Braves president John Hart: “It’s not like I’m breaking up the ’27 Yankees”

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The Braves traded Jason Heyward to the Cardinals last month in a deal that netted them Shelby Miller. It wasn’t a popular move with the fan base, but it was deemed necessary with Heyward one year away from free agency. Some more familiar faces could soon be on the move, with Justin Upton and Evan Gattis reportedly on the block, but new Braves president John Hart indicated to Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that a change in direction doesn’t bother him.

“Let’s be honest: This team finished 29th in offense,” Hart said. “It’s not like I’m breaking up the ’27 Yankees.”

That’s a pretty decent line. Hart denies that the team is in tear-down mode, and the recent signing of Nick Markakis would seem to back that up, but he also realizes that they aren’t ready to compete with the Nationals. They also owe $28 million combined to Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton in 2015. That means they have to ask themselves some difficult questions with a new ballpark coming in 2017.

“We had a tough year, and I know there was a lot of speculation about us going into this winter,” Hart said. “We had the 29th-ranked farm system in baseball. We had some bad contracts. Everybody felt there would be some players we would definitely unload — become a seller, if you will. But we’ve never felt like there was something we had to do. Obviously we’re contractually obligated to some players who aren’t performing well. But just because 2017 is coming, it doesn’t mean we’re going to throw a hand grenade on the club and blow it up. That wouldn’t guarantee success for 2017, either.”

For what it’s worth, Hart says he had unproductive conversations with “six to eight” teams about Justin Upton. The 27-year-old is due to become a free agent after next season and figures to be too expensive to keep long-term, so it would be a surprise if he doesn’t get dealt this offseason. As for the other Upton, well, it looks like the Braves are stuck with him.

Ex-Angels employee charged in overdose death of Tyler Skaggs

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FORT WORTH, Texas — A former Angels employee has been charged with conspiracy to distribute fentanyl in connection with last year’s overdose death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, prosecutors in Texas announced Friday.

Eric Prescott Kay was arrested in Fort Worth, Texas, and made his first appearance Friday in federal court, according to Erin Nealy Cox, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. Kay was communications director for the Angels.

Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room in the Dallas area July 1, 2019, before the start of what was supposed to be a four-game series against the Texas Rangers. The first game was postponed before the teams played the final three games.

Skaggs died after choking on his vomit with a toxic mix of alcohol and the powerful painkillers fentanyl and oxycodone in his system, a coroner’s report said. Prosecutors accused Kay of providing the fentanyl to Skaggs and others, who were not named.

“Tyler Skaggs’s overdose – coming, as it did, in the midst of an ascendant baseball career – should be a wake-up call: No one is immune from this deadly drug, whether sold as a powder or hidden inside an innocuous-looking tablet,” Nealy Cox said.

If convicted, Kay faces up to 20 years in prison. Federal court records do not list an attorney representing him, and an attorney who previously spoke on his behalf did not immediately return a message seeking comment.