Everyone was well aware of the predicament facing the St. Louis Cardinals. The tragic death of Oscar Taveras was going to force the Redbirds to alter their offseason plans and make a move to fill the now-gaping hole in right field. There was an assortment of options out there for General Manager John Mozeliak to pick and choose from. Nearly every person who follows baseball can agree that the Cardinals like to do things from inside their system. Just look at their roster, there are very few players on their roster who are not homegrown. (Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday, John Lackey, Jhonny Peralta, Peter Bourjos, and Randal Grichuk, to name a few).
However, we’ve seen Mozeliak get aggressive in the Hot-Stove season over the last few years, evidenced by the signing of Peralta last year as well as the trade for Grichuk and Bourjos. So when Mozeliak went out and got Jason Heyward to fill that hole in right field, it should not have been altogether unsurprising. It is, however, exciting for the Birds and gives a nice adrenaline shot to a fan base that had been down in he dumps. Let’s get into the good stuff now and ask ourselves, “Is Mozeliak taking a bit of a big risk with this move?” We’ll also look at the potential big rewards the Cardinals can reap here.
Lets’s look at the rewards here first:
The big one is obviously Heyward. The man is only twenty-five first of all. Secondly, he has 2 Gold Gloves to his name already as well, (2012, 2014) and is capable of putting up 25+ home runs as well as steal 20+ bags. Sure, the lack of power of the last two seasons is a bit of a red flag, but more on that later. This is a guy the Cardinals can plug into their lineup at the 1,2, or 5 spot in the lineup, and versatility is always a plus. Here’s another fact, Heyward was worth 6.1 WAR last year, and his RAR was 61. Those are both pretty darn good numbers. Oh, and Allen Craig‘s WAR last year? -0.5. You do the math, it’s pretty simple to see what Heyward can bring to the table for this 2015 season and, if the Birds can get him to stay, years into the future, especially if he can get that power swing back. Jordan Walden isn’t just a throw in either, he’s a big piece for the Cardinal bullpen, a guy that manager Mike Matheny should have no problem going to in eighth inning protecting a one-run lead, and a guy who now allows the Cardinals to let another team overpay for Pat Neshek.
Risks: The main thing here is again Heyward. He’s a free agent after the 2015 campaign, and Shelby Miller plus another pitching prospect with a ton of upside is a lot to give up for a one year rental. Now, if the Cards can give Heyward a good enough deal, and I assume they will be aggressive in bringing him back, and he stays, all this is moot and the Birds look like the winners of this deal. The contract situation does put pressure on Mozeliak to extend Heyward, because if he leaves, the Braves will look like geniuses AND they will have Shelby Miller under control for another three years.
As previously mentioned, the lack of power is a concern, and Busch Stadium does not exactly favor hitters. That isn’t to say Heyward can’t still put up home runs, we know the power is there, and maybe a change of scenery is all he needs.
The way Mozeliak is handling all their young pitching is a bit concerning, but he obviously had a plan when making this deal and it puts the Birds in pretty good shape for 2015.
If the Cardinals can extend Heyward after this season or during it, they will be in good shape for a few years after 2015 too, as they’ll have a franchise cornerstone who can be a productive player year after year.
Ultimate ruling: Who the “winner” of this deal is all comes down to if the Cardinals can come to an extension with Heyward, but as of right now the Cardinals are a strong team that just got stronger.