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.