Sunday, November 23, 2014
Heyward/Miller Trade Analysis
On Tuesday, November 17th the Cardinals and Braves made a major trade that had been in the works for weeks. The Cardinals were looking to boost their offense after it slipped from first to ninth in the NL in runs scored. The Braves were looking to upgrade their pitching staff with the anticipated departures of Aaron Harang and Ervin Santana. Cardinals GM John Mozeliak and his counterpart John Hart agreed to a trade that sent Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden to the Cardinals for Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. With the recent death of Oscar Taveras, the Cardinals felt they needed to make this move.
Heyward burst on the scene in 2010, and had a strong first half that led to an All Star appearance. He went on to finish second in the Rookie of the Year vote to Buster Posey. Many scouts thought Heyward had superstar potential, and was even compared to Hank Aaron at one point during his rookie year. Then Heyward had a sophomore slump in 2011, and his batting average dipped to .227.
In 2012, Heyward had a bounce back season, and hit a career high 27 home runs. He also won his first Gold Glove that season. While he had a nice season, Heyward was considered a strikeout prone player who struck out 152 times in 2012. During the 2013 season, the Braves moved Heyward to the leadoff spot to replace the struggling B.J. Upton. Heyward has since cut down on the strikeouts and improved his walk rate.
While Heyward may never be a superstar or future Hall of Famer, he has turned out to be a very good player. He is the best defensive right fielder in baseball. He is a high on base pct. guy. He has some speed, and stole over 20 bases twice in his career. Heyward hasn't turned out to be the power hitter he was projected to be, but Mozeliak feels like that could change in St. Louis, especially if he's not the leadoff hitter.
Along with Heyward, the Cardinals acquire reliever Jordan Walden. Walden originally came up in 2010 with the Angels, and made the All Star team the following season. He has spent the last two years in Atlanta setting up for Craig Kimbrel. Walden will fill the role of Pat Neshek, who most likely will depart in free agency.
Miller had finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2013. He had been one of baseball's top pitching prospects since being drafted in 2009. While Miller had a terrific rookie year, he was left off the playoff rotation in favor of fellow rookie Michael Wacha in 2013. Wacha went on to have a brilliant postseason, including beating Clayton Kershaw twice in the NLCS and winning the NLCS MVP.
Miller labored during many of his starts this year, and didn't pitch deep into games. The coaching staff seemed to sour on him. There was one instance during a Sunday night game that he got a stern talking to by manager Mike Matheny, pitching coach Derek Lilliquist, and Yadier Molina on separate occasions. Some thought that Miller needed maturity, others thought he needed another pitch to compliment his fastball.
While Miller struggled during much of the season, he turned it on in September. He went 2-0 with a 1.48 ERA in five starts that month. In a reversal of last season, Miller was put on the playoff rotation over Wacha, who missed two months because of shoulder problems. Miller pitched 5.2 innings in a Game 4 win vs. the Dodgers, and was roughed up in another start in the NLCS vs. the Giants.
Despite Miller's inconsistency, he is 26-18 with a 3.33 ERA in his two plus years in the big leagues. Some say that he isn't going to be an ace, and is only a number three starter. Still, that has value. Just a few short years ago, the Cardinals had pitchers like Kip Wells and Todd Wellemeyer in the rotation. Cardinals fans would of been begging to have a starter as good as Miller back in those days. Good thing that the Cardinals have Marco Gonzales and Carlos Martinez to fall back on. Both pitchers are projected to be starters, and will compete for the fifth spot in spring training.
The Braves will be getting four years of Miller's services, and one more pre-arbitration season. It is possible that a change of scenery could be the best thing for Miller's career. Atlanta has also received Tyrell Jenkins, who was in A-ball last year. Jenkins was drafted in 2010 at age 17, and was once one of the Cardinals top prospects. He had suffered from injuries and poor performance since. This season, Jenkins seemed to figure it out. He had been impressive in the Arizona Fall League. With Heyward up for free agency after 2015, the Cardinals have risked 10 years of team control for two promising pitchers.
I don't think the Cardinals made this move without the intention to attempt to sign Heyward long term. In the past, they have made similar moves with Mark McGwire, Jim Edmonds, and Matt Holliday. Given the recent record setting extension that Giancarlo Stanton got from the Marlins, the price will be high. The question is has Heyward reached his full potential yet. At age 25, Heyward could drive up the price too high if he has a monster season. As with the Holliday deal, I would expect that Mozeliak and Bill De Witt will try their best to work out an extension.