Posted: 6:51 pm Friday, January 17th, 2014

UPDATE: Will Braves-Heyward battle over $300,000? 

By Jeff Schultz

Jason Heyward wore a special helmet to protect his jaw after getting hit by a pitch.

Jason Heyward wore a special helmet to protect his jaw after getting hit by a pitch.

(This blog has been updated.)

The last time the Braves were forced to go to salary arbitration was 2001, when they won their hearing over John Rocker. An arbitrator ruled Rocker would be paid $1.9 million, not the $2.98 million he was seeking. If all of those stupid things the pitcher said and did cost him more than $1 million, well, bless that arbitrator.

Teams do not like going to arbitration. They’re forced to accentuate negatives to win their case. That can be problematic considering they spend most of their time trying to build up their players and tell them how important they are to the team.

Which is why Jason Heyward will be an interesting case.

The Braves had seven salary-arbitration players. They came to terms with four before Friday’s deadline: starting pitchers Kris Medlen and Mike Minor, third baseman Chris Johnson and outfielder Jordan Schafer. The other three rejected offers and opted for hearings: Heyward, Freddie Freeman and closer Craig Kimbrel.

There’s always a chance of a pre-hearing settlements, but Braves general manager Frank Wren told David O’Brien Friday night, “We’re done” with negotiations.

Heyward is seeking $5.5 million, which is only $300,000 more than what the Braves are offering ($5.2 million). Freeman is asking for significantly more ($5.75 million) than the team’s offer ($4.5 million), and could get it. The biggest difference is between Kimbrel ($9 million) and the Braves ($6.55 million).

Even Freeman and Kimbrel don’t win their cases, or they settle, they’ll get healthy raises. Freeman turned into the team’s most valuable player last season, batting .319 with 23 homers and 109 RBI last season. He finished fifth in National League MVP voting. Kimbrel has nothing to worry about. The Braves can address the frequent flame-out factor for closers but otherwise there’s nothing negative to say. In the last three seasons he has 138 saves and 341 strikeouts in 206.2 innings.

The interesting case is Heyward. Are these two really going to battle over $300,000? Because if so, that’s not a good sign for the future.

Hewyard might have been better off settling instead of letting the team come to the table with their binders of statistics. This isn’t meant to be a bash-Heyward blog. I actually think the guy has been criticized far more than he deserves. But numbers are numbers and Heyward and his representatives will have some baggage to overcome if they hope to sway an arbitrator.

He played in the All-Star Game as a rookie but not in the three years since. He has been injured often (though last year was just bad luck: an emergency appendectomy and a broken jaw after getting hit by a pitch were the biggest reasons he was limited to 104 games).

His batting averages the last three seasons are .227, .269 and .254. He hit .277 as a rookie. His on-base percentages of .319, .335 and .349 also are lower than in his rookie season (.393). His power numbers are down but so was his strikeout percentage last season.

One issue will be what does either side use as comparables? What is Heyward? He was expected to be a No. 3 hitter, or certainly somewhere from third to six in the order. He evolved into the leadoff hitter last season by default.  Nobody else on the roster could do it and Heyward excelled at it. He hit .322 as a leadoff batter, .226 at second in the order and .238 when hitting third.

But are we really going to start thinking of Heyward as the team’s permanent leadoff hitter – and, if so, what’s the monetary value of that? Just speculating here: Heyward would rather be in a position to drive in runs.

This will be an interesting one to watch, especially since Heyward has been central to so much of the team’s marketing efforts over the past four seasons.

82 comments
HB Ando
HB Ando

I am, and have been, a believer that trying to lock down all of their young talent, now, is just smart business.  I disagree with all the folks who are ripping Heyward here.  You simply can't fault his performance last year after he had both an appendectomy and a broken jaw.  Those are both fairly freaky reasons for extended games missed, and made any type of rhythm impossible for Heyward.  What is kind of shocking is that Freeman's offer was so low.  Bottom line is that if the franchise was to offer all of the core youth, Freeman, Heyward, Kimbrel and Simmons long term security, while providing them the opportunity to sign either one or two mega contracts after these suggested 5-7 year deals, it would seem to be a win-win for both players and the organization. If you can lock down any of these guys at an annual average of $8-10 million, now, three years from now we all could marvel at the fore sight of the organization.  And the players all picked up security from major injuries, and a bit more cash on the front end, with a solid net return for the life of the contracts, while maintaining the opportunity to go big at the end of these proposed contracts, while still in the prime of their careers.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

If the Braves want to keep these players long term they should extend them beyond the one year contracts under arbitration. Try to sign Kimbrel to a 3 year deal for around $30 Million ,team could save on the back end of the deal.If the Braves think Freeman is the future center piece of the franchise lock him up long term 5 or 6 year deal. And go ahead and settle with Heyward  300K for this year is not worth the acrimony that an arbitration hearing will cause. But I really have little faith in the Braves front office to look beyond year to year fixes, so the future will probably have Freeman playing first base for the Dodgers or Angels when he becomes a free agent or sooner ,and Kimbrel's future may be in Yankee pinstripes. 

Jerry916
Jerry916

The fact that Heyward is used in the marketing efforts, is worth more than the $300K difference, when you consider ticket sales, jerseys, etc, that fans will spend coming to the park to see him play.

The way that the Braves are behaving with this young core of players does not bid well for when they become free agents.

KnowsAll
KnowsAll

I believe Heyward will sign for what is offered.

MichBravesFan
MichBravesFan

People are always talking about players' not having loyalty, well where's Wren's loyalty to a home-grown player? Why not negotiate with them, meet in the middle? No, Wren insists on this ridiculous "file and trial" system and says "we're done" negotiating after submitting one offer. What message does that send to the elite young players on the braves? It says we'll nickle and dime you to death and not make an effort to pay you what you are worth. He and Shurholtz are both idiots. This is not how championship organizations operate. The Cardinals don't operate this way. 

MichBravesFan
MichBravesFan

There's billions and billions of dollars in baseball and the braves are trying to stick it to someone they've used as the face of the franchise over the past 4 years. Nice. Sounds EXACTLY like the braves. It's hard to overstate the ineptitude that Wren and his staff have shown. Frank is a dunce. He gives $15 mil a year to BJ and then refuses to meet Hayward halfway? Seriously, Wren will never ever build a world series winner. He's a dunce. Heyward, Kimbrel and Freemen are surely out the door when their free agent eligible thanks to the dunce Wren.  

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

Perhaps BJ or Uggly can loan some of their  money to Wren so Jason can be appeased before he leaves after 2015 ...

BravesFan1966
BravesFan1966

Don't worry.  This is the Braves.  They will screw this up.  Fighting a player over $300,000 in a game of billions.  The other players on the team and any future players that come here as potential FA's will be seeing this.  This can back fire on the Braves and cost them every one of these guys.  Everyone of them will leave with treatment like this.  I am not defending Heyward.  His numbers are not all that great.  Really, one full, decent season.  But, others are watching Wren.  Go ahead.  Screw this up like the Uggla and BJ contracts.  You bum.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

You don't "accentuate the negatives", you present a factual case as to why the salary demand is outside of the salary structure. People who manage other people do this all the time, temper salary expectations and motivate at the same time, and we don't get paid millions to do it.

The numbers show Heyward and Freeman have put up approximately the same level of production on their career lines, but Freeman has posted the MVP-caliber breakout season Heyward is yet to achieve. The Braves need to be enticing Heyward to stick around a few more years, because if he ultimately walks to another NL East team he has the potential to bury this team for years to come.

Ultimately Jason is not a leadoff hitter, but he is the best option in-hand. All the other starters on the team except Uggla are free swingers.

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

2014 will be Jason's 5th year. Time to produce and show us the "potential" !


And he's no lead-off hitter !

TheMonger
TheMonger

You guys barking about Heyward "breaking out in 2014" are fools!!!  Plain and simple, what has he done that is even remotely above average?  He, Justin, and BJ all underperformed outside of Justin's surprise April,  Heyward had one good month, similar to Uggla in 2011 when he had that 36 game hitting streak.  You know what though, just like Uggla, Heyward is a .230 hitter at best.  You fans seem to go on and on about "potential" and "5 tool player", however all I have seen in 4 years of watching Heyward is a below average batting average, off target throws galore, swings at breaking balls in the dirt galore, and lots of strikeouts.  The guy has had 4 years in the majors and his best year was his rookie year, before pitchers figured him out.  He has yet to break .269 in the years since, and he is the next Pujols or Hanley to you guys?  Get real.  Come to reality.  He is another Braves "bargain slugger", a guy who will hit 15-20 homers, but hit around .220-.250 the rest of his career.  Lots of throws to the backstop on throws home guaranteed as well.

SaveAmericaFromItself
SaveAmericaFromItself

I'm tired of hearing about Jason's "potential". He's not been the 5-tool player that Braves' management hyped-up when he arrived in 2010.

His childhood dream was to wear Yankee pinstripes. Before that happens Wren had better start fielding offers because Jason will not be here after 2015 when he becomes a free agent. I predict a healthy Jason will have a big year in 2014 but the Braves will not be able to afford a long-term contract because of prior contractual committments to such studs as Dan Uggla and BJ Upton. 

kumon
kumon

Sometimes it pays to use common sense instead of listen to your agents.

HUDDYS1FAN
HUDDYS1FAN

Jason Heyward is a monster talent who has up to this date in time.....under performed. Some of his injuries are part of the game, although getting hit in the face was completely avoidable (one of those new oversize safety helmets) given the technology available.


That said, this fan will lower the gauntlet. 2014 will be Jason's make or break  season in Atlanta. Heyward must produce or risk becoming another Jeff Francoeur. Which would be tragic for us, the fans.

58Supersports
58Supersports

J-Hey might not  win and will be gone when he is a free agent. I believe Kimbrel will  wIn   and  get 9 million. (as Price won his  14 million case) Braves have a big problem if Liberty don't raise the budget.

1995oneyearwonder
1995oneyearwonder

Heyward is the least of the Braves' problems. KImbrel is the big problem. their budget will become further limited if they have to pay him $9 mill. their $6.55 figure is too low and may cause them to lose the arbit.

even if the Brves lose to Heyward and Freeman, they can absorb the addtl salary.

now that they boxed themselves into a corner with their offer to Kimbrel, they probably should try to trade him before his hearing unless they can agree to a long term extension..

refusing to negotiate though makes the latter unlikely.(and also makes little sense) but what do the Braves do that makes sense ? very little !

Jazzpman
Jazzpman

Well if you guys think he is average what is the winning percentage when he leads off ?


Sign him, so he doesn't want to leave when he can.

DontCareForThem
DontCareForThem

AVERAGE, average, average - let him walk - just another over-rated over-hyped Francouer.

Iluvnutella
Iluvnutella

Over rated bat, good glove. Let him walk.

oldmaninatlanta
oldmaninatlanta

He is just an AVERAGE player,,,,a #1 pick but puts up numbers like a free agent,I say,let him walk

Ficklefan
Ficklefan

Hope not. But, don't forget, they have Upton and Uggla to pay, and those guys aren't going any where. So Heyward may be a  very unhappy camper this year. Meanwhile, BJ and Uggla are thanking their lucky stars to have their big, fat, fluffy, long term feather beds, based on their performance before they became Braves. But these days, who wouldn't?  

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

"Why would he want to stay after reading comments like these. "

I'm pretty certain Heyward has a good idea how truly popular he is in Atlanta and with the fans and wouldn't lose any sleep over a handful of grumpy bloggers.

Heyward is 24. If the Braves let him walk while they pay off players like BJ and Uggla they will regret the decision very quickly and for a LONG time.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

Heyward's 2013 season was a disaster reel not of his making. I have a very sick premonition he will wind up signing with the Mets, Nats, or Phils down the road and torture the Braves for a decade while we fans shell out to pay off BJ.

People who think Jason is just an "average player" are . . . not very good judges of talent. Watch what he does in 2014.

redleg24
redleg24

Just remember if you have a good lineup from top to bottom there is only one leadoff hitter in a game-the first batter.  Also, remember that Willie Mays did bat leadff a lot.

redleg24
redleg24

Hayward is a 250 hitter and at best 270.  An average player wth a not very accurate arm.  Send him to the Angels or Toronto.  Best bet to the Marlins for Stanton.  Pay Stanton what he wants and get a great player and a really good hitter.

ChefTimDix
ChefTimDix

300K could mean he is gone in a trade before spring training.

redweather
redweather

Taking nothing away from what Heyward did in the leadoff spot last season, it was still very unexpected.  So did batting leadoff get him in the right mindset to succeed at the plate, or was it an aberration?  Only time will tell.


He has never impressed me at the plate, mainly because he is indecisive and swings from his heels all the time.  What has always impressed me is his athleticism in the field and on the base paths.  He also has an incredible arm. 

RangeRover
RangeRover

So if a player has a good or great season they can seek arbitration even if the the team's offer is substantially higher than the previous season; in some cases, millions higher.

How nice it would be if the owners could file for arbitration to REDUCE the pay to people like Upton & Uggla following a horrifying year; in this case, millions lower.

What comes around, goes around…except in baseball!

knudegard1
knudegard1

Who has more to lose, Heyward or the Braves? The Braves because letting him go next year would be awful. When he moved into the leadoff spot we took off!

Anyone who doesn't  think he's worth it is either jealous or knows nothing about winning baseball.

JohnDavit
JohnDavit

My man got his jaw busted and came back to play hard as ever. U fans have no loyalty for him. Why would he want to stay after reading comments like these. Cobb County will neva see Freddy and Jason. They are gonna be stars people and head up to NYC with BMAC. Wren is a fool.

23Zone
23Zone

the braves need to pay up and give jason all the money he want---if not, he gone next year---he tired of this disrespect!

TreeRollins
TreeRollins

Heyward and the world need to hear what the Braves really think about him and his inconsistency, so this is all for the best. Maybe it will wake him up. This guy is no Chipper Jones. Barely better than BJ!

SimpleDawg
SimpleDawg

I say settle on $5.3M and move on.

GetBackJojo
GetBackJojo

What's $300,000 amongst friends. JHey has to play RF watching BJ stand around with money falling out of his pocket, and showing no hustle, or looking at DannyBoy being uggla

tarly
tarly

The future is not looking good for either the team or the players.

Camaro-Bob
Camaro-Bob

I say cut Haywood. The looser does nuttin but strike out alltime, He never live up 2 exception. Time 2 move on

slydawg
slydawg

Heyward will be getting bids from all of the other big market clubs, especially the Yankees and Red Sox. Book it!!!!! The Braves will have to decide who to pay big money to: Heyward, J. Upton, Freeman, and Kimbrel, all elite players if they play up to expectations. Enjoy Heyward while it lasts ATL...

patriotdog
patriotdog

My question in this: Who is responsible for the Braves having such a horribly low paying TV contract?

As one previous blogger noted, that is the difference in the Braves and the Phil's, Mets, Dodgers, etc...an extra 10-20 mil per year could be put to good use by the team. Wren has to be grinding his teeth at night trying to make the puzzle fit. Who did the contract? Schuerholz? He's the team Pres, after all. Just asking.

milesarcher33
milesarcher33

Release Kimbrel.  He's not as good as people think he is.  He's certainly not worth the money he wants. 

MichBravesFan
MichBravesFan

@BravesFan1966 Exactly, Wren does not comprehend this truism. He's sending a message to Freeman, Heyward, and Kimbrel and to all future elite players in the system that he will nickle-and-dime them. Freeman, Heyward, Kimbrel, Minor, Medlen, Simmons, Tehran, watch, in 6-7 years, none of those names will be playing for the braves because the braves brass and ownership are fools. 

Rick_C
Rick_C

@RangeRover That would defeat the purpose of guaranteed contracts.  Never gonna happen nor should it.

JohnDavit
JohnDavit

@RangeRover Uggla and BJ will neva get contracts like that again. It does go around. The blame goes to Wren for bad judgement in signing those two.

Rick_C
Rick_C

@knudegard1 Based on historical precedent, Heyward was projected to make less than what the Braves' offered.  Their offer was more than fair in his case.

DontCareForThem
DontCareForThem

@23ZoneOnly Sissies talk of disrespect......he has never done anything except complain about the splinter in his finger and why he couldn't play.......let the LOSER go!

shotuff23
shotuff23

@TreeRollins....totally disagree. Heyward has way more potential. Is a great defender no matter where you put him. I acutally think he would be an All Star CF year in and year out if he stays healthy. While his batting average and power numbers have been low let's not forget how young he still is. He also proved to be a valuable lead off hitter until he was hit in the jaw.

shotuff23
shotuff23

The hardest thing to find right now in baseball is a great closer. Ask Detroit who signed a 39 year old Nathan and ask the Yankees who are about to be without their All Star closers for the first time in years! Kimbrel is very good and like Brooksdawg said still maturing. Definitely worth every penny!

Brooksdawg
Brooksdawg

@milesarcher33 We haven't been watching the same games evidently.  He has the best numbers in the business.  He has had a couple of hiccups in big games but exception, not the rule.  He is also still maturing.  Right now he is the best in the game.


DontCareForThem
DontCareForThem

@shotuff23Potential isn't production - and production on a consistent basis is something SISSY (I've got a splinter in my finger) Heyward has never shown.