Focused on the short term of 2015, but leaving the door open for beyond, St. Louis Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak explained Monday’s trade which brings Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden to the team from Atlanta in exchange for Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins.
“When we were surveying the trade market–as well as the free agent market over the last two weeks, we really felt like this might be the best way to improve our team and really make a change of how you think about the St. Louis Cardinals for 2015,” said Mozeliak. “Really answers two things that we needed–one is an impact, everyday player and the other one is a reliever who can pitch late in a game.”
Heyward, who won his second Gold Glove this past season in right field, has hit .262 with 84 home runs in his five years as a big leaguer. Last year, he hit only 11 home runs–but was the lead-off hitter for the Braves in 94 games.
“You go back a few years ago, he did have power,” pointed out Mozeliak, who projected Heyward batting in any of the top three spots in the Cardinals lineup. “I do think he did make a strategic decision in his approach to strike out less, put the ball in play more, walk more. I feel like his profile of homeruns–certainly if he finds more, we’d be open to that, but I do think just his overall approach at the plate does fit in nicely for us. Plus, an elite defender.”
While Heyward is expected to make an immediate impact on the lineup and in the field, Mozeliak termed the inclusion of a veteran reliever as “critical” to the deal.
“I would think Walden would be a natural fit for late,” said Mozeliak–who added the team will remain “opportunistic” like last year if there is another arm that can be added late in the offseason similar to Pat Neshek.
194 of Walden’s 231 career appearances have involved the 8th and 9th innings.
Mozeliak shared his conversation with Shelby Miller was “brief” but that the young right-hander understood the business of the trade. Miller’s departure creates an opening in the Cardinals rotation–which will have two leading contenders.
“I think this creates a great opportunity for Carlos Martinez and Marco Gonzales,” stated Mozeliak. “Prior to this deal we had talked about the opportunity for those guys to come in and compete for that fifth spot, but now with Shelby being traded it certainly gives them a legitimate shot at being one of our starters.”
The organization also remains high on outfielders Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty,
“When you look at our everyday club, where were you going to put an impact player,” explained Mozeliak. “The one place that we just didn’t have a lot of experience was right field so that was something that we focused on and felt we could upgrade and we did.”
Heyward is eligible to become a free agent after the 2015 season–and though he and Mozeliak have yet to directly broach the subject, both expressed an openness to consider an extended working relationship.
Walden cannot become a free agent until 2017.