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.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.