Jason Heyward and Derek Lowe, both of whom were supposed to be key cogs in the lineup and rotation, each had very forgettable seasons. Atlanta Braves general manager Frank Wren was very forthright when discussing their futures.
One year after finishing second in the Rookie of the Year voting, it was believed that Heyward would take the next step and be a force in the Braves lineup. However, he took a big step backwards and finished the year with a .227 average to go along with 14 home runs and a .708 OPS. There has been some speculation that the Braves may look to trade Heyward in the offseason after his disappointing year, but Wren was quick to dismiss the notion that the Braves may trade their young outfielder.
"We've never had one discussion about trading Jason Heyward," Wren said. "That's never come up. Nobody has ever contemplated it. Nobody has ever talked about it. I'm not sure where that came from."
Wren went further to say that Heyward would not be guaranteed a starting position next season, a suggestion that would have been met with derision and disbelief at the beginning of this season.
"The reality of it is that Jason made some progress this season," Wren said. "He's got to continue to make some progress. He's going to continue to be in a battle for a position next year. It's not a given that he's our right fielder."
Hailed as a future superstar after making the All Star team as a 20-year-old rookie, Heyward's season was a huge disappointment. Furthermore, his inability to stay healthy is troubling. He dealt with several lingering injuries in the minors, and he has continued that trend in the majors so far in his young career. A shoulder injury sidelined him for a month in May and June, and he never seemed to be the same after returning from that injury.
Whether it was injury, a mechanical flaw, or simply the league adjusting to him, Heyward certainly did not have a memorable season.
Lowe, on the other hand, did not deal with any injury issues but was ineffective for the vast majority of the season, particularly down the stretch. In the third year of his four-year, $60 million contract, the Braves signed Lowe to be a dependable innings-eater at the top of the rotation. After failing to reach 200 innings pitched for the third consecutive season, Lowe provided neither the innings nor the performance that the Braves expected. With the influx of young pitching at the Braves' disposal, Wren was very candid when discussing Lowe's future.
"Going into next season, it's hard to project him as one of our starters at this point, based on the young talent we have," Wren said. "But again, that's something we'll figure out once we get closer to Spring Training."
Wren was not specific as to how exactly Lowe would fit in next season, but if the rotation is not an option, that leaves either a trade or the bullpen as other possibilities.
"You want to put the best five starters out there," Wren said. "Right now, the way we project, I'm not sure Derek would be one of our top five starters. I'll just leave it at that."
Lowe's situation will undoubtedly be an interesting story during the offseason. Whether he is in the rotation or bullpen, the Braves cannot afford to have Lowe endure a repeat performance of his abysmal season.
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