Remember last year right before Thanksgiving, John Mozeliak pulled the unthinkable and signed PED inflicted Jhonny Peralta to a 4 year pricey deal. People were mad, perplexed and oddly pleased by the urgency of the deal. Eventually, Peralta proved to be hungry to forget about the past and carved out a fine spot at shortstop for himself, scooping and dishing baseballs in the field like a silky smooth operator and providing some pop with the bat. Well, this time, Mo went for a right fielder, that place that had the electricity turned off in 2014. It was a timely deal. Oscar Taveras tragically passed away. Randal Grichuk didn’t blow people away with the potential to be productive for 150 games. Stephen Piscotty seemed a bit raw to toss in so suddenly. Nelson Cruz carried a big stick, but little else. Giancarlo Stanton has made Miami his home for 13 years. Other players seemed a bit dicey and the reward didn’t shine too bright. So Mo sat down at the poker table and gambled, placing a bet on Atlanta Braves right fielder Jason Heyward. With no offense to Jordan Walden, a fireballer of a late inning relief man, Heyward is the brass metal part of the this deal. In order to acquire Heyward, Mozeliak sent the Braves Shelby Miller and minor league arm Tyrell Jenkins. As I will do with Heyward, let’s focus on Miller first.
Is it bad to ship Miller away so soon? Of course. In two seasons, he has 26 wins, a solid ERA and fine tuned his curveball and added a sinker at the end of the 2014 season. He is very young and cost controlled. If he goes to Atlanta and kicks out 18 wins in 2015, there will be a bit of sadness in Cardinal Nation. The ability and talent are there. The finish has eluded Miller in his two seasons. He couldn’t pitch deep into games often enough. He was inconsistent in his second season, even though he finished well. He is a young man and could do very well in Atlanta. I was never as high on Shelby as others were but the talent was undeniable. I just never saw a man who could ascend to the #2 spot or ace label like others did. I could be wrong but if there was one young arm on this loaded Cardinal pitching staff I could part with, it was Shelby.
What do you get in Heyward? A gold glove caliber right fielder who saved Atlanta 32 runs alone with his defense in 2014. He is 25 years old and entering the final year of his contract. My expectation would be that Mozeliak is going to make an aggressive approach in resigning him but there are no guarantees. Heyward gives you an everyday outfielder, and a legit one that had an overall WAR of 6.4 in 2014. You don’t have to gamble on an unproven rookie or sign an aging power hitter. Heyward gives you youth, fierce defense, speed on the bases and maybe a little pop at the plate. Signing Heyward means you can move Matt Carpenter down in the order so he can get more RBI opportunities. He can also hit 2nd or possibly 5th in the order. There are risks here, ones that extend outside of the contract frenzy. Heyward can’t hit lefties too well, carrying a career average of .255 against them. He saw his HR power drop from 27 bombs in 2012 to just 11 last year. A change of scenery may help or it may top out around 15. Heyward isn’t going to dazzle with his bat, unless he flips the trend of his last two seasons. However, the fact that he is only 25 gives some hope to a tweak or two producing more production. What you are getting in Heyward is something the Cards haven’t had since Jim Edmonds departed. A gold glove and powerful arm in right field that puts other teams on watch. If a single goes into right field with a man on second base, the base runner will have to think about Heyward. The third base coach knows who won the fielding bible in 2014. Heyward gives you that threat in the outfield. If he gets back a tinge of that 2012 power stroke, it’s all gravy for Cardinal fans.
Young player analysis. Jenkins projected as a special arm, but looking at it right now it screams potential and no sure thing. He recovered from an injury in 2014 and looked good in a recent session in Arizona but there was no telling he could translate his stuff to the majors. The Cards have a heavy supply of young fireball relievers. Waldon gives you a fireballer that, unlike Jenkins, can step into the Cards bullpen right now and compete for Pat Neshek(expected to depart in free agency) or the late inning job of Carlos Martinez(expected to enter the rotation fifth spot sweepstakes). Walden strikes out a ton and walks a few more than he should, so he will fit right in. Waldon makes it easier for the Cards to let go of Jenkins in this deal.
Closing statement. I like the deal. Short term, it’s very good because right field just got a lot better. Long term, it could be even more juicy if Heyward signs a new deal here. Credit the GM here a lot. Mo had to do something quick in right field and found a young player with dazzling defense and a bat that has potential to be powerful if not at least get on base and steal a few bags(or 20). If they resign Heyward, it’s a great deal. That remains to be seen even though I find it hard to believe Mo makes the deal without inheriting a confidence that an extension is highly possible . For now, enjoy the presence of legit talent in right field. Heyward will make Cardinal baseball a lot more exciting.
There will be more coverage here at the Conclave and elsewhere around the United Cardinal Blogger arena, so be sure to check in there this week.
Until next time,