With the Jason Heyward hype reaching Weiterian levels — even Chipper Jones is getting into the act — it’s easy to convince yourself that the Braves are going to break camp with Heyward as their starting right fielder. Bryan Smith of FanGraphs, however, thinks everyone should just slow down. After citing the way the Rays handled Evan Longoria, he says:
There is simply no argument to be made that the marginal value gained by playing Jason Heyward over Matt Diaz for three weeks in April is worth losing Heyward’s rights for the 2016
season. Yes, calling him up on April 25 will mean that Heyward will be
a “Super Two”, and thus, eligible for arbitration a year early. But
arbitration contracts are still discounts over free agent ones, and I
can already promise you that Heyward’s first free agent contract will
be a big one. Without delving into the Heyward vs. Strasburg argument,
the Braves should certainly take note that Nats GM Mike Rizzo has
already written off his right-handed star beginning the season in
Washington. If you think it’s because they want some minor league
seasoning for him, you’re crazy — they just want an extra year of not
dealing with Scott Boras.
Excellent point. My only two objections — and I could be convinced to drop them — are:
(1) Unlike the 2010 Braves, the 2010 Nats don’t and the 2008 Rays didn’t truly expect to contend. Yes, the Rays did in fact contend — and how — but when the decision to keep Longoria down on the farm was made, I suspect that even the Rays’ brass had third place as their realistic goal. Atlanta, in contrast, truly stands a chance to compete with the Phillies this year. And remember: they could have made it a better competition last year if it wasn’t for the fact that they punted the outfield for three months, getting zilcho from anyone out there; and
(2) Braves fans really, really, really, really, really want to see Jason Heyward.
No, I don’t think that either of those two reasons trumps Bryan’s reasoning — no amount of April ticket sales or October playoff sales will outweigh what they’ll save by having Heyward locked up in 2016 — but those two things are likely going to weigh heavily on the minds of the Braves’ front office, so it’s a slightly less clear choice for them with Heyward than it was for the Rays with Longoria and the Nats with Strasburg.
Colby Rasmus isn’t ready to take outfield reps just yet. According to Rays’ manager Kevin Cash, that’s a red flag, one that could potentially postpone Rasmus’ debut as the club’s designated hitter and outfielder in 2017. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Rasmus will need to prove he can play a defensive position before getting cleared for the active roster, something which the veteran outfielder has yet to do this spring.
Rasmus, 30, signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Rays following his two-year run with the Astros. He batted a meager .206/.286/.355 with 15 home runs and a .641 OPS in 2016 and was shut down in late September with an unspecified hip/groin issue. Entering the 2017 season, he’s expected to work his way back to a full-time role after undergoing surgery to repair his core muscle and left hip labrum last October.
The Rays also finalized their one-year, $1.2 million deal with catcher Derek Norris on Saturday and will need to clear room for him on the 40-man roster. Topkin speculates that the move could send Rasmus to the 60-day disabled list, though the outfielder is not projected to miss more than a couple weeks of the regular season.
The Rangers have reportedly agreed to a six-year, $49.5 million extension for second baseman Rougned Odor, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The extension comes with a club option for a seventh year, Heyman adds.
It’s close to the six-year, $52.5 million extension Jason Kipnis netted with the Indians in 2014, a sum Odor was rumored to be seeking during contract negotiations over the last two years. Granted, the circumstances are a little different this time around. Both players signed extensions on the cusp of their fourth year in the major leagues, but at 27 years old, Kipnis was coming off of an All-Star campaign and a career-high 4.5 fWAR performance. Odor, meanwhile, saw mixed results in 2016, batting 33 home runs and putting up 2.0 fWAR while struggling to stay consistent at the plate and exhibiting poor defense.
According to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, Odor previously agreed to a $563,180 salary for 2017. Depending on when the extension kicks in, it should cover all three of Odor’s arbitration-eligible seasons and two seasons of potential free agency. The team has yet to confirm the extension.