Most fans of the Atlanta Braves were shocked on November 17th of last year, when Jason Heyward was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. No one could believe that the Braves would trade away their Gold Glove right fielder and fan favorite for a pitcher, including myself.
At first I was shocked, but after looking at the trade I knew this was the smart move, especially since John Hart was the one to make the deal. Hart was the man that traded Willie Blair and Eddie Taubensee to Houston for Kenny Lofton. He traded an okay pitcher in Blair and an inexperienced Taubensee for a future star. Hart is also the guy that traded Felix Fermin and Reggie Jefferson to the Mariners for future Hall of Fame shortstop Omar Vizquel. He also had the guts to trade Indians star Carlos Baerga when he was just 27, after Indians hitting coach Charlie Manuel told him that Baerga career was coming to an end. Hart agreed and traded him to the Mets, receiving Jeff Kent and clearing $4 million off Cleveland’s payroll. He did make one mistake in trading Jeff Kent for Matt Williams, who would turn around and sign with the Diamondbacks the following year. We can’t all be perfect.
I saw at all of that and knew that the Braves were heading in the right direction and that Hart was nothing short of a genius. During his reign as Cleveland’s GM from 1991 to 2001, the Indians made the playoffs six times, losing in the World Series twice. Atlanta fans would love to get back to the glory days and he may be the man that takes them there.
Miller was a mere 26-18 with a 3.33 ERA in 63 starts with the Cardinals. Heyward was an above average hitter that had a slash line of .262/.351/.429 with the Braves, adding 84 home runs on top of that and two Gold Gloves. Atlanta would have their number three guy to go with Julio Teheran and Alex Wood at the top of the rotation. The Cardinals would fill a void in right field after the tragic death of Oscar Taveras. The trade looked great for both teams at the time, but with one huge problem. St. Louis would have only one guaranteed year of Heyward, while the Braves would have four years of Miller. The Cardinals took a chance and went through with the deal, hoping that they could reach an extension with Heyward. That deal was never reached and it doesn’t look good for St. Louis at this point in my opinion.
We’ve had to wait to see how this trade would pan out, but so far this trade has looked great for the Braves, with Heyward hitting a slash line of .224/.276/.337 with just two home runs a month into the season. While Miller has gone 4-1 with a 1.66 ERA and 31 strikeouts to start the season and it doesn’t look like he will slow down anytime soon. I know it’s very early in the season and we still have five months to go, but I feel like Heyward will not overcome his struggles, he’s playing a lot like he did in 2011.
Miller pitched a complete game shutout, throwing only 99 pitches on Tuesday, while Heyward went 1-for-4.
Shelby Miller: 1st pitcher this season to throw a 9-inning complete game in under 100 pitches
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 6, 2015
Atlanta took a chance in trading Heyward, who is just 25, but it looks like a risk that is paying off in a big way. Its plain and simple pitching wins championships not the long ball and the Braves needed a change. The Braves rotation features four starters under 25 years-old and under team control until 2018. I think the Cardinals will eventually regret this trade, especially after Adam Wainwright went down with a season ending injury. But right now the Cardinals are clicking on all cylinders and look like the best team in baseball even with Heyward struggles.