Per the team press release:
The Braves and Cardinals made a four-player trade on Monday that sent outfielder Jason Heyward and late-inning reliever Jordan Walden to St. Louis in exchange for pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins.
When the tweets first started to roll in saying John Mozeliak pulled this trade off I couldn’t really believe what I was seeing. Immediate discussions in group text messages started taking place, with some people hating it, some people loving it, and others in-between.
Following the death of Oscar Taveras, finding an every day right fielder was this team’s biggest need. Jason Heyward fills that hole admirably.
Heyward, only just turned 25, is coming off his 5th full season in the majors. While he had a down year at the plate power wise, he turned in an extremely respectable 351 on-base percentage while playing elite defense in right field, finishing as a Platinum Glove finalist alongside Yadier Molina. He severely limited his strikeouts this season along with picking up 20 stolen bases.
His career slash line of .262/.351/.429/.781 is solid for a player not yet into his prime. A former top prospect, he should only get better as he goes along. Carpenter and Heyward should give the Cardinals an excellent 1-2 (not necessarily in that order) punch at the top of the lineup.
The downside with him is he will be a free agent at the end of next season, though Mozeliak has said in the past they have the payroll flexibility to add a “core piece”.
Jordan Walden is a solid addition to what was a glaring problem in the postseason. Walden has a career strikeout rate of 10.8 k/9, boasting a fastball that sits in the mid-upper 90s. Mike Matheny had no faith in his bullpen in the NLCS, and hopefully Walden can slide in a provide stability in the late innings. A former closer with the Angels, Walden has dealt with some injuries in his career, but when he is on the mound he is a fantastic option out of the bullpen.
Adding two solid players of course comes at a cost, and Shelby Miller was it. A former top 5 prospect, Miller has all the makings of an ace. He has provided solid innings for the Cardinals the past two seasons, accumulating 356 innings pitched to go along with a 3.41 ERA.
On the surface, he has been excellent. When you get past the traditional stats is where Miller starts to look a bit worse. His strikeout numbers were way down this past season, coming in at 6.2 k/9. The league average, per FanGraphs, is 7.1 k/9. His walk rate went up as well. His 4.54 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) was atrocious.
I don’t mean to trash Shelby Miller on his way out. He was a solid pitcher for us. He was a top 5 prospect for a reason, but has failed to dominate hitters as he did in the minors. He has all the potential to be great, it just has yet to be seen if he will get to it.
Tyrell Jenkins is the final piece to the deal. A former first round pick and top 100 prospect himself (coming in at #94 before the 2013 season), Jenkins has underperformed due to a series of injuries and not tapping in to his raw ability. At 21 years old and still in High A, he only had 5.0 k/9 in 74 innings this past season. Already old for his level, he failed to produce at a high level. He still has plenty of potential, and is a nice upside pickup for the Braves.
The Cardinals give up a total of 10 years of control between Miller (4) and Jenkins (6) for just three of Heyward (1) and Walden (2), but Heyward could sign an extension to stay in St. Louis or net the Cardinals a compensation pick following the year if the Cardinals were to extend a qualifying offer to him, which they are almost guaranteed to do.
Overall, I could not be more excited about this move for the Cardinals.
The trade gives them an excellent option in right field and also opens up a spot in the rotation for either Marco Gonzales or Carlos Martinez.
Mozeliak came out with a bang early in the offseason. With the core of this team getting older, the window to win is right now. Heyward and Walden give the Cardinals two fantastic options at positions that were definitely considered needs going in to the post season.
Baseball can’t come soon enough.
Stats for this article were acquired from baseball-reference.com unless otherwise stated.
Cover Photo Source: Rob Carr/Getty Images North America