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Hart on Gattis-to-LF scenario, other J-Hey trade matters

John Hart, Braves president of baseball operations, indicated last week during the GM meetings that moving catcher Evan Gattis to left field was preferable to trading him, because of Gattis’ big power and the fact that he’s under contractual control for four more seasons.

After trading right fielder Jason Heyward to the Cardinals on Monday in a deal in which the principles were Heyward and Cardinals starting pitcher Shelby Miller, the likelihood of moving Gattis to left field — and Justin Upton from left field to right field — increased.

Hart was asked about that and other matters during a conference call with reporters. Here’s part of the transcription.

Does moving Gattis to left field now look like a greater possibility?

“It looks that way. We’ve had conversations with Evan, and he is game-on for anything. And if that is the move that we do make – obviously still have time during the winter – but that is definitely a possibility where Justin Upton would got to right field and Gattis would go to left. We realize that we sacrifice a few things defensively. We have that option. We don’t have it set in stone just yet, but it’s certainly an option.”

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More on Shelby Miller:

“This is young man who’s had an great pedigree. He’s an outstanding makeup guy out of Texas, a first-round pick who’s always had a good arm, a big arm, a power arm. In the past couple of years he’s pitched well and improved significantly. As we look at Shelby we realize he has a chance to be a front-of-the-rotation pitcher, but I think where he is in his development he’s a pitcher we can pitch in either the 3-hole or the 4-hole and provide us big innings with the chance to move up.

“Sometimes for young power pitchers it takes a little while for that final little bit of command to come, command of the strike zone. His changeup is something that’s still going to need some work, but I have tremendous confidence in Roger McDowell. Our scouts love the kid and love the arm. He’s not a finished product just yet, but this is a winning pitcher. He obviously was a part of what went on over in St. Louis as a very young pitcher, and there’s still some upside.”

How much room does this give you in your payroll?

“I don’t have an exact figure, but it certainly puts us in a better position to do things around the club. As I said before, our goal coming in was to acquire two starters, and obviously we’ve acquired one. I think we have the ability to examine every avenue we can, and again, I want everyone to take this the right way, but we’re certainly taking a good look – this is a deal we think helps us in the short term, but we’re also taking a look at what’s going to help us in the long term. We’re not looking to give up draft picks. We’re not looking to go out and financially handicap this club. We want to build something that’s going to sustain. We’ll take a look all around at what’s going to help us short term but certainly with an eye toward the future.”

How much of this came down to you not thinking you could sign Heyward to a long-term contract and wanting to get something in return?

“You love to hold on to your own guys as well as homegrown guys. But coming in last year, obviously I liked the player but we got no sense — or at least I didn’t — that this was a player that would have done something short-term (contract) for us. That wouldn’t preclude us from signing him on the open market, but we’d have 29 other clubs involved. A player gets to make his selection as to what it is he wants to do. I didn’t think it made sense for us to not be able to improve ourselves for the future and the short term by waiting to see if we might be the team he elected to sign with. I fully feel very strongly that this was a player that had earned the right to go to free agency next year, and that’s what he was going to do.”

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