Could Jason Heyward be on the way out of Atlanta? Bill Shanks talks about the trade talk.
So what if Boston wanted Jason Heyward?
The Boston Red Sox, the defending World Series champs, are in last place in the American League East. It’s no secret they are in for an active winter, and one of the names that has already surfaced as a potential target is Atlanta outfielder Jason Heyward.
Heyward is under contract for next season, but he becomes a free agent after the 2015 season. Atlanta engaged in long-term contract discussions with Heyward, but they were only able to agree to a two-year deal that takes him up to his free agency status.
It seems unlikely the two sides will be able to tear up that last remaining year and get something done for the long-term. The Braves will probably explore talks, but it’s likely Heyward’s side is going to want something in the neighborhood of what Atlanta gave first baseman Freddie Freeman. It seems unlikely that would be logical given the payroll constraints the Braves face with contracts already on the books.
So if the two sides are not close and it seems inevitable that Heyward would leave after next season, the Braves might see what teams would offer for him in a trade. And if Boston was interested, the Braves might be able to get a very attractive package of talent in return for Heyward. The Red Sox might be in better position to offer Heyward the type of contract he may believe he deserves.
Another thing to keep in mind is the Red Sox might need a catcher. A.J. Pierzynski was released and is now in St. Louis. David Ross is a free agent after this season. Rookie Christian Vazquez has started 29 games but has hit just .225.
Would the Red Sox also be interested in Evan Gattis, who could also be on the trade market this winter? It is believed Gattis might need to go to the American League, where he can be an occasional designated hitter. Can you imagine him hitting in Fenway Park on a regular basis?
Here are a couple of players that might interest the Braves if they are in any trade discussion with the Red Sox over Heyward and/or Gattis:
Henry Owens - Ranked as Boston’s top pitching prospect coming into the season, Owens is a tall (6-6) left-hander who just turned 22 years old last month. He’s been outstanding between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket this season. Owens is 16-5 with a 2.82 ERA in 25 starts (five in AAA) with 161 strikeouts in 153 innings pitched. Owens would seem to be off limits, but for two sluggers?
Anthony Ranaudo A big tall right-hander who turns 25 next week. Ranaudo has made two starts in Boston and has won both. Ranaudo was 14-4 in Pawtucket with a 2.61 ERA in 24 starts. He projects as a middle-rotation type starter.
Matt Barnes - Boston’s first rounder in the 2011 draft out of Connecticut, Barnes is 24 and throws right-handed. He has been decent in Pawtucket this season (8-8, 3.80 in 22 games, 21 starts, with 93 strikeouts in 120.2 innings). Boston would probably prefer to trade Barnes over Owens.
Allen Webster - He’s never gotten over the hump in 14 games (13 starts) in Boston, as he has a 7.19 ERA with 38 walks and 41strikeouts in 61.1 innings. Webster has a 3.10 ERA in 21 games (20 starts) in Triple-A Pawtucket this season, with 100 strikeouts and 44 walks in 122 innings pitched.
Mookie Betts - He’s mainly played second base, and the Braves don’t need a second baseman. But Betts has some time in the outfield. He’s a speedster, with 33 stolen bases in the minor leagues this season and four in his 23 games with Boston. Betts has hit .243 in those 74 major league at bats. He had split his time between Double-A and Triple-A this season and had a .346 combined average with 11 home runs and 65 RBI along with a .431 on base percentage. Betts, who turns 22 in six weeks, is a Jacoby Ellsbury-type player, although he hits right-handed. With Boston signing Rusney Castillo, does that make Betts even more available?
Jackie Bradley - He’s struggled in 494 plate appearances in the majors with a .210 average and a .286 on base percentage. But the former South Carolina Gamecock has hit .291 in four minor league seasons and had a .395 on base percentage. His struggles in Boston may shy teams off, wondering why it’s so hard for him to turn the corner in Boston.
Garin Cecchini - He’s a left-handed hitter who is 23 years old. The Red Sox have put him in the outfield a bit this year after he had 15 errors in 80 games at third base in Triple-A. Cecchini has never showed much power (21 home runs in 389 games) so is a Chris Johnson-like comparison fair?
Will Middlebrooks - He’s struggled again this season (.188 batting average) in Boston but Middlebrooks is two years removed from when he hit .288 as a rookie and looked like a new Butch Hobson. Does this kid need a change of scenery? He’s still just 25 years old.
The Braves would not need a catcher (since Christian Bethancourt would replace Gattis) or middle infielders (with Andrelton Simmons at short and Jose Peraza destined to take over at second base). But with Julio Teheran, Mike Minor and Alex Wood the only three starting pitchers guaranteed for next year’s rotation, Atlanta needs starting pitching help.
Boston has added a lot of talent to the farm system in the last few months with the trades of Jake Peavy to San Francisco and Andrew Miller to Baltimore. They have depth to make some major moves, and you just have to wonder if talks between Boston and Atlanta could result in a major, major trade.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.