St. Louis Cardinals Acquire Jason Heyward, Jordan Walden from Atlanta Braves


The St. Louis Cardinals made a big move on Monday morning, acquiring outfielder Jason Heyward and relief pitcher Jordan Walden from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for starting pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins.

Heyward, a 6-foot-5, 245-pounder who has spent most of his time in right field but is athletic enough to play any outfield position, is expected to fill the Cardinals’ void in right field. There was an expectation that top prospect Oscar Taveras could compete for the role with Randal Grichuk next year, but the 22-year-old’s tragic death last month left a hole at the position.

After several marginal seasons following his rookie year in 2010, Heyward had somewhat of a bounce back season in 2014, winning a Gold Glove for his defensive work in the outfield while hitting .271/.351/.384 with 11 homers and 58 RBI. He should provide the Cardinals with decent power in right field, as he’s had double-digit homers in every season of his career and hit a career-high 27 in 2012. With that said, he did have the lowest home run total of his career in 2014.

Walden will provide the Cardinals with a needed reliable righthanded presence in the late innings. It’s expected that the Cardinals will let go of longtime bullpen member Jason Motte and unclear if they plan on re-signing 2014 All-Star Pat Neshek, meaning that the only righthanded relievers on the roster were Keith Butler, Seth Maness, Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, and Sam Tuivailala. Considering that Martinez is a potential starting rotation candidate and Butler and Tuivailala have just brief big-league experience, the Cardinals needed a more reliable option for tightly-contested games, and Walden, a former closer, gives them just that.

More from St. Louis Cardinals

Walden, a powerful 27-year-old who averaged 95.9 MPH on his fastball in 2014 and touched speeds as high as 99 (according to FanGraphs), has plenty of experience operating efficiently in the late innings. He posted a 2.88 ERA in 2014 over 58 appearances spanning 50 innings, collecting 62 strikeouts and 27 walks.

Obviously to get value, you have to give up value, and the Cardinals certainly did that by letting go of Miller and Jenkins. While Miller’s numbers in 2014 weren’t as dominant as they were in his rookie season the previous year, he improved significantly during the second half, going 3-1 with a 2.92 ERA and an 0.99 WHIP. Miller’s spot in the rotation was going to be up in the air heading into 2015, as the Cardinals have Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, John Lackey, and Jaime Garcia coming back, plus young guys like Martinez and Marco Gonzales who could play into the mix. With that said, Atlanta is getting a very good pitcher who can be a key part of their starting rotation.

Jenkins, a 22-year-old righthander who is very highly-regarded but has been held back by injuries at times, was impressive in the Arizona Fall League this year, going 2-2 with a 2.22 ERA in 24.1 innings over six starts. He’ll be a nice piece for the Braves’ farm system, and his loss further depletes the supply of starting pitching in the Cardinals’ system which is close to being major-league ready.