Braves reach agreements with Heyward, O’Flaherty, Medlen and Venters
ATLANTA — The Braves entered Friday with the hope of reaching an agreement with each of their six unsigned arbitration-eligible players. As the early afternoon hours elapsed, they had moved closer to that goal by reaching one-year agreements with Jason Heyward, Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters, Kris Medlen and Cristhian Martinez.
Martin Prado remained the Braves only unsigned arbitration-eligible player as of Friday afternoon. There is still a chance the Braves could reach an agreement with the versatile Prado before the end of the day.
Heyward’s first large raise comes in the form of a one-year, $3.65 million contract that includes awards bonuses. This is the first time that the 23-year-old outfielder has been eligible for arbitration. He combined to make just under $1.5 million during his previous three Major League seasons.
O’Flaherty’s one-year deal is worth $4.32 million and includes award bonuses. This will be the third and final arbitration-eligible season for the 27-year-old southpaw, who made $895,000 as a first-year arbitration-eligible player in 2011.
Like Heyward, the salaries gained by Venters and Medlen reflect the fact that they are entering their first arbitration-eligible seasons.
Medlen’s success as a starting pitcher during the season’s final two months earned him a salary of $2.6 million. The durability and success Venters has experienced during his first three big league seasons earned him a salary of $1.625 million for the upcoming season.
All Major League clubs and unsigned arbitration-eligible players were required to exchange salary figures by 1 p.m. ET on Friday. The Braves told agents that they planned to go through with an arbitration hearing if an agreement was not reached before figures were exchanged.
But if they were making progress with Prado’s deal, there is still a chance an agreement could occur on Friday.
Heyward began living up to tremendous expectations as he hit .269 with 27 home runs, 21 stolen bases and a .814 OPS this past season. The five-tool outfielder has the potential to join Ron Gant and Dale Murphy as the only players in Atlanta Braves history to hit 30 home runs and record 30 stolen bases in a season. He was presented with his first Gold Glove Award in November.
Medlen’s value soared as he posted a 0.97 ERA in the 12 starts that he made after making the transition from reliever to starter. His command and approach have led Hank Aaron, Chipper Jones to be among those who have compared him to Greg Maddux.
This has been an eventful stretch for Medlen, whose wife is scheduled to give birth to their first child on Feb. 5. Earlier this month, he learned that he would be part of Team USA’s starting rotation during this year’s World Baseball Classic.
O’Flaherty has established himself as one of the game’s top setup men. The left-handed reliever has compiled a 1.31 ERA in the 131 innings he has completed over the past two seasons. With the 0.98 ERA he posted in 2011, he became the first pitcher in Major League history to post a sub 1.00 ERA while making at least 70 appearances.
Venters experienced some early struggles and then posted a 1.71 ERA in the 26 appearances he made after this past season’s All-Star break. The left-handed reliever has compiled a 2.23 ERA while combining for 230 appearances over the past three seasons — the Majors’ second-highest total during this span.