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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

TCN Blog 2014 Top Story #5: Quick Move to Add Heyward

On November 17, The St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves announced a four-player trade in which the Cardinals received outfielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden with pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins going to Atlanta.

It was a bold, win-now move by the Cardinals. Faced with a gaping hole in right field following the death of Oscar Taveras less than one month prior, the club emphatically addressed that need.

It is not without risk. Heyward is a proven left-handed hitter and plus defender with two Gold Glove Awards, but is also a player who has just one year remaining on his current contract and has been uneven offensively.

St. Louis gave up a very promising young starting pitcher in Miller who has four seasons remaining until free agency. Both Heyward and Miller are former first-rounders and top prospects.

Heyward, 25, burst onto the scene in 2010 with an all-star season that culminated in the runner-up spot in the National League Rookie of the Year vote. He launched a career-best 27 home runs in 2012, but was less impressive in 2014, batting .271 with 11 home runs, 58 RBI and 20 stolen bases.

The Cardinals stand to benefit over the long haul if Heyward likes the club and remains long term. Even if not, St. Louis should be able to make a qualifying offer next winter and receive a 2016 draft pick if the outfielder moves on after one season.

Walden should set up Trevor Rosenthal in a hard-throwing St. Louis bullpen. The Cardinals can control Walden’s services through 2017 and his addition helps address the hole left by the departure of Pat Neshek as a free agent. Walden’s past closing experience is a plus.

Jenkins is a former first-rounder who may finally be healthy after shoulder problems slowed his career. He has yet to reach Double-A though. Jenkins’ value was sky-high after a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League.

From a payroll perspective, the Cardinals will net up at least $10 million for next season. Heyward will receive $8.3 million while Walden will be paid $2.85 million in a contract extension announced on December 23rd. Miller is slated to make slightly over the major league minimum of $500,000 in 2015 and Jenkins will remain in the minor leagues.

Open questions include whether Heyward can help revive the anemic Cardinals offense and if so, will he stay around beyond 2015?

Link to The Cardinal Nation Blog’s top 20 stories of the year countdown

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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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16 Responses to “TCN Blog 2014 Top Story #5: Quick Move to Add Heyward”

  1. blingboy says:

    Another corner who is not going to outslug our shortstop.

    The reliable D and range will be welcome.

    .270 with Matt Carpenter-like power will be helpful but is certainly not the holy grail of corner outfielders. A clear upgrade over in house options, IMO. It is not impossible that Heyward could yet reach the potential he was thought to have when he came up. Whether he reaches it with the Cards is another question.

    It is possible Atlanta could come away with 40% of a rotation for years to come, cost controlled, for a .270 12 homer year of Heyward, and a couple years of middle relief, and thereby make up for the Wainwright for Drew trade.

    • Bw52 says:

      Its also possible Shelby is what he is and Jenkins never is a factor in the Majors.The Shelby wonks remember his last 4 or 5 games yet forget 2 years of struggling to pitch 5 innings .Jenkins has been pitching at lower levels for years without taking a big step he is still a ways from even seeing the majors.If Heyward hits .270 with 12 HRs and drives in runs and plays good defense then why gripe about it?I think Heyward will like STlouis and do well.

      • blingboy says:

        Beltran proved how much of a difference one guy can make in a lineup, in the whole tone of the offense. If that one guy is the right guy, that is. Heyward is not the offenseive force Beltran was. Not yet at least. But he is younger and healthier, and will provide much better defense. He could also become an offensive force and he could contribute for more seasons than Carlos did.

        I agree it could turn out well for us. I hope it does.

  2. blingboy says:

    Maybe Brian’s next article will be something we all see eye to eye on.

  3. JumboShrimp says:

    The Miller/Jenkins for Hayward/Waldren trade is interesting in several ways.
    Less than a month after Oscar’s demise, Mo executed a bold trade for Hayward. Mo likes to be aggressive, when he decides somebody is a good fit for the need. In some cases, Mo does not lurk patiently around waiting for a player to offer a discount. In a case like this one, Mo decided he did not want to entrust RF solely to the rookie Grishuk and chose to pay a premium price to add the maturity and left swing of Heyward.
    We got one year of control of Heyward, plus a good chance at a compensation pick if he leaves via free agency, plus two years of a good reliever. Against this, the Braves gained 4 years of Miller, who has the pitches to be able to develop into a very successful pitcher. Jenkins was added, because the Cards want to maintain success while the Braves are rebuilding, so realistically the Cards have to overpay to make a deal happen.

    Mo will move early, as in signing Peralta last fall, or resigning Joel Pineira after 2008. Heyward was a trade not a free agent, but the decisiveness is similar.

    • blingboy says:

      I agree the Cards will try to make a decision on Heyward as soon as possible. I am not sure if we should just assume that he will turn out to be somebody Mo will want to make a big investment in, which many seem to be doing. Mo will want to see what he’s got, and how the guy fits. The possibility we end up with a comp pick and a middle reliever is a realitic possibility.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        I did not try to suggest Mo is going to try sign Hayward to a longer deal. This would be a decision for August/September 2015. If Heyward plays well, we would be interested in an extension, but by then, Heyward will probably try the open market. Unlike Rolen or Holliday, its not clear Heyward wants a long term relationship with StL.
        If Waldren leaves as a free agent after 2016, he too might command a com pick.

        • Brian Walton says:

          Just a few weeks into their respective time with St. Louis, we had no idea if either Rolen or Holliday “wanted a long-term relationship.” In fact, Holliday must have been so convinced that he went on to spend several months as a free agent that fall.

          On the last point, it is Walden. If he would receive a qualifying offer, it would be the first in MLB history given to a set-up man. In other words, unless he becomes a very successful closer in the interim, it has zero chance of happening.

          • JumboShrimp says:

            Rolen was from the Midwest and there was contemporaneous speculation he would be amenable to forego free agency. This speculation could have been wrong, though proved not to be.
            Holliday worked out with McGwire and Skip (as was well known) and grew up in Oklahoma, so had Card/Midwest connections. Once a player earns free agency, it makes sense to explore the market, but it was not astounding Mattt re-upped. I recall being very relieved he signed because the Cards seldom land an elite free agent, but not surprised. Given Heyward is from Georgia and has already spurned a long term deal with his local team, he seems unlikely to do a Rolen.

            While a little surprising that no set up man has ever received a qualifying offer, if so, then it is so.

            • Brian Walton says:

              The qualifying offer situation is pretty simple. No set up man is worth $15.3 MM per season on the open market, so why would the current team pay that much?

              Take Andrew Miller. He was considered the very best free agent non-closer this off-season. He got $9 MM per year. No way in the world would the Orioles have offered him $15.3 MM to say. That would have been really bad business.

              • JumboShrimp says:

                Right, the present system is good for relievers, because the qualifying offer is too large for the economics of the game, hence set up men and even closers are in effect liberated after 6 years. Not too many years ago, talented relievers could be disadvantaged with compensation, but MLB and the Union have solved this.

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