It’s become about a every other month tradition. The Cardinals make some type of trade. I don’t like it and whine but eventually except it.
It’s a little bit different this time though. With this most recent trade I really do understand the logic, even though I’m still not completely on board.
The trade with the Atlanta Braves was that the Birds sent Shelby Miller and pitching prospect Tyrell Jenkins to Atlanta for Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Waldon.
Let’s just throw Waldon out right now. He was the extra cheese on this trade pizza. Any reliever (any reliever) who is not a closer is only so valuable. But, Heyward is the type of guy you take a chance on. He’s only 25 years old and his numbers aren’t awful — .262 average, 20 homers, 153 hits and 87 runs, nothing to scoff at. He’s been disappointing considering his pedigree, especially taking into a account that he’s a power hitter playing in a hitter’s park. In comparison, Justin Upton’s numbers are only marginally better.
The trend recently with baseball is that pitching is the more available resource. Teams have scratched together competent rotations without having a bonafide ace. I would say both teams in the ALCS fit that bill. God help me because I’m about to say something positive about the Cubs, but the Cubbies, under the tutelage of ace GM Theo Epstein, have a smart franchise building strategy. With a variety of great starting pitchers in the league, the Little Bears have stocked up on hitting prospects. Everyone suspects the Northsiders will now use their molding mounds of cash on any one of the available starters on the market — Max Scherzer or Jon Lester as just two examples.
Heyward is also just like Oscar Taveras, smooth lefty power hitter, pretty good fielder. Obviously the Birds don’t think Randal Grichuk is ready to take over in right full time (plus he’s center field insurance if Jon Jay regresses). The downside (or upside if you think Grichuk just needs one more season of incubation) is that we only have Heyward locked up for just one year.
Still, the baseball traditionalist in me does not like the Cardinals giving up on young starters with good stuff. Miller wasn’t great last year but he wasn’t bad either. It was a decided advantage going forward that the Redbirds could throwout Miller and Wacha for years to come. With Jenkins, who was drafted the year after Miller, the Cardinals have three opportunities to get burned by pitchers; that includes Joe Kelly in Boston.
This current trade with Atlanta reminds me of another swap with the Braves back in 2003. That offseason the Cardinals traded young, talented, power-hitting, smooth-fielding right fielder JD Drew and backup catcher Eli Marrero for two pitchers. Those pitchers were Jason Marquis, who won 15 games multiple times as the Cardinals built a NL Central winning machine in the middle aughts, and Adam Wainwright, who has now won 20 games twice. I think the Braves wish they could have that trade back especially because Drew only played with them one year (albeit a very good season for the oft injured pretty boy).
Adjusting a little bit for the difference in eras, Drew and Heyward’s numbers at that point are very similar. Pluses though for Heyward is that he is younger and has been injured less.
Tyrell Jenkins is not as lauded as Adam Wainwright. Waino was the Braves best prospect at that point and was already in double A. Thus far Jenkins has not risen above single A, but was impressive in the Arizona Fall League. There is a very good chance, that with a new team, Miller is at least serviceable if not ace level. If Jenkins hits too, the Cardinals lose that trade regardless of what Heyward does.
Well, I’ll qualify that. If Heyward hits .300 with 30 homers and the Cardinals win the World Series next year, I won’t care what Miller and Jenkins do. If Heyward can hit 30 home runs, again somewhat dubious because he’s moving to a pitcher’s park, it’s worth resigning him — although, hopefully at something reasonable.
Obviously no one knew Taveras was going to die in the Dominican before the World Series even ended but I think it’s worth mentioning how all these trades relate. Although John Lackey helped the Cardinals get to the playoffs and past the first round, he is what he is. As Jalen Rose always says, Father Time remains undefeated. Lackey is only going to get worse. Along with Kelly, the Cardinals also gave up Allen Craig, who could play right field.