It has been a little over a year since the Atlanta Braves started their rebuild and sent outfielder Jason Heyward to the St. Louis Cardinals. Shipped to Atlanta in the deal were pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins, while Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden packed up to play in the Midwest. At the time, Miller had four years of team control left, and while Heyward was entering his walk year, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak was confident he would be able to re-sign the star outfielder come season’s end. Looking back at all that has happened since, it is clear that the Braves have gotten the better end of the deal and are sitting in a much better spot than the Cardinals.
Miller had an excellent 2015, pitching to a 3.03 ERA and nearly tossing a couple of no-hitters in the process. However, performance is not the reason Atlanta has “won” the trade, as Heyward chipped in a healthy .293/.359/.439 while providing his excellent defense as the Cardinals marched to a 100 win season. No, the Braves and GM John Coppolella are being labeled the winners because of the events that have taken place in the last week alone.
On Tuesday, it was announced that Braves were sending Miller and minor leaguer Gabe Speier to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for outfielder Ender Inciarte, minor-league righty Aaron Blair, and 2015 number one overall pick Dansby Swanson. The Braves cashed in on Miller’s brilliant 2015, and used the Diamondbacks desire to win now as a means to bring back a haul and further stock their farm system. Inciarte should play center field, providing defense that ranked behind only the Ray’s Kevin Kiermaier in DRS, and solid offense (.303/.338/.408 with 21 steals in 2015). Blair and Swanson meanwhile, are two prospects who look like they will be very solid players at the highest level, and in Swanson’s case there is superstar potential. There was shock that Swanson was included in the deal, but Coppolella pulled of the move and continues to have his team look good past the 2016 season. One reason the Braves are winners is because they were able to turn Jason Heyward into Tyrell Jenkins, Aaron Blair, Ender Inciarte, and most notably, Dansby Swanson. All of those players are young, controllable players expected to contribute come 2017 when the Braves open their new stadium.
Elsewhere at Winter Meetings (which ended on Thursday), eyes were turned to the market’s top position player in Heyward, as teams negotiated contract terms with the 26-year-old outfielder. Teams and agents left Nashville without Heyward signing a contract, however, Heyward signed with the Cubs on Friday. Heyward signed an 8-year, $184 million deal with the Chicago Cubs Friday morning, a deal containing not one, but two opt-out clauses. It was reported that the Cardinals and Washington Nationals had outbid the Cubs in terms of total value of their offers, but Heyward still chose the Windy City.
The Braves win is enhanced by the huge loss St. Louis takes by losing Heyward, as St. Louis gave up four years of Shelby Miller for one year of Jason Heyward that ended in a loss in the NLDS to the Cubs. Although Heyward had a good year and was a key part to the Cardinals regular season success, the team did falter in October (to the Cubs no less) and now the Cardinals are left scrambling while Heyward gets cozy in Chicago with their division rival.