The Braves are rebuilding, apparently

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Recent days have featured several Braves rumors. Some involving trading Jason Heyward and shopping any number of other players like Evan Gattis and/or Justin Upton. Last night Joel Sherman of the Post reported that the Braves intended to make Gattis their everyday left fielder which, gah, let me get my medication before I watch that 100 times next year. Less viscerally, that suggests a trade of at least one outfielder.

All of this taken together suggests to David O’Brien of the AJC that the Braves are punting the next year or two and doing a rebuild of sorts in anticipation of moving into their new ballpark in 2017. And new vice president of baseball operations John Hart seems to be leaning that way if the Braves can’t get some immediate help with their starting pitching:

“We obviously have all options open, and I think a lot of it’s going to be dictated by what we’re able to do in the starting-pitching market . . . What we’re able to do in the starting pitching market, that is going to, I think, fully engage us as to what we do in 2015, if we want to come back with a somewhat intact ballclub. And then obviously if we can’t do that, there’s other options that we’ll certainly examine.”

It seems off to me that a team one year removed from a 96-win season and with several young players under team control for an extended period of time would choose a wholesale rebuild right now. Which isn’t to say things are wonderful and changes shouldn’t be made. Injuries and uncertainty with starting pitching does mean that the Braves could use a starter or two. Trying to find some way to get rid of B.J. Upton or to at least work around him is important. There are issues here that need to be solved.

I guess I’d just say that, if you’re going to rebuild, freakin’ rebuild and do so in a way that maximizes return. That means just understanding that B.J. Upton is an utter lost cause and sunk cost and not trying to bundle him in some deal because doing so necessarily lessens the return. That means trading what may your most valuable asset — Craig Kimbrel — rather than hoping he’s still dominant three years from now. It also means making sure the parts you keep for 2017 are still likely to be good and useful in 2017. Which, in my mind, does not include Evan Gattis as a left fielder, even if he can wrestle the position to a draw for a year or two in the meantime.

Lots of uncertainty with this team. And, hopefully, some seriously open minds in the Braves front office, focused on maximizing the return and shooting for true contention, not some piecemeal deals that solve one problem only to create another.

MLBPA: MLB’s ‘demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected’

Rob Manfred and Tony Clark
LG Patterson/MLB via Getty Images
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On Thursday evening, the Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement regarding ongoing negotiations between the owners and the union. The two sides continue to hash out details concerning a 2020 season. The owners want a shorter season, around 50 games. The union recently proposed a 114-game season that also offered the possibility of salary deferrals.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said that the union held a conference call that included the Executive Board and MLBPA player leaders. They “resoundingly rejected” the league’s “demand for additional concessions.”

The full statement:

In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, Players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love. But we cannot do this alone.

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless Players negotiate salary concessions. The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in Player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon.

This threat came in response to an Association proposal aimed at charting a path forward. Among other things, Players proposed more games, two years of expanded playoffs, salary deferrals in the event of a 2020 playoff cancellation, and the exploration of additional jewel events and broadcast enhancements aimed at creatively bringing our Players to the fans while simultaneously increasing the value of our product. Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless Players agree to further salary reductions.

Earlier today we held a conference call of the Association’s Executive Board and several other MLBPA Player leaders. The overwhelming consensus of the Board is that Players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well. The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.

Important work remains to be done in order to safely resume the season. We stand ready to complete that work and look forward to getting back on the field.

As per the current agreement signed in March, if there is a 2020 season, players will be paid on a prorated basis. Thus, fewer games means the players get paid less and the owners save more. MLB has threatened to unilaterally set a 2020 season in motion if the two sides cannot come to terms. It should come as no surprise that the union has responded strongly on both fronts.

There have been varying reports in recent days over the confidence in a 2020 season happening. The MLBPA’s statement tonight doesn’t move the needle any; it simply affirms that the union remains steadfast in its goal to avoid a second significant cut in salaries.

As I see it, the ball is in the owners’ court. The owners can strongarm the players into a short season, saving money but significantly increasing the odds of a big fight in upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Or the owners can eat more of a financial loss, agreeing to a longer season than they feel is comfortable. The latter would have the double benefit of not damaging overall perception of the sport and would not disrupt labor peace going forward.

The MLBPA statement included a declaration that the players are “ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions.” If there is no 2020 season, we will have only the owners to blame, not the players.

Update: Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, who has been quite vocal on social media about these negotiations, chimed in: