MLB Predictions: Who Won Big Cardinals-Braves Trade?
by Alan Matthews - 11/18/2014
Major League Baseball's Hot Stove League is really starting to heat up now. For example, the Toronto Blue Jays surprisingly signed perhaps the top position player free agent, former Pirates catcher Russell Martin, on Monday. That came out of nowhere as it was widely presumed that Martin was going to sign with the Chicago Cubs, who have been taking a huge amount of futures action at Bovada since hiring Joe Maddon. Martin would have shortened those World Series odds even more.
The Cubs did make a trade over the weekend, acquiring young second baseman Tommy La Stella from Atlanta for pitcher Arodys Vizcaino. The Cubs got Vizcaino from Atlanta a couple of years ago in the Paul Maholm trade. Not really sure why the Cubs did this because they claim that Javy Baez will be their starting second baseman. La Stella appeared in 93 games as a rookie for the Braves in 2014. He led all National League rookies in walks (36) and on-base percentage (.328). So he's the anti-Baez, who swings for the fences on every pitch and strikes out a ton. Could that La Stella trade perhaps mean the Cubs will deal All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro for a starting pitcher? Don't rule it out. Baez can move to his natural position of shortstop, and the Cubs also have touted shortstop prospect Addison Russell in the minors.
The La Stella deal didn't affect any futures odds, but Monday's surprising trade between Atlanta and St. Louis definitely has some futures ramifications. The Braves dealt outfielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden to St. Louis for starting pitcher Shelby Miller and minor-league pitcher Tyrell Jenkins. Very interesting deal. Heyward has superstar potential at age 25, but you'd have to say he hasn't quite lived up to it yet even though he was an All-Star as a rookie in 2010. In 2012, Heyward hit 27 homers and stole 21 bases, and the sky was the limit. But in the 253 games he has played over the past two seasons, Heyward has totaled just 25 homers and 22 stolen bases. This past season, he hit .271 with 11 homers, 58 RBIs and 20 steals while winning a second Gold Glove. Heyward's slugging percentage has declined each of the past three seasons, and he can't hit left-handers much. Heyward is definitely one of the better defensive outfielders in the game. He led the majors with 32 defensive runs saved in 2014.
Why would the Braves do this deal? Because they couldn't get Heyward to agree to an extension. He is set to become a free agent after 2015. The Cardinals needed a right fielder after the death of top prospect Oscar Taveras in a car crash last month. Walden is a solid guy. He was a set-up man last season and had a 2.88 ERA and three saves in 59 games. He's a possible replacement for All-Star setup man Pat Neshek, who is a free agent. At Sportsbook.ag, the Cardinals are now +800 to win the NL pennant (behind the Cubs, who are +600 and that's laughable) and +1800 to win the World Series.
As for Atlanta, Miller gives the Braves yet another young arm at age 24. In two-plus seasons, Miller has gone 26-18 with a 3.33 ERA and 312 strikeouts in 370 innings. He did regress slightly last year, going 10-9 with a 3.74 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, the latter two career-high numbers. However, in his final six regular season starts Miller had a 1.65 ERA and limited opponents to a .185 batting average. Miller pitched solidly in his lone NLDS start against the Dodgers, allowing two runs in 5.2 innings. In the NLCS against the Giants, Miller allowed three runs in 3.2 innings. He went from striking out 8.8 batters per nine innings in 2013 to 6.2 in 2014. His walk rate jumped from 3.0 per 9 inning to 3.6. Miller was expendable for the Cards as they have young starters in Carlos Martinez or Marco Gonzales they can plug in Miller's spot. They also have a full season of John Lackey in 2015.
The Braves needed pitching because both Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang are free agents. They also aren't sure what Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen will have after both missed the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery. Miller joins Julio Teheran, Alex Wood and Mike Minor as locks for the rotation and all are under team control through at least 2017. Miller is not eligible for arbitration until after next season, so the trade represents a significant payroll savings for the Braves. Atlanta is +2600 to win the World Series and +1200 to win the pennant.
I don't think new Braves boss John Hart is finished, either. He would love to dump the dead weight that is B.J. Upton, but good luck finding someone to take on that contract. I do believe this means Hart will not trade Evan Gattis or Justin Upton. Gattis can now play left field mostly full time and Justin Upton can move to Heyward's right-field spot. That's where Upton played most of the time while with Arizona. B.J. Upton plays center.
So who won this deal? I'd say St. Louis for 2015, but long term it might be Atlanta if Heyward plays just one season in a Cardinals uniform. The Cards look to be the clear favorites in the NL Central again, especially with the Pirates losing Martin and probably Francisco Liriano. The Cubs are a year away. Cincinnati appears to be going backward and Milwaukee is just so-so.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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