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Beware of the “Reverse Drew”

Note: This was posted prior to Monday’s trade in which the Cardinals receive outfielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden with pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins going to Atlanta. More details on the trade at The Cardinal Nation.

In an off-season with no clear acquisition targets for the St. Louis Cardinals, plenty of names are on peoples’ wish lists.

One such name that has attracted attention in recent days is Atlanta Braves outfielder Jason Heyward (not to be confused with Justin Hayward). Plenty of other writers have analyzed the pluses and minuses of the 25-year-old’s play and his contract. Others, aiming higher, have suggested his teammate Justin Upton should be St. Louis’ target instead.

Personally, I am not there. I am not anywhere. I just can’t get past the fear of the realization of what I suspect is the Braves’ long-held desire to pull a reverse J.D. Drew on the Cardinals.

Of course, the 2014 Cardinals reached the National League Championship Series while the Braves stumbled to a sub-.500 record, finishing 17 games out of first. A major Atlanta housecleaning followed the disappointing season, which could include further trades.

Back in the 2003-2004 off-season, the two clubs were in exact opposite places compared to today.

It was the 2003 Cardinals that missed the playoffs, as was later documented in detail in the book “Three Nights in August.” At that point, the club’s most recent World Series appearance was still back in 1987.

On the other hand, Atlanta was coming off its ninth-straight post-season appearance, including three World Series berths and one title. The Braves were on a roll, having won 101 games in both the 2002 and 2003 seasons and wanted to keep it going.

Atlanta needed a jolt of offense and a new right fielder to replace Gary Sheffield. St. Louis was a fit, with a young, promising but flawed outfielder with one season remaining before free agency in Drew, a Scott Boras client.

As many fans remember, the Cardinals received two near-term contributors in starter Jason Marquis and reliever Ray King, but the best of the three players to join St. Louis would be then-top prospect Adam Wainwright. (For completeness, it should be noted that catcher Eli Marrero joined Drew heading east.)

Even at the time, my friend and peer publisher for the Scout.com Braves site, Bill Shanks, simply called the deal Drew for Wainwright.

Since then, the Cardinals have appeared in four World Series, winning two. Atlanta hasn’t been back to the big dance even once.

Drew bolted Atlanta for Los Angeles after one season and eventually concluded his career at age 35 with the long-standing reputation of an underachiever. Wainwright, a Georgian and life-long Braves fan, fulfilled his considerable potential wearing a St. Louis uniform and remains under contract through at least 2018.

While the Braves have turned over almost all of their key personnel in the many years since that December 2003 deal, one central figure remains. That would be the man who engineered the Drew trade with then-Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty, John Schuerholz.

Then Atlanta’s GM, Schuerholz remains team president to this day.

After having to live this down for the last 11 years, do you think Schuerholz wouldn’t give his right arm to turn the tables here in 2014, convincing the Cards to take one of his outfielders in return for a future ace who would headline the Braves’ rotation for the next decade or more? In the process, he would match wits with Jocketty’s former right-hand man, John Mozeliak.

Listen, I have no idea which players might be involved from either side in any potential trade scenarios, real or imagined. It does not matter. Knowing their identities would not change a thing in my mind.

The overarching fear of fate just waiting in the wings to deal the Cardinals a Drew payback is too overwhelming for me to think about anything else.

Here is hoping the Cardinals find another way to address their outfield need than with an Atlanta trade.

I am not suggesting it is rational. It is just how I feel.

(In my defense, this comes from a person who suffered for two decades watching Steve Carlton build his Hall of Fame career while wearing the wrong uniform.)

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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31 Responses to “Beware of the “Reverse Drew””

  1. crdswmn says:

    Um, Drew had the best year of his career with the Braves. He put up Mike Trout like numbers. 8.6 WAR for that year.

    He never played like that again after he left the Braves. If I believed in all that Fate and Karma stuff (which I don’t), I would be hard pressed to see how the Braves were harmed by that trade. Wainwright’s been great, but the Braves not winning in the postseason had nothing to do with that trade.

    Every Braves fans I have ever talked to has either said the trade didn’t bother them, or they were only mildly irritated. Drew gave them a monster year. Not that what fans think matters, but I don’t have any opportunity to ask John Schuerholz what he thinks.

    As trades go, this was nowhere in the ballpark of the Steve Carlton trade.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Depends on whether you measure the sprint or the marathon. 8.6 was it for Atlanta. The Cards have received 32.7 fWAR from Wainwright to date, not to mention the earlier benefits from King and Marquis.

      We must be talking with different Braves fans. Here are a few examples I found with a quick search (avoiding slideshows!):


      Worst 10 Trades in Braves History: #1

      Braves Worst Trade No Longer Up for Debate

      • crdswmn says:

        There are always fans on either side of a trade. The more recent ones I have talked to are not all that upset about it.

        I just don’t agree that this was on any level with the Carlton trade. And I certainly don’t believe in supernatural forces dispensing baseball justice.

        To each his own.

        • Brian Walton says:

          You seem to be taking the “supernatural forces” thing far too seriously.

          • crdswmn says:

            Yeah, maybe. The whole post struck me though as kind of weird coming from you. It’s not based on a lot of hard evidence, just feelings of dread or something similar. That’s the way I took it anyway.

            Heyward is a good player. He put up 5.1 WAR last season, so I don’t get where the dread comes from. He may not have yet lived up to the potential everyone thought he had, but he has been a pretty good player.

            • Brian Walton says:

              It is ok to blog about feelings, isn’t it? 😉

              I definitely like the trade for 2015 for sure. For the long haul, we will see. Here is my quick initial take on the moves.

              • crdswmn says:

                Of course it is, I do it all the time.

                But that has not been YOUR thing. You are freaking me out. 😉

                • Brian Walton says:

                  Re-checked my hole card during a radio appearance will Bill Shanks in Macon just now. Braves fans are still quite upset about the Wainwright trade. Will post the audio tonight I hope.

                  I also visited the VEB equivalent for the Braves and their fan reaction to this trade is extremely negative.

                  • crdswmn says:

                    Well, the half a dozen or so I have talked to were not that upset. It’s a small sample, but I can only go on what I hear. Regardless, I still don’t see the comparison with the Carlton trade. Wainwright is not going to have the career that Carlton had. Carlton won 4 CY Youngs and is in the HOF. Wainwright is a terrific pitcher, but not in the same class as Carlton.

                    The fact that Braves fans are upset about the Heyward trade seems to me to indicate the Braves are not trying to sell the Cardinals a lemon. Heyward is a good player, and Shelby is a maybe and Jenkins is a lottery ticket. I think that there is a better than 50/50 chance that Mozeliak can re-sign Heyward so it isn’t a one year and move on like Drew. Even if Heyward doesn’t stay, Mozeliak can make Heyward a QO and get a draft pick.

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      When I just mentioned Wainwright’s name, Shanks told me it is a “four-letter word” to Braves fans.

                      Carlton was a throw-away line at the end and was not a Wainwright comparison, anyway. If anything it would be a comparison to the pitcher given up to Atlanta in the current trade about whom Cardinals fans would be upset years into the future.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      You think Shelby is going to turn out to be another Wainwright? I like Shelby but I don’t see it.

  2. crdswmn says:

    And it doesn’t matter now because the Cardinals just traded Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins for Heyward and Jordan Walden.

  3. Bw52 says:

    I like this trade.Another LH bat who plays good defense and a young RH setup man for Shelby and his unfulfilled potential and Tyrell Jenkins.At best Cards get a long term RF (if Cards can sign him) and a very solid RH bullpen guy.At worst Cards get 1 year of Heyward and a draft pick and a RH bullpen guy.A trade worth making.Cards now have a OF with Holliday,Jay and Heyward with Burjos and Grichuk as backups and spot starters.

  4. Bw52 says:

    The Shelby Miller fan club is raising hell about the trade.I didn`t know Cards traded CY Young Miller and Tyrell Jenkins HI-A phenom for a underperforming RF and a bullpen guy.MO got taken again according to Shelby`s adoring public.

    • crdswmn says:

      If you are referring to the talk on the message board, it was to be expected. One of the reasons I no longer post there was all the negativity during the season, but the other reason was that I could no longer have an intelligent baseball conversation with most of the regular posters there. Way too much woeful baseball ignorance. The few intelligent posters left either don’t post much, or post here on the blog too where I can interact with them. We don’t always agree here, but at least I feel like I can get some reasonable discussion. Over there it is mostly reactionaries and old school stat haters who throw hyperbole around and bitch at each other.

      This was a good trade. Heyward is a 4-5 WAR player with elite defensive skills and some pop in his bat. He makes good contact, and he can steal bases. Shelby Miller may or may not pan out, he was inconsistent at best as a Cardinal. Jenkins has potential if he can stay healthy, but that is a big if. Walden will hopefully replace Neshek.

    • Brian Walton says:

      It is understandable that some fans establish strong feelings about certain players, especially home-grown ones. However, that emotion gets in the way of them being objective evaluators of a trade. Not surprising. Always better to dial out the extreme views, either way.

      • crdswmn says:

        Some of it is that and some of it is they don’t know how to properly evaluate players. It is mostly the “eye test” , one dimensional thinking, and reliance on old school stats that don’t tell you much of anything. They reject modern statistical analysis that is more accurate in measuring players skills. Any attempt to inject some level of modernity in baseball thinking is rejected outright.

        This is a common problem throughout the baseball internet world except for the extreme stats oriented sites like VEB.

        This is why I have been limiting my internet presence for a while now. It is difficult to have productive conversations with people who reject my method of analysis. They are entitled to this viewpoint, of course, but I am entitled to avoiding pointless arguments that leave me frustrated and in danger of saying something I would regret.

        • Bw52 says:

          I don`t like all the new stats stuff but I understand it has its place.To each its own.What I don`t understand is fans who just blast the trade and act like the Cards got hosed.Heyward is a fine player and Walden was a All-star closer just 3 years ago.He is a excellent setup man and is under Cards control thru 2016.Most players like the playing environment in STLouis so maybe MO can work out a deal with Heyward if so desired.Same for Walden.
          IMHO Cards got better in the OF,better defense and a little speed plus RH bullpen got better.Cards took a little hit with starting pitching but have several options available.Good move by Mo.

          • crdswmn says:

            Yes, but I can still have reasonable conversations with you for the most part. For a lot of people, the minute I start talking WAR or BABIP or other advance stats, the hostility begins. What people either don’t understand or don’t accept is that these stats are part of what the teams use to evaluate talent. They are here to stay. There will be even newer stats coming in the future. So if folks reject the process that all of baseball uses to evaluate talent, there are going to be clashes like today with roster moves. The teams are just looking at and emphasizing different things than the fans are.

            I am not going to like every move the Cardinals make, but I can at least accept that they did it for a reason that matters to them and not because they are stupid. I didn’t like the Peralta signing, but I got over it.

            • LarryBird says:

              I love this trade and I am a big Shelby Miller fan. I think Jason Heyward is a superstar in waiting. In my opinion pitchers are always a crapshoot. Their arms go out in the blink of an eye and you never get the return on investment. I will take an everyday player who has big time upside over our 5th starter every day of the year.

  5. CariocaCardinal says:

    Re-signing Heyward and keeping the rest of this team together would put 2016 payroll north of 130 million. Possible? Yes. Probable? No. Even getting rid of Jay would leave us close to 130. Mo is going to have to get creative either in trades or in convincing BDW to open is wallet.

      • LarryBird says:

        I remembered that Brian and I fully expect us to sign Heyward long term and keep us on track to win year in and year out. We are not the small market team everyone likes to think. I do not have numbers to back me up but I am comfortable in saying we have more fans than any team other than the Yankees. Also we did it right with the ball park village. What a concept! I have been going to Cardinal games for 40+ years and I can tell you I had more fun this year than any other year because of the experience I had at the Village.

      • LarryBird says:

        When was the last time the Cards traded for a guy of this caliper that they did not sign to a long term deal?

        • JumboShrimp says:

          Heyward is not Matt Holliday. Matt worked out with Skip Schumacker and Mark McGwire in the off season, a Cardinals connection. His agent, Boras, was a minor leaguer for the Cards. When Mo traded for Holliday, he would have been hopeful the man was willing to sign a longer deal and this proved to be true.
          The Braves have signed guys to long term deals, but Georgian Heyward was not among them. He appears more likely to go to the highest bidder.

    • blingboy says:

      Holliday’s $17M drops off after 2016.

  6. blingboy says:

    My initial thought is that Mo worked a pretty good deal.

    A couple things come to mind.

    1) Is he going to be a top of lineup guy, 1 or 2? Or does Mike use him in the middle of the order?

    2) As was the case with Holliday, Mo will have a chance to get a feel for how the guy fits and what he brings before it is time to talk contract. But how much will he pay for a platoon player?

  7. JumboShrimp says:

    A super trade for the Braves. Heyward is an Atlanta area kid who looks like he will do a Drew by going into free agency after 2015. He has lost power in recent years. For this soon to be gone asset, the Braves get 4 years of a sturdy starting pitcher, and up to six years of Jenkins, if he reaches the majors.
    Mo wanted a left swinger to replace Oscar. Melky would cost a lot and we have seen enough of Rasmus, who can now sign with the Braves to backfill Heyward. Colby is a huge winner.

    The Cards have been near the World Series the past 4 years. Molina, Wainwright, and Holliday are aging and will diminish. Heyward might be able to help our aging stars get another shot at a ring in 2015, before he heads off into free agency and we receive a compensation draft pick for his loss. Many ripples from Oscar’s misadventure.

    • Bw52 says:

      who is this sturdy starting pitcher? Shelby Miller didn`t pitch postseason 2013.Shelby is a “potential” sturdy starting pitcher.Jenkins still years away from the majors if he makes it .Colby a huge winner? when and where is that? he might hit 20 HRs and Strikeout 150 times ,hit .240 and then whine about ” I don`t fit here”.If some dumbass GM wants to sign Rasmus to a big deal then be prepared for a letdown.

  8. CariocaCardinal says:

    really surprised that west coast wing nut hasn’t come on here and tried to tell us how this trade was engineered by the commish and fox sports and is all part of a bigger off shore money laundering scheme.

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