Nationals Baseball: Braves trade Heyward

Monday, November 17, 2014

Braves trade Heyward

Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden for Shelby Miller and a prospect, Tyrell Jenkins.

Short of it : Heyward was a very good OF, but was up for FA after next year. Miller was once seen to be a definite ace, now a useful rotation piece with potential. Both very young. Other players dealt could be see as trading the now (Walden) for the later (Jenkins)

Long of it : Given the Braves aggressively resigned several players to long term deals so it's likely they tried the same with Heyward. But they were offering under market deals, trading years for dollars. Signing that kind of deal made sense for guys with a lot of control years left, but Heyward had gotten too close to FA for that to work effectively. He signed only a 2 year deal to cover arbitration years (sound familiar? That's what Desmond, Fister and ZNN all did) looking to score big as a young guy (will turn 26 in August) hitting FA. How big? I don't know. Choo signed for 7/130, he's better than that so... 7/160?

The Braves knowing that they wouldn't pay for that decided to deal him. Why wouldn't they pay for that? Well, Jason had been slipping at the plate, his power disappearing to the point where his value was tied mostly to his average and a decent walk rate. It's possibly they could be paying 25 mill a year for a .260 singles hitter come 2018. But his value isn't solely in offense. Jason is one of the best fielding corner OFs in baseball. While last year's WAR might be in part because of the vagaries of annual defensive stats, no one doubts he's excellent and will provide value there year in and out. But is it enough value? The Braves thought not (an injury history also didn't help)

The Cardinals found themselves in need of an OF after they dealt away Craig and Oscar Taveras died tragically. They have some depth in starting pitching with Wainwright, Carpenter, Wacha and Lynn being under control or contract for several years. They also have Carlos Martinez, a very highly thought of prospect, waiting his turn. Miller was deemed expendable. He was formerly thought to be an ace in the making, but over the last few years had slightly disappointed in both the minors and the majors after fast starts. Last year was up and down enough to give the Cardinals doubts. Walk rate up, K rate down, but a September that brought back the idea that he could front a rotation. Would he put it together? Or would he flounder? There isn't any doubt he's rotation worthy but is he a 1/2 or a 3/4 remains the question.

The Braves were looking for someone to control, and an arm would be nice given their issues with starting rotation health that helped bury the team in 2014. The match was made and here we are.

Who won:  On value it's hard to argue anything other than the Braves won. They got a rotation pitcher on the cheap for the next 5 seasons. The Cardinals got a guy who is perhaps a 1 year rental.

But a look any other way favors the Cardinals. For 2015 specifically, Heyward shores up a place of need without immediately breaking the bank, and Walden helps as well. Going from a good OF defense to an very strong one, without much offensive compromise the Cards may have made themselves favorites in the NL. The Braves on the other hand had terrible offensive struggles and just dealt one of the few guys that was not an issue. As constructed today, you'd expect a season full of 3-1, 4-0 losses.

Also the Cards dealt from a strength and shored up a weakness. They have enough arms to cover 2015 and some intriguing ones in the minors. The Braves dealt from a weak position (after the fair prospect Terdoslavich, the Braves minor league OF is barren) to add to what could be a crowded position.  Teheran, Wood, Minor, Medlen, Beachy have all been rotation worthy over the past 2 years and they also have a couple decent minor league arms. There's no such thing as too much pitching, but there is such thing as too little outfielding.

What does this mean for the Nats? : We'll have to see what the Braves do right now, but as of November 17th the Nats are looking at an easy road to the pennant. Miller should be at least ok, but unless he's Kershaw GREAT it's not going to make up for the loss of Heyward. They had plenty of decent 2014 pitching performances. Right now I'd have trouble pegging the Braves at anything over .500. That leaves the door open for the Mets or Marlins. Right now the Marlins still need starters, but like what they have developing and are likely to wait a year or two before going for it. The Mets still need bats. They aren't as bad off as Mets fans would have you believe but they do need to score more to be a threat to the Nationals. SS is their biggest hole so Tulo is bandied about but mostly in jest. Having signed Cuddyer the Mets could make a play at another QO turning down FA. Do they go after Hanley Ramirez? or David Robertson as the pen needs help, too? or something crazier like Scherzer trying to go toe to toe rotation wise? Or given it's the Mets do they do nothing and overpay for Asdrubal and finish 83-79?


Anonymous said...

Heyward is a good candidate for a big extension. He is very young, has a great prospect pedigree, and has shown production at the MLB level.

Feels like this always has to be remembered, but defense first players can still be really valuable.

Jay said...

I agree with all points. Cardinals become stronger. Braves appear to be close to calling it for this year. Mets - I just don't see it. It's still the Mets. It's still Terry Collins. I just don't see them making a real run at the playoffs.

John C. said...

Braves are clearly trading 2015 for the long term. This does open the door a bit wider for the Nats. The Marlins OF is great but their IF/C situation is pretty terrible. And unless they make some more major moves, the Mets aren't quite there yet even with Harvey presumably ready to go Opening Day (although on an innings limit). I'm skeptical of Duda (30 HRs last year! 40 HRs the previous three seasons combined) going forward, and Cuddyer is old (36in March), has only averaged 90 games a season for the past three years. Oh, an his OPS was over .500 points lower last year on the road than it was in Colorado. Also, is DeGrom for real? His minor league numbers were underwhelming. Syndergaard, their prize pitching prospect, got whacked around pretty hard his first try at AAA last year.

The Phillies, of course, are a train wreck. Their ambition is to become a train wreck at least moving in the right direction if they can leverage Hamels and dump Howard and Papelbon.

cass said...

Chances of making it to the playoffs have gone up. Chances of making it to the World Series once in the playoffs have gone down. Fun.

Donald said...

So do the Braves get more or less in dealing J. Upton?

Harper said...

Anon - I don't think anyone in this day and age are devaluing defense first guys. In fact I think defense is being overvalued. Not because it's not helpful but because by its inherent nature the defensive impact of a player varies quite a bit from year to year.

Jay - Yeah, I can't see the Mets making a run but hey, there's still time to change my mind. Plenty of time.

John C - Can't disagree on the Braves and Marlins. I get a lot of NY info so on the Mets here's my take :

Duda is real - he's got 25+ HR power and walks. He didn't hit as many homers the past 3 years but a big part of that is the ABs. almost 60 (20 per) if scaled and you'd expect improvement.

Cuddyer is a bit iffier but if healthy should be ok. They're not looking for stardom just a reliable better than average bat which he's been his career.

DeGrom... I don't know. Could be his slow start in minors was injury and learning related. Or could be last year was a fluke. I'd buy either.

Syndergaard - out of SP who threw 100+ innings in PCL he was smack in the middle, and that's maybe getting unlucky. Also he was 21 when the median age of those guys was closing in on 26. There's a question but a tiny one right now.

cass - way to bring us down.

Donald - if they deal him (and I don't thnk they should - you may not be able to sign both young OFs but one you have to) about the same. More reliable, but more expensive. Should balance out.

Chinatown Express said...

cass: I still think this move increases our odds of reaching the WS, despite the improvement for the Cards:

1. Our increased odds of reaching the playoffs will themselves balance out our increased odds of losing to the Cards.
2. We play the Braves routinely during the RS, and our increased odds vs. them will presumably give us MUCH better odds of getting the #1 seed, possibly avoiding the Cards entirely.
3. As good as the Cards are going to be, the Brewers and Pirates are still legit. It wouldn't shock me if the Cards lose the NL Central at least once in the next two seasons.

John C. said...

For clarification, I wasn't saying that Syndergaard isn't a legit, TOR prospect. Just that he may not (quite) be ready to help them in 2015.

Harper said...

John C - ok can't disagree with that. Probably a year away

Harper said...

CX - I'd side with cass. I'd expect St. Louis to be better and to make playoffs. Therefore I'd expect the Nats to have potentially it's a tougher road.

I will agree on that #1 seed being likelier, but I'd take a worse team over HFA.

All in all though - we're talking tiny percentage shifts here.

blovy8 said...

I'd take weakening the Braves every time, because getting in is the most important thing and we'll play them more in the regular season.

JWLumley said...

The Braves won? Seriously Harper? Heyward is a very good player who has had a string of terrible batting coaches down in Atlanta who have never tapped into his potential. Shelby Miller is someone who relies too much on the fastball and when the curveball isn't working, he's not good. Remember that time the Cardinals traded that pitcher who went on to do great neither. The Braves also got a prospect who many say is no longer a prospect. Maybe he rebounds, but TINSTAPP and all. The Cardinals easily won this deal, especially if Heyward breaks out.

Zimmerman11 said...

The Cards won 2015. But a bunch of seasons from a #3 starter (with #1/2 upside) is better than one season of Jayson Heyward. Lumley is prophesizing great things for J Hey this coming season, but even if he DOES have a great season, I don't see how the Cards won this trade.

Anonymous said...

Remember the Cardinals still get a comp pick if Heyward leaves in FA.

The Cardinals are probably secretly hoping Heyward has another weak year offensively to keep his price from exploding though.

Jay said...

It was a good deal for both teams IMO. It points to said teams orgizational thinking.

The Braves foundation is pitching. Miller could very possibly go to Atl and improve and become a #2 or 3 pitcher. If Aaron Harang can have a great year in Atl then Miller surely can. They weren't going to pay Heyward anyway. They tried for an extension last offseason and had no luck. Now they can either play Gattis, Upton, and Upton in the outfield and chase Jon Lester. Or they can trade either or both Uptons and maybe Gattis too and plan for the future.

The Cards had soured on Miller. They get Heyward for a year. If he lights it up then 1)they reap the benefit of that and 2)they can always sign him to an extension similiar to Matt Holiday. If he is ok then he is good defensively next year and bats leadoff. He then leaves after next year and they get a pick. The Cards have often traded for players and then signed them to extensions and kept them around. I think they did that with Holliday, Scott Rolen, and Chris Carpenter.

Not a bad trade for either team.

Word on the street is the Marlins are going after Adam LaRoche and James Shields. Matt Harvey has a soft innings limit and will take a break to insure he pitches in October. It will be rather ironic if the Nats get passed by the Mets and Marlins.

The next year or two should be very interesting. Watch out bc the Nats may have already missed their best opportunity by bombing out of the playoffs and missing the playoffs the last 3 years.

John C. said...

Most groups of fans that I know constantly overrate their own team and underrate opponents. Nats fans constantly look at opponents and assume the best while looking at the Nats and assuming the worst. Shelby Miller is going to become a #2 starter! Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez won't need a season to get their mojo back after TJ surgery! Lucas Duda is for real! Cuddyer won't get hurt, won't age, and won't suffer from a post-Colorado letdown! Stanton won't get hurt* or suffer lingering effects from his horrific beaning! While at the same time: Zim is Nick Johnson II! Werth is old and decrepit! Stras is a head case! Gio is a head case! The Nats will miss ALR (who somehow, now that he has left, is no longer old and decrepit)! And on and on.

*Funny that so many of those who assume that Stanton won't get hurt also assume that Zimmerman will, despite the fact that any way you slice it Zim's injury history is much better than Stanton's.

I don't know whether it's a DC thing, is specific to Nats fans, or maybe just the most active internet slice of Nats fandom. But it's weird. Suffice it to say that any other team in the NL East would trade their question marks for the Nats' question marks in a heartbeat.

Ryan said...

Apropos of very little: Apparently the Nats pitching staff throws the highest fastballs of any team in baseball.

I feel like this is news to me, because besides Tyler Clippard and maybe Stras, I hadn't thought of any of our pitchers being especially known for high heat.

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