Crisis Averted: Jason Heyward and Braves Agree to Two-Year Extension

Stephen Dunn

Club keeps "file and trial" policy intact, while avoiding arbitration with budding star for the next two years.

Braves fans can breathe a small sigh of relief, as Jason Heyward and the Braves have agreed to a two year, $13.3 million dollar deal. The deal buys out Jason's final two years of arbitration, but none of his free agent seasons.

While the Braves have indicated that they are a "file and trial" team, meaning once a player submits his asking price in the arbitration process (something that has already passed), the team ceases to negotiate a single year contract for the upcoming season, this was different by virtue of being a two year deal.  Sources have indicated that filing for arbitration does not preclude the Braves negotiating longer term deals, only single year deals.  I think this point was further driven home with the emphasis Frank Wren made on it being a multi-year deal.

Jason is an important part of our organization and we're glad that we were able to agree on a multi-year contract. - Frank Wren

So while it does open some hope up for a Craig Kimbrel or Freddie Freeman extension, I wouldn't bet on a single year extension for either.  The Braves seem intent on maintaining their bargaining position as a file and trial team.  I think the Braves would only avoid arbitration with either of those players if the deal was again of the multi-year variety; which would seem very unlikely with Kimbrel, because the gulf in submitted figures was so large.  A two or three year extension for Freeman could happen, but if I had to guess, I'd say the Braves still go to arbitration with him.

What does this mean for the long term ability of the Braves to keep Jason Heyward?  While I wouldn't overstate the importance, I think it does indicate that fruitful negotiations are at least ongoing with Heyward and his agent.  At least they're not being petty over $300,000 any longer.  I still personally view it as unlikely that the Braves keep Heyward into his free agent years, but I think today's news makes it a tiny bit less unlikely.  Keep in mind that prior to this, all the rumors of extension talks with Heyward and the Braves have been overwhelmingly negative.  I might view this just being a two year extension as a bad sign, if it had been believed that extension talks were going well prior, however, that not being the case, I think it's difficult to view this as anything but a positive for the Braves' hopes of keeping Jason Heyward in Atlanta past his team control years.

If nothing else, this contract indicates that the Braves and Jason are able to agree on a fair price for his talents, which prior seemed to be a fundamental disagreement between the two sides.  I think that's the actual most important part of going or not going to arbitration hearings.  Sportswriters often make much of the acrimony that may develop between a team and a player during the hearings, but I think a much, much more important point is to remember that often times the whole reason they were in a hearing in the first place was because there existed a fundamental disagreement in player worth, which is probably much more likely to be the cause of the acrimony than the hearing.  I've always viewed arbitration hearings as a result of a breakdown in player-team relations, not a cause of the breakdown.

Finally, the move gives the Braves' much more cost certainty for the next two seasons, and means Jason Heyward can go out and put up the MVP type season next year he has the talent to put up, and it won't cost the Braves any more during his final year of team control (well, with the exception of the at this time unknown performance bonuses).

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