The St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves provided some excitement for fans on a November Monday that had most of the nation trying to figure out how to stay warm. Most baseball fans don’t expect to be debating their team’s future while also seeing snow fall. Blockbuster trades have a way of changing fans’ focus quickly.
The Cardinals announced on Monday that they sent prospect Tyrell Jenkins and Shelby Miller to the Braves in exchange for Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden. The trade has inspired the “blockbuster” tag from multiple sources. It also has led to the age-old debate as fans try to figure out who got the better end of the trade.
It is natural to want to attach a winner and a loser to anything associated with sports. Baseball doesn’t allow contests to end as a tie. No one wants to be on the losing end, but not winning isn’t any better. When it comes to trades, however, it is quite possible for both sides to win.
That’s exactly what happened for the Braves and the Cardinals.
The Braves are on the verge of losing starting pitchers Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang. Both pitchers were on one-year contracts and are not likely to return to Atlanta. The duo combined for 400 innings last year, leaving general manager John Hart with a big hole to fill. Hart expressed his concern about filling those innings during a press conference on Monday, summarized by Mark Polishuk of MLB Trade Rumors.
“Going into this winter, we’d lost over 400 innings in our rotation, and we didn’t have any players coming up in our system that were ready to provide those types of innings,” Hart said. “We really needed two starting pitchers.”
Miller helps with that in a big way. He threw 183 innings in his third big league season last year. He continues to improve his approach and had an impressive second half. He will be a big piece of the immediate puzzle for the Braves. It doesn’t hurt that he is not arbitration eligible and will remain under team control through 2019.
Jenkins slots in as the sole piece out of the four involved in the deal who shows a big focus on the future. A first-round draft pick in 2010, he spent most of 2014 recovering from shoulder surgery. His work ethic and athleticism are impressive, and the Braves will hope for big things from him for quite some time.
The Braves gained pitching that they can control for multiple years. They gave up talent that will help the Cardinals right now.
The Cardinals needed immediate help in the outfield for 2015. Either Randal Grichuk or Stephen Piscotty might eventually be the starter, but the confidence in that happening immediately was obviously lacking. The arrival of Heyward gives the Cardinals a year to figure out where they plan on going with the position.
They could approach Heyward for an extension or simply use him as a stopgap if Piscotty or Grichuk force the decision. Meanwhile, they now have a Gold Glove outfielder with potential power and proven abilities at the major league level.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals will use their promising youth to fill the rotation spot vacated by Miller. The addition of Walden will allow youngster Carlos Martinez to focus his offseason workouts on possibly starting next season. General manager John Mozeliakseemed to suggest that Martinez and Marco Gonzalez will have the opportunity to help the team fill the rotation in 2015. He shared those thoughts during a radio interview with Tim McKernan of CBS Sports 920 in St. Louis.
Mozeliak on looking around for starting pitching depth: I don’t think so. I think with Carlos and Marco Gonzales, you’re covered.
— Tim McKernan (@tmckernan) November 17, 2014
The Cardinals gained a proven, back of the bullpen arm in Walden. They solved their need in right field in Heyward. The Braves, meanwhile, addressed their need for starting pitching now and pitching depth in their minor league system. Both teams addressed their needs thanks to their depth at other positions.
Sometimes, it is okay to admit that both teams won.
All statistics in this article courtesy of Baseball-Reference.