Author: Aaron Gleeman

Jason Heyward

Braves and Cardinals swap Jason Heyward and Shelby Miller in blockbuster deal


In a very interesting blockbuster swap the Braves have traded outfielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden to the Cardinals in exchange for starter Shelby Miller and starter prospect Tyrell Jenkins.

Heyward will be eligible for free agency next offseason, so St. Louis is giving up a combined decade of team control over the 24-year-old Miller and 22-year-old Jenkins for one season of Heyward and the possibility of draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere.

Heyward hasn’t quite lived up to the hype offensively after posting an .850 OPS as a 20-year-old rookie in 2010, batting .258 with a .762 OPS in four seasons since then. However, his defense grades out as truly elite in various advanced metrics and when combined with good but not great offense makes him one of the best all-around outfielders in baseball. In fact, during the past three seasons the only outfielders with more Wins Above Replacement than Heyward are Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gomez, and Alex Gordon.

And the Cardinals paid a big price to get him. Miller is a former elite prospect with a 3.33 ERA in 370 career innings through age 23, although his strikeout rate and control have been underwhelming. He certainly has top-of-the-rotation upside and is under team control through 2018. Jenkins was a first-round draft pick in 2010 and bounced back from season-ending shoulder surgery in 2013 to pitch well in 13 starts at high Single-A this season, although he struck out just 41 batters in 74 innings.

Walden, who goes to St. Louis along with Heyward, should step into a setup role for the Cardinals after posting a 3.10 ERA with 254 strikeouts in 212 career innings for the Braves and Angels. His inclusion in this deal will likely be mostly overlooked, but Walden has shutdown potential in the late innings and throws very hard.

Blue Jays sign Russell Martin to five-year, $82 million deal

Milwaukee Brewers v Pittsburgh Pirates

Russell Martin has agreed to a five-year contract with the Blue Jays, according to Jon Heyman of

For the past several weeks the Cubs were viewed as the front-runner for Martin and the Pirates were also making a run at re-signing the 31-year-old catcher, but the Canada native decided instead to head home.

After a great start to his career with the Dodgers he mostly struggled from 2009-2013, never cracking a .750 OPS, but Martin hit .290 with a .402 on-base percentage and .832 OPS in 111 games for the Pirates this season to re-establish himself as one of the game’s best catchers.

In addition to the good on-base skills and durability Martin also grades out extremely well in pitch-framing statistics, suggesting his all-around value is generally underrated.

No word yet on the money, but last offseason’s five-year, $85 million deal between Brian McCann and the Yankees seems to be a likely starting point.

UPDATE: Martin will get $82 million for five seasons.

Blue Jays hire Brook Jacoby as hitting coach

Brook Jacoby

Brook Jacoby is the Blue Jays’ new hitting coach.

Toronto hired him away from Texas, where he was the Rangers’ assistant hitting coach. Jacoby previously was the Reds’ hitting coach for seven years and before that played 11 years in the majors as a third baseman.

Jacoby replaces Kevin Seitzer, who left the Blue Jays to become the Braves’ hitting coach last month.

Tigers pick up Alex Avila’s $5.4 million option

Alex Avila

Detroit announced that it has exercised Alex Avila’s option for 2015, bringing back the catcher for $5.4 million.

Avila has struggled following what looked like a breakout 2011 season, hitting just .229 with a .705 OPS in 342 games since then, and multiple concussions have put his future behind the plate in some question.

However, he’s still just 28 years and, underwhelming as his recent production has been compared to his big 2011 campaign, his .705 OPS from 2012-2014 is still above average for MLB catchers.

Is there any chance of Max Scherzer re-signing with the Tigers?

Max Scherzer

For a while now the assumption has been that the Tigers will not re-sign free agent ace Max Scherzer, but the door for a return is at least a little bit open.

General manager Dave Dombrowski told Jason Beck of that “we’ll just wait and see what happens” because he doesn’t expect Scherzer and his agent, Scott Boras, to move the process along quickly. And of course Boras is very open to the idea of Scherzer returning to Detroit, because he simply wants the most interested teams as possible in the mix.

However, the Tigers seemingly acquired David Price from the Rays in part to replace Scherzer atop the rotation in 2015 and, even without Scherzer returning, Detroit’s rotation will approach an $80 million payroll by itself next season. And the Tigers just spent $68 million to re-sign 36-year-old designated hitter Victor Martinez.