The day after you trade away your best outfielder and are rumored to be trading your next-best, and two days after you trade away your starting second baseman, well, that’s a weird day for it to be reported that you’re talking to a top free agent. But the Braves are:
Lester lives in Atlanta in the offseason so you can either look at this as “hey, maybe he wants to play close to home,” or “hey, it doesn’t even cost a plane ticket to set up a meeting, so why not make it look like I’m in even greater demand than I already am.” But given where the Braves are — apparently punting 2015 and 2016 for 2017 — and given that they’re on record saying they don’t want to spend top dollar on free agents this winter, it’s hard to make much out of this.
Well, duh. And maybe not something as big as they did last offseason when they signed Robinson Cano, but Ken Rosenthal has an idea about their priorities in his notes column today.
Those priorities include Nelson Cruz or Matt Kemp over Hanley Ramirez. Presumably on price, fit and durability as it relates to Cruz over Ramirez. Kemp would obviously be a trade target and the calculus would be different. Rosenthal also notes what some other people mentioned yesterday, but which got a bit lost in the shuffle due to the Braves trade of Jason Heyward: they are interested in Justin Upton and the two teams have been in contact about him.
If I was less of a liberal arts person I could create some sort of Boolean expression which orders all of this properly, with Cruz and Ramirez appearing first and, if both are false, moving on to some sort of Kemp/Upton hierarchy. But I can’t really do that. I got a political science and English degree for cryin’ out loud. It’s a wonder I can even feed myself.
Take this with a grain of salt because (a) a team may have an ulterior motive in communicating its free agent game to the public than merely telling it how it is; and (b) the Cubs have been the subject of some conventional wisdom that has not been borne out; and (c) unexpected things often happen. Yet, this is still notable, I believe:
It’s certainly possible. And I don’t think that the excitement surrounding the Cubs at the moment necessarily translates to big time free agents making that their first choice yet. So, no, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if there were some legs to this.
As Pablo Sandoval takes his offseason tour to Boston, his brother/agent had this to say about what the third baseman is looking for:
In an interview with Ch. 7, Sandoval’s brother and co-agent Michael Sandoval said his client is looking for respect.
“It can be Red Sox, can be any other uniform,” Michael Sandoval said. “The good part of this is he’ll get a chance to explore his value on the market, see who can really appreciate him and his work.”
Having watched free agents make the rounds over the years, “respect” tends to mean “the biggest contract,” so in this way he’s not unlike most free agents.
But I do wonder if some of the stuff from the Giants about his weight over the years irks him. It’s easy to forget about it in the afterglow of the World Series, but Sandoval may believe that he has been treated a bit like a child over the years in San Francisco. I’m not saying that’d be a rational thing — he’s an athlete and it’s not unreasonable for a team to have expectations about the shape its athletes keep themselves in — but it has been pretty public and maybe that bugs him.
The Jason Heyward trade makes sense for the Braves if they don’t feel like they could sign him long term. It makes far less sense if it was realistic for them to extend him. So, of course, we have some dueling quotes about that in the aftermath. First from Jason Heyward, talking about his mindset following his last go-around in arbitration:
“I wanted our next conversation to be about me possibly being in Atlanta for a long time. And that conversation never came about. So I took it as, that’s not what they wanted to happen.”
Here’s John Hart:
“He wanted a two-year deal and wasn’t interested in a long-term extension unless the dollars were maybe beyond where the club certainly wanted to go. We had a strong feeling he was going to go on the market. That’s what he wanted to do. We wanted to protect ourselves and position ourselves better.”
This is probably each side talking past each other. I think Heyward is right that, if the Braves wanted to do a long term deal, it was incumbent upon them to approach him, and he said they hadn’t. At the same time, the Braves front office didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, and after doing multiple long-term deals with young players like Freddie Freeman, if they had any sense that Heyward would be willing to do something like that, they likely would’ve pressed the matter.
Doesn’t matter what anyone wants now, though. He gone.