Cards acquire Heyward, Walden; deal Miller, Jenkins
Needing to fill an unexpected hole in right field for 2015, the Cardinals went for a big splash, acquiring outfielder Jason Heyward from the Braves along with right-handed reliever Jordan Walden. The cost was heavy, however, as the Cardinals sent a pair of former first-round picks – right-handers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins – to Atlanta to complete the four-player trade on Monday.
The trade comes three weeks after the death of 22-year-old outfielder Oscar Taveras, who, along with Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty, was expected to cover the right-field position in 2015. Uncertain if Grichuk and Piscotty alone could provide the Cardinals with the offensive upgrade they sought, general manager John Mozeliak vowed to look elsewhere for help.
With the free-agent market thin on outfielders, he said early in the process that a trade might be necessary to sufficiently fill the outfield void. In the end, he was able to deal from an area of surplus, as the Cardinals clearly believe they have enough starting pitching depth to weather the departure of Miller, who had been a member of the rotation for the last two seasons.
In Heyward, the Cardinals get an elite defender with a career slash line of .262/.351/.429 in five seasons with the Braves. Heyward is due $7.8 million in 2015 as part of the second installment of a two-year, $13.3 million contract that he signed to cover his final two seasons of arbitration.
Heyward will be a free agent at the end of the season. Walden, a second-time arbitration eligible player, will enter free agency after the 2016 season. That means the Cardinals procured two players with a combined three years of team control in exchange for the 10 years of control Atlanta gets with Miller and Jenkins.
A short-term fit in right field was somewhat appealing to the Cardinals all along, however, as Mozeliak has said that he still believes Piscotty and Grichuk have the potential to become everyday Major League outfielders.
Heyward, 25, is coming off his second Gold Glove season, one in which he led all Major League players with 32 Defensive Runs Saved. His Ultimate Zone Rating (24.1) ranked second in baseball behind Kansas City’s Alex Gordon.
In the lineup, Heyward would be a natural fit to hit in one of the top two spots in the lineup, giving the Cardinals flexibility to move Matt Carpenter down in the batting order, if desired. Heyward hit 26 doubles and 11 homers while driving in 58 for Atlanta in 149 games in 2014.
Packaging Walden in this deal helps the Cardinals address another offseason item on their checklist, which was to fortify their bullpen. The 27-year-old debuted with the Angels in 2010 and has a career 3.10 ERA in 231 appearances.
In 2014, Walden posted a 2.88 ERA and 1.200 WHIP in 58 games. He pitched primarily as a setup man to closer Craig Kimbrel and could fill the same role in St. Louis since Pat Neshek is not expected to resign with the team.
This marks the second time that Walden has been a part of a November trade, as he was swapped for Tommy Hanson in a 2012 deal between the Braves and Angels.
In exchange for the two experienced players, the Braves landed two young starting pitchers. Miller, the No. 19 overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, went 26-18 with a 3.33 ERA in 69 games (63 starts) for the Cardinals. He was projected to be a member of the 2015 rotation, though the Cardinals have several other starting candidates to fill that void.
Along with Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, John Lackey and Michael Wacha returning, the Cardinals expect to have Jaime Garcia back from thoracic outlet surgery. Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales also remain starting options.
Jenkins, 22, just wrapped up a successful Arizona Fall League stint to close a season in which he returned from shoulder surgery. The 50th-overall pick in the 2010 Draft, Jenkins had stalled in high-A due to injuries but had enjoyed a breakthrough of sorts late this summer and into the fall. He was expected to be added to the 40-man roster later this week in advance of the Rule 5 Draft.
With Heyward and Walden going on that roster, the Cardinals now have 37 players on their 40-man roster.
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