In the first blockbuster trade of the offseason the Atlanta Braves sent outfielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. And this may only be the first blockbuster that Atlanta pulls off this winter, as WSB Sports Director Zach Klein quotes a major league source saying that this is “just the beginning.”
So what to think? I like the trade. I might even like it a lot. It’s not a perfect trade, and there’s probably not a clear winner, but it accomplishes several goals. First of all, understand that the Braves were not going to re-sign Heyward. The front office knows this, and so they set about trying to get the most for him.
It’s debatable whether this is actually “the most” that the Braves could have gotten, but we’ll have to take their word for it. I feel like they probably should have gotten a little more, but the Cardinals know that they won’t be able to sign Heyward at the end of the year either, and so he’s just a rental. Hopefully he becomes their J.D. Drew, and Jenkins becomes our Adam Wainwright.
Shelby Miller is the prize for Atlanta, and as a young pitcher who is under team control for the next four years and not arbitration eligible for another year he fits the team well. He is not without his warts–a high fly-ball rate, a high walk rate–but he’s young enough at 24 for us to believe that there’s still a lot of room for improvement.
Tyrell Jenkins, the pitching prospect Atlanta receives is an underrated player. Injuries have slowed him in recent years, but before that he was cracking top-100 prospect lists. He’s healthy now and throwing his fastball in the mid-90s with a plus slider during the Arizona Fall League. He’ll likely start next season at Double-A, forming a formidable rotation with the system’s other top starting pitching prospects: Lucas Sims, Wes Parsons and Mauricio Cabrera (assuming he returns to the rotation).
Miller helps the team stay competitive now by filling one of the starting pitching vacancies, and he will continue to help the team through to the opening of their new stadium. So this is not purely about trading away a major leaguer for a bunch of prospects. However, the Braves also get a starting pitching prospect who is a hard-thrower, which is something the Braves system lacks. Jenkins will rank among the Braves’ top-5 prospects.
What the Braves didn’t address with this trade, or any of the three trades so far this winter, is the team’s offensive problems. If anything, this trade makes those offensive problems more problematic. That leads me to believe that there will definitely be more trades.
Atlanta could have held onto Heyward, watch him depart for a nine-figure free agent contract at the end of next year, and then gotten a compensation draft pick in 2016. But that doesn’t meet the timetable of a team that wants to be maximally competitive in 2017 when their new stadium opens. This trade gives the Braves two pitchers who figure to be strong members of the team’s starting rotation by then.