Wanna know how my day started? Here, I’ll show you:
True story, I’m was in a state of disbelief.
But should I have been? New Braves president of baseball operations, John Hart, and assistant general manager, John Coppolella, have been alluding to this for a few weeks now. Today was just the realization: if you want Atlanta wants a contender, the process isn’t going to be pretty.
Believe me, I’ve heard every word about this trade and agree with 99.9% of them as a fan. But only as a fan. My purpose in writing this blog isn’t to give you my opinion as a fan, it’s to be as honest as possible with my views about everything in sports. So believe me when I say this:
In order for the Braves to be good in the future, they had to burn everything down in the present.
The Good News
Atlanta is getting a very good, young, and cost-controlled pitcher from St. Louis in Shelby Miller. The prospect of pairing him with Roger McDowell and plugging him into a rotation with Julio Teheran and Alex Wood for the next four years should excite everyone.
The Braves last three postseason appearances have shown (sadly on a National stage) just how outmatched on the mound they’ve been when matched up against contenders like the Giants, Cardinals, Dodgers, and Nationals. Hart and Coppolella have said numerous times they are pitching poor in a division (and National League) landscape that is pitching rich, and he’s right. The Mets, Nationals, and Marlins all have good, young, power arms in the majors and minors.
With today’s trade of Heyward (and my assumption is soon with Justin Upton) they are going to be able to begin the process of closing the gap on the mound. Atlanta can’t spend with the larger markets of the league right now, so they must operate like a team that is “wearing some bad contracts” and leveraging what they have to get better long-term. In that regard the Braves did what they needed to do.
2015 and 2016 are going to be brutal.
There really isn’t a way to sugar coat that. Last week after the general manager’s meetings in Arizona the Braves brain trust said publicly they were still deciding “which direction” to go this offseason. Today’s trade told me all I needed to know.
I’m not in the room when these things go down, but I can tell you this: rarely does an organization trade a 25-year old player with a WAR of 6.4 and say “we’re going for a World Series title” that next season.
My guess is Justin Upton will be shipped out next (if Heyward fetched Miller, imagine the haul for Justin Upton), with Evan Gattis, Chris Johnson, and (hopefully) B.J. Upton won’t be too far behind. Tommy La Stella was sent to the Cubs for Arodys Vizcaino, but the real return on La Stella was almost $1 million dollars in international signing money for Atlanta. Rumor has it that money could be used to sign close to 10 players internationally, which goes a long way to adding to that depleted farm system.
But make no bones about it, this team will be lucky to sniff a Wild Card in 2015 or 2016.
The Bottom Line
Perhaps the reason I liked Heyward so much as a player is because he reflected the style I valued growing up. Would it surprise me if he went to St. Louis and truly became what we all thought he would in Atlanta? No. But when I look at everything this trade could represent for Atlanta in the future it isn’t so bad.
Wren’s damage wasn’t a lack of trying, but it was like a landlord putting a band-aid on hole in the roof. He overpaid for B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla, didn’t manage personnel well enough to keep a healthy farm system, and this is the bed that has been made. Hart has been one of the best architects in baseball for the better part of 30 years and Coppolella is an exceptional young baseball executive. They will right the ship.
They just had to dock it and build a new one.