Cardinals Acquire Jason Heyward from Braves

The St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves made a four-player trade in which the Cardinals receive outfielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden with pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins going to Atlanta.

St. Louis Cardinals press release leads off with commentary following.

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have agreed with the Atlanta Braves on a four-player trade that will bring outfielder Jason Heyward and right-handed pitcher Jordan Walden to the Cardinals in exchange for pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins.

Heyward, 25, is a two-time (2012 & 2014) National League Rawlings Gold Glove selection who has posted a .262 career batting mark with 84 home runs and 292 RBI to go along with 63 stolen bases since debuting with the Braves as an All-Star in 2010 (.277 BA, 18 HR, 72 RBI) and finishing 2nd that year to the Giants’ Buster Posey in the N.L. Rookie of the Year balloting. The left-handed hitting Heyward batted .271 this past season with 11 HR’s and 58 RBI while stealing 20 bases and he finished as a finalist to Yadier Molina in the Rawlings Platinum Glove voting for the best defensive player in the National League.

The 6-5, 245-pound Heyward was the Braves 1st round draft selection (14th player overall) in 2007. He led N.L. right fielders in putouts and assists in both 2012 and 2014 and hit a career-high 27 home runs in 2012. The Georgia native has shown his lineup versatility by having started over 100 games each in the lead-off, number two and number three batting order positions during his career.

Walden, who celebrated his 27th birthday yesterday, is a hard-throwing right-hander who in 2011 led the Los Angeles Angels in saves with 32 and was named an American League All-Star that same season when he finished 5th in the junior circuit in saves and complied a 2.98 ERA. The 6-5, 250-pound Texas native struck out 62 batters in 50.0 innings pitched this past season and he had a 2.88 ERA to go along with three saves.

Walden, who has appeared in 50 or more games in three of the past four seasons, led the Braves with 20 Holds in 2014. His career mark is 12-13 with a 3.10 ERA and 38 saves in 231 games pitched, striking out 254 batters in 211.2 IP.

Brian Walton’s take

This is a bold, win-now move for the Cardinals. They emphatically address their right field need with a proven left-handed, top-of-the-lineup hitter and plus defender, but a player who has just one year remaining on his current contract. They give up a young starting pitcher in Miller who has four seasons remaining until free agency. Both are former first-rounders and top prospects.

The Cardinals also 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 joins Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal in a hard-throwing Cardinals bullpen. He has two years of control remaining and 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. The right-hander has yet to reach Double-A though. Jenkins’ value was sky-high after a strong showing in the just-completed Arizona Fall League.

It will be interesting to see how the Cardinals address the rotation spot vacated by Miller. If left-hander Jaime Garcia is healthy, he would appear to be first in line. Martinez and lefty Marco Gonzales would also seem to be in the mix. Even Rosenthal may once again ask for a chance to start. Returning to the rotation for 2015 are former Braves farmhand Adam Wainwright, John Lackey, Lance Lynn and Michael Wacha.

From a payroll perspective, the Cardinals will net up a total of about $10.3 million for next season. Heyward will receive $8.3 million while Walden made $1.49 million in 2014. In arbitration, he is forecasted to roughly double his salary in 2015.

Not yet arbitration eligible, Miller is slated to make slightly over the major league minimum next season. He earned $521,000 in 2014. For purposes of this analysis, I assume that Walden will displace a minimum salary player on the 25-man active roster.

Following these moves, the Cardinals have 37 players on their 40-man roster. This is before Rule 5 additions, further free agent signings and any non-tenders likely ahead.

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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