Last Fair Deal Goin’ Down

First off, that’s a great song. Secondly, I am a huge fan of the Cardinals’ acquisition of Jason Heyward.

Needing to fill the crater in right field following the tragic death of Oscar Taveras, GM John Mozeliak wasted little time striking a deal with the Atlanta Braves for the 25-year old outfielder.

Flashback just five years and Heyward was the game’s hottest prospect. In his first career MLB at-bat, Heyward smacked a Carlos Zambrano fastball into the right field bullpen. The three-run blast sent Turner Field into pandemonium; their “5-tool” talent had arrived in a big way.

Heyward’s rookie season was both promising and successful, hitting .277 with 18 homeruns and 72 runs batted in. In 2011, his average dipped 50 points while driving in 30 fewer runs in what some would refer to as a sophomore slump. Heyward bounced back launching 27 homers with 82 RBI in a potential breakout 2012 season.

The breakout was short-lived. In two seasons since, he has a combined 25 blasts and 96 RBI. After signing a 2-year extension worth $13 million last February, the Braves found him extendable in hopes of bolstering its rotation.

Enter, St. Louis.

With a surplus of young pitching, Mozeliak could fill Atlanta’s need with Shelby Miller. Miller, a first round draft pick in 2009, ranked as the fifth best prospect in 2012 by MLB.com

What I find fascinating about the trade is that both players never graduated into what either organization expected. Both Heyward and Miller flashed signs of stardom, but struggled displaying it consistently.

Miller failed to prove he was more than a backend starter. Arm fatigue, back complications, and wacked mechanics repeatedly hindered Miller’s progress.

Was Miller the pitcher who finished the final two months 2-0 in five starts with a 1.48 ERA? Or what about in June, July, and August when he went a combined 2-5 in 16 starts with a 4.34 ERA? In 63 career starts, Miller lasted 7+ innings only 11 times.

His performance against top-level teams kept him bubbled-wrapped on Mike Matheny’s office shelf during the 2013 Playoffs. In three years of postseason play, Miller allowed 16 hits, 6 walks and 8 earned runs in just 13.2 innings pitched. It’s fair to say the organization did not trust Shelby Miller when it mattered most–and numbers support their claim.

The Cardinals needed to clear space for Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales. Martinez’s situation is complex because he too has been inconsistent, bouncing from rotation to various bullpen roles and even a demotion to Memphis. Gonzales shined last postseason and would provide one left-handed arm in a right-handed-heavy rotation.

Baseball’s a funny game. The Cardinals, like every team (Braves included), need offense. But as the saying goes, teams can ‘never have enough pitching’. Finding the perfect balance requires taking gambles, and if that’s how you want to label this trade, go ahead.

I see more upside for St. Louis. Heyward could flourish in a Cardinals lineup now featuring five regulars with All-Star credentials. If not, well, his contract is up after the season and you lose Miller. Heyward’s offensive potential far outweighs the loss of Miller, in my opinion.

Mozeliak had few alternative options. He could have thrown free agent money at Nelson Cruz, looked internationally, inquired about Giancarlo Stanton (who just became the game’s highest paid player of all time with Miami), or conservatively stayed in-house with Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty.

None of the above jumps out like Heyward.

Lineup Thoughts

Adding Heyward means the lineup will feature five regulars batting left-handed. Exactly how Matheny decides to space them out should get interesting. And by interesting I mean mind-boggling. 

The Cardinals organization believes Heyward’s power numbers were compromised hitting leadoff. I assume this implies he will hit second. 

  1. Carpenter 5
  2. Heyward 9
  3. Holliday 7
  4. Adams 4
  5. Molina 2
  6. Peralta 6
  7. Jay 8
  8. Wong 4
  9. Pitcher 1 

Hayward #'s By Lineup Spot

HEYWARD BY THE NUMBERS

  • CAREER SPLITS
    • vs LHP: .281 / 64 HR / 212 RBI 
    • vs RHP: .221 / 20 HR / 80 RBI 
  • CAREER AVERAGE IS 32 POINTS HIGHER IN THE SECOND HALF (.280)
  • IN GAMES THE BRAVES WON (’10-’14):
    • Heyward hit .290 with 61 HR and 228 RBI
  • RISP: .267 … 2 OUTs: .262 
  • HIT .292 on ROAD in ’14 (40 points higher than at home) 
  • POSTSEASON
    • 39 AB .154 1 HR 4 RBI
  • VS. NL CENTRAL:
    • Pittsburgh: 29 games .322 4 HR 16 RBI
      • @PNC 14 games .385 2 HR 9 RBI
    • Milwaukee: 32 games .246 4 HR 10 RBI
      • @Miller 15 games .222 3 HR 8 RBI
    • Cincinatti: 21 games .230 1 HR 10 RBI
      • @GAB 13 games .222 1 HR 6 RBI
    • Chicago: 30 games .272 8 HR 22 RBI
      • @Wrigley 16 games .340 4 HR 12 RBI
  • At BUSCH STADIUM
    • 12 games, .234 average 2 HR 6 RBI
  • DEFENSE: 
    • 33 career assists, 1 error last two seasons.
    • 2x Rawlings Gold Glove award winner

Thanks For Reading.

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