90. @126

    Right, but it’s all relative to what you have.

    NFL owners aren’t clamoring for 162 dates a year because they know that’s impossible. If the players’ union offered them an 18-game (19-week) season, though, they’d take it in a heartbeat. In fact, they were angling for it during the recent lockout. They’d also be virulently opposed to dropping to a 15-game season, if asked.

    The NBA regular season was much more well-received by casual fans (and many hardcore fans, for that matter) the year they started on Christmas Day because of the lockout (I honestly don’t remember how many games they played that season…50-60 probably?), but dropping to that number permanently is a non-starter.

    Part of the problem is that you have some teams who would sell out every game, and those teams will unequivocally would lose money if you started lopping dates off the calendar.

    And besides, you could easily keep the 162 and cut spring training by a week or two and it would solve the problem without giving up regular season gates. (At least in years where the World Baseball Classic isn’t happening…so not this year.)

  91. Mets vs. Yankees is a bottle that, once opened, ain’t getting corked back up again. What MLB loses in mystique and fairness (balanced schedule) it more than makes up for in $$$ and more happy fans than not.

  92. Tanto @ 119

    I agree with your reasons why trading McCutcheon now would be a bad thing for the Pirates. However, I think that, because McCutcheon failed to receive an extension, he’s become an unhappy camper, which would explain the Pirates’ urgency to move him. Otherwise, you’re right: wait for him to bounce back and move him then.

  93. I guess we just acquired Jaime Garcia?

    Not seeing anything about what we gave up. Just a headline/article stub from Marc Saxon at ESPN.

  94. Walk year of an oft-injured, sometimes brilliant, left-handed third-starter-type earning $12m.

    Can’t have been too much. But it also would seem it has to be someone(s) off the 40-man roster, as Jaime needs a spot, and we still have a PTBNL coming from Seattle.

  95. John Gant is the only one of those on the 40-man.

    Okay I guess. Chris Ellis is a bit of a forgotten man with all our sparkly pitching prospects.

    Meh. I don’t like acquiring guys with one year of control just to finish 3rd instead of 4th.

  96. I may be in the minority, but I love the deal. I know it’s a big if, but I think Garcia is due for a comeback year if he stays healthy. At the least, I think we get a very solid half year from him and he smooths the transition to our new starters. I didn’t have much confidence in any of the 3 prospects we gave up.

  97. Now this is a trade I genuinely dislike. Garcia isn’t very good, and even if he bounces back it’s not like he’s a great value or anything — he’s making market value, is frequently injured, and is a free agent after the season. Plus, he’s not filling any particular holes — I’d much rather hold the fifth slot open for a young pitcher to grab than spend it on a retread. I’d don’t feel like anyone the Braves traded in this deal was untouchable or anything, but this seems like a poor use of them.

    I also have to figure this kills Sale/Archer/Gray speculation unless Foltynewicz goes in the deal.

  98. Yep, color me unimpressed. We didn’t give up any top prospects for him, sure, but Jaime Garcia is Jaime Garcia. The only scenario for this (barring internal groupthink that this team can content in 2017) is he pitches well in the 1st half and gets flipped.

    Dykstra is a throw in, I think Gant had his shot, but I think Ellis could end up being something. Regardless, Jaime Garcia is Jaime Garcia. The odds he is healthy enough to make 30 starts (for anyone) are pretty thin. Anyway, Garcia is not a guy who justifies a 3:1 swap, assuming any value at all in the three.

    Oh well. I’ve liked most of the deals so far, I’ll trust they know what they are doing.

  99. This is the problem with defending the trade of low ceiling prospects because they “aren’t going to move the needle” or “won’t be pitching in a playoff game” or “aren’t ace material”. You trade four of them away, and you don’t get much back, and you kinda start wishing you’d rather have two low ceiling pitchers vs. what they actually fetch in a trade.

    If there is limitless potential within the golden bat of Alex Jackson or Jaime Garcia is a Proven Major League Pitcher, then why not just package a decent position player and upgrade that spot on the diamond? Could Markakis, Povse, and Whalen get you a 3 WAR OF? Could Markakis and Alex Jackson, Former First Round Pick, get you a 3 WAR OF? I don’t see why we want to stash Wisler in AAA and take on 3 rentals in the rotation. Obviously you’d assume they’ll trade one at the deadline, so we’re only talking about 15-20 starts for Wisler in AAA, but to then trade Gant and Ellis for the opportunity to do that seems like an over-reach. I know I’m lumping a bunch of potentially different ideas into one, but I just feel like we could have done better with these four guys, and I’m interpreting them all as a whole.

  100. it’s probable we flip any of Garcia, Dickey and Colon st the deadline for a return roughly equivalent (or better) than what we are divesting ourselves of now. In the meantime, it’s a rotation that might surprise and actually win a few games.

  101. I read it as we’re not trying all that hard to win, but we’re also not not-trying (which is nice). Baby steps I guess.

    You know your team sucks when all you can really talk about is who you’ll flip rent-a-veterans for at the deadline.

  102. I like it. Ellis sucked in AAA. Gant seems like a reliever. Jaime could bounce back. If we aren’t in contention presumably one of the new SP additions could be traded at the deadline.

  103. I hope this means we’ll be tendering Withrow and Paco, but admittedly, I’ve not followed the 40-man crunch as closely as some. Gant was on the 40-man, but did Ellis need to be added?

    EDIT: According to the Twitter machine, Ellis was not. OK.

  104. Garcia threw more innings last year than any Braves pitcer other than Teheran.

    Not super sexy, but it’s another deal that makes the 2017 Braves better without blocking younger pitchers, committing to multiyear dollars, or trading away the top prospects.

  105. With the team we are putting together I don’t think we’ll be selling at the break. I don’t necessarily think we’ll be a playoff team but I think we’ll be close enough to 500 that we hold on to some players for a while.

  106. Here’s an important fact to remember: if the Braves are sellers at the trade deadline, they may trade Garcia away for prospects…possibly better than what we traded to get for him with teams desperate to get in the playoffs.

    Also, Garcia in his walk year will be playing for his next contract, so he has motivation to work and be effective

    Whalen and Ellis are mediocre prospects. A lot of scouts don’t even consider Dykstra a prospect.

  107. I also think there’s another angle here. They’ve only got 10 rotation spots between Gwinnett and Mississippi. Even with these trades, you’ve still got (assuming I’m not forgetting anyone) as at least semi-viable rotation candidates:

    Blair
    Sims
    Jenkins
    Weigel
    Wisler
    De la Cruz
    Matt Withrow
    Perez
    Newcomb
    Mader
    Parsons
    Kelly

    And that’s before you add any potential veteran retreads. They’re pretty full now, and just don’t have the rotation spots for 4 more. Maybe Rob’s right in the sense they could’ve packaged things differently and gotten more, or perhaps you could’ve dumped a few guys on this list to the street or bullpen, but they definitely needed to “cull the herd” so to speak.

    In any case, you’re not getting anything from the lower tier guys on this list, and if you don’t want to part with the upper tier guys, taking some of that middle group and transforming their value makes sense to me.

  108. Jaime Garcia, when healthy, has been a very solidly above-average major league pitcher. As with Jackson, the guys we gave up were men of the sort we have in relative abundance: mid-ceiling prospects reasonably close to contributing to the majors. If Garcia can throw 150 innings, I like this deal a whole lot.

    The Johns have followed through on their strategy of shoring up the rotation, and they’ve acquired three league-average starters for $20 million in cash and three decent but not stellar prospects.

    Remember: what we gave up for a full year of Garcia is roughly equivalent, or arguably less than, what we got for midseason trades of Kelly Johnson and Lucas Harrell. Prospects like these are always available. I’m guessing we’ll get a few more this July.

    I like this a lot.

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