The Braves shocked many when they made their first blockbuster deal of the offseason, trading home-town favorite Jason Heyward alongside setup man Jordan Walden to St. Louis for starters Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. This is clearly a move that benefits the Braves in the long-term more than the present. Heyward was entering the final year of his two-year extension that Frank Wren signed him to last offseason. Many project Heyward to get around $20 million dollars annually on the open market next year, placing Heyward out of the Braves price range. Frankly, Heyward is not worth that price tag and has never shaped out the way the Braves wanted him to. While his Gold Glove caliber defense will be missed, he had a tough time hitting lefties last year and has a reputation for being a streaky hitter. You can expect new Braves right fielder Nick Markakis to put up similar production offensively at a more consistent rate. Consider these numbers. Last year against righties, Markakis hit .274 and Heyward hit .304. However, against lefties Markakis hit .280 and Heyward struggled to a .169 average. Markakis also had around 100 more at bats than Heyward yet struck out less. The Braves can now expect more consistency out of the right field spot for half the price of what Heyward would cost. In Walden, the Braves lose one of their best relievers from last season, but with the logjam of arms they have at the moment, the bullpen won’t miss a beat with his subtraction.
In Shelby Miller, the Braves acquired a potential front line starter with four years left of team control. Miller had an up and down year and struggled with his control, but finished 10-9 with a 3.74 ERA in the Cardinals rotation last season. He posted a 1.48 ERA in his last five starts, which suggests his struggles are likely behind him. With the best pitching coach in the league, Roger McDowell, in his corner, expect Miller to have a huge bounce back campaign for the Braves. McDowell has a great reputation for helping pitchers maintain their control. Wood, Teheran and Miller at the top of the Braves rotation should have Braves fans salivating. John Hart is trying to bring back the Braves way of building around pitching and strengthening the farm system. Tyrell Jenkins is not just a throw in in this deal. The 22-year old right-hander instantly becomes one of the top-10 prospects in the Braves organization. Jenkins was ranked the #93 prospect in all of baseball after the 2013 season and projects to be a starter for the Braves around 2017. I believe in the long-term this move is good for the Braves. While Heyward is 25 and a change of scenery could do him some good, he only had one year of team control left. He clearly was not in Atlanta’s long-term plans, as he stated the Braves never discussed a long-term extension with him. It is a tough trade for many fans to swallow but acquiring a front line starter and a top prospect for him should be viewed as a great deal.