Jason Heyward

Great moments in narrative: the Braves allegedly made a “clear choice” of Freeman over Heyward

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Yesterday the Braves agreed to an eight-year, $135 million deal with Freddie Freeman. They separately agreed to a two-year, $13.3 million deal with Jason Heyward, buying out his last two years of arbitration. Today Jon Morosi draws a conclusion from that:

You could have described this as the Braves committing multiyear contracts to a pair of 24-year-old stars who already have earned their first All-Star selections. But the chasm of more than $120 million tells you what this really was: a choice between the two.

The headline calls it a “clear choice,” and from it Morosi concludes that the team has gone all-in with Freeman, that Heyward will become a free agent in 2015 when his deal is up and that “Freeman is the face of the team.”

Except I have no idea how he can conclude such a thing based on the information currently known.

Nowhere is it reported that the Braves didn’t offer Heyward a deal longer than two years. Indeed, they offered him such a deal last year. Heyward rejected it. That may have happened again. If you’re Heyward it would probably be smart to reject such a thing. He’s coming off of a year which began with an appendectomy and ended with a broken jaw. The two years before that he struggled at times. Despite this he really came on late last year and still has all sorts of promise. And he just turned 24. It is not at all unreasonable to think that 2014 and/or 2015 could be breakout years for him and, if they are, he’s poised to make serious money following the 2015 season. Did the Braves reject him, or did he reject them?

That aside, why is Morosi so certain the Braves can’t extend Heyward at some point before 2015, giving them both Freeman and Heyward as “faces of the franchise?” Dan Uggla and Justin Upton’s deals both run out after the 2015 season. Between them that’s $27 million off the payroll when Heyward hits free agency. Think maybe, if Heyward plays well for two years, that the Braves may find room for him then? I do. At worst it could mean that the Braves have a choice between Upton and Heyward then.

All of this seems like a contrived narrative that attempts to read more deeply into the situation than the facts warrant. Which can be a useful exercise at times if what one is attempting to determine is itself useful. But to do so in the interests of naming “the face of the franchise” seems silly. Especially when the Braves’ chances over the next two years — and they have legitimate chances to contend for a championship in that time — depend on both Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward.

Cardinals, Dexter Fowler agree to a five-year, $82 million deal

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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The Cardinals have officially signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year, $82.5 million contract. Fowler will also get a full no-trade clause.

The Cardinals gave Fowler a bigger deal than many speculated he’d get, as some reports predicted he’d get something in the $52-72 million range. His skills, however — he’s a fantastic leadoff hitter who plays a premium defensive position — definitely earned him some major dough. Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and 13 steals over 125 games in 2016 for the World Series champion Cubs.

For the Cardinals, this will allow Matt Carpenter to move down to the middle of the batting order and will shift Randal Grichuk to left field. It also takes a prime piece from the Cardinals’ biggest rival. For their part, earlier this offseason the Cubs signed former Cardinal center fielder Jon Jay. So that’s fun.

Are the Cardinals about to go on a free agent binge?

John Mozeliak AP
Associated Press
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The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.

St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.

The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.

Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?

Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.