Well, then. Never sleep on John Mozeliak.
Last winter, we knew that Mo would have to deal a pitcher or clear up that first base/outfield logjam. Instead, he swapped David Freese and Fernando Salas for Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk. Coupled with signing Jhonny Peralta, Mo swooped in, got things done, and kept most of his powder safely locked away.
So this winter, we knew Mo wanted power and we knew there was still somewhat of a pitching logjam, but I don’t think we expected him to pull the trigger on something like this trade with the Braves. Let’s take a look at the individual pieces. Remember, this just got announced about five minutes ago, so I’m really just thinking off the top of my head.
1) Shelby Miller. It’s hard to believe that the Cardinals cut bait on the guy that was their phenom prospect for so long. Shelby was the guy that was the focal point of the minor leagues, the guy that was the big tough Texan that was going to be a force in the big leagues for a long time to come.
That easily could still happen. Miller looked very good down the stretch last year before faltering in October. It could well be that the organization wasn’t sure he’d ever get over the hump. It could just as easily be that the club figured that he was going to have a lot of value, but with all the pitchers in the organization, someone had to go. I would think that Miller could do well in Atlanta, though he’s going to have to curtail his fly-ball habits. Turner Field ranked 10th in HR, Busch Stadium 16th. Miller tended to give up the long ball a little more often than you’d like even in a better pitching environment, but perhaps he can modify that in a new organization.
2) Tyrell Jenkins. Jenkins has been an intriguing project for a long while now, having been drafted in 2010 as a toolsy guy that they hoped to develop into a pitcher. Jenkins has been injured throughout his career and has struggled at times, but he put together a pretty interesting season at Peoria this year, even as he was a couple of years young for the league. I still think it’s a long shot for him to ever make the big leagues, but it’s a lottery ticket for the Braves that might well pay off.
3) Jason Heyward. Heyward had a down year last year, staying healthy but putting up only 11 home runs. That said, he’s still an intriguing offensive force, plus he’s got the defensive chops (a two-time Gold Glove winner) to not have Mike Matheny thinking about double switching him out of close games. Heyward can draw a walk and puts up a relatively decent average. It’d be interesting to have him in the second spot behind Matt Carpenter, wearing pitchers out before hitting the heart of the order, though I expect he’ll it more in that middle of the order.
I’ve always been somewhat of a fan of Heyward and I’m really interested to see how he does in St. Louis. He’s a free agent at the end of the year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t try to lock him up with a long-term deal at some point. Heyward probably wouldn’t go for it now–I imagine he’s been thinking about free agency–but minds can change during the season. He’s going to bring a pretty consistent and exciting bat to the lineup, assuming he breaks the pattern of being hurt every other year.
4) Jordan Walden. A friend (who is big in fantasy baseball) just texted me to ask if Walden is going to close. I don’t think that’s going to happen–Trevor Rosenthal is still Matheny’s guy–but he does have that experience, saving 32 games for the Angels back in 2011 and picking up three saves when Craig Kimbrel needed a break last year. Walden struck out over a batter an inning last year and walked one every two frames, which is a nice thing to see at the end of games.
5) Carlos Martinez. Martinez wasn’t in this deal, but odds are he gets to be put in the “winners” column on this deal. Walden would look to be a great guy for the eighth inning, replacing Pat Neshek. That was one of the plans for Martinez this season, and being that there is now an obvious vacancy in the rotation, it would seem that Baby Pedro has the inside track on that slot.
6) Randal Grichuk. If Martinez is a winner, Grichuk is a loser. I don’t think many expected Grichuk really to be the starter in right field come Opening Day, but before this deal that’s the way things stood. Now, Grichuk is less likely to see the field (assuming Heyward does stay healthy) because it’s not like last year, when there was only Oscar Taveras to compete with. Heyward has the track record and the production to get everyday starts and that will be what happens.
The whole outfield situation becomes interesting as well. There was thoughts that Jon Jay could shift to right and Peter Bourjos play center at times. That would seem to be less common now, though I’m sure we’ll see that occasionally. Does that mean one of those guys gets moved anyway, even with both of them coming off surgery? Does Grichuk get dealt in another move? Lots of variables now, which is good, because with that snow on the ground outside, the hot stove really needs to kick it up a notch.
I think this is a deal that has a chance to benefit both sides. I felt that Miller was starting to take the steps needed to become a big-time pitcher and I don’t see that this deal will change that. Heyward and Walden would look to be upgrades on the Cardinal side of things for sure. The trade “win” might hinge on whether Jenkins does anything of import for Atlanta. If he does, and if Heyward doesn’t stay past this season, it might go the Braves’ way.
In 2003, the Cardinals sent an outfielder and a catcher to Atlanta for two pitchers and a prospect. If Jenkins turns into Adam Wainwright, this is going to hurt, but that’s long odds.
Kudos to Mo–he’s not standing still. The Cardinals as constructed yesterday were playoff favorites. They just got better today.