Cheap Seats

Cardinals gamble with Miller for Heyward deal

The St. Louis Cardinals have their right fielder -- and potentially a power bat -- for 2015 after shipping former first round draft pick Shelby Miller to Atlanta for Jason Heyward.

Heyward is an excellent defender and an imposing figure at the plate at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds. But  after hitting 27 homers in 2012, Heyward hit 14 homers in 2013 and 11 in 2014 despite in a combined 1,089 plate appearances. He's also left handed -- as are teammates Jon Jay, Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong and Matt Adams. So the Birds seem as if they'll be vulnerable again to southpaws next season.

On the bright side, Heyward is in a contract walk year so the Cardinals can count on him making a maximum effort in 2015. But the fact that he's a free agent after next season means the Redbirds are gambling on losing the asset they acquired by trading a young power pitcher who is 24 years old after only one year.

Miller is 26-18 with a 3.33 ERA in two plus seasons with St. Louis. But the Cardinals seem to have soured on his lack of consistency. He'd have great stretches punctuated by terrible skids. But, in the end, he seemed to have an awful lot of upside because of his raw talent combined with his age.

Heyward will make $7.8 million next season, a total that's reasonable for a player with his resume. But Miller won't even be arbitration eligible until 2016. So the payroll is going up.

The deal leaves St. Louis with a rotation of Adam Wainwright, John Lackey, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha and Marco Gonzales, Carlos Martinez or Jaime Garcia. Or the club could make another deal to add a starter.

My off-season wish list called for the Cardinals to woo St. Louis native Max Scherzer to town and then trade Miller to add an outfielder. The Birds seem to be going about things in reverse order. And I am cool with that. Still... the bidding on Scherzer seems to be extremely steep and it's likely -- if St. Louis is interested -- that the Cardinals could be significantly out-bid.

The trade for Heyward is another step away from the Redbirds' plans to rely on a tidal wave of young talent to remake the roster. First St. Louis dealt from its outfield surplus, trading James Ramsey to Cleveland to rent Justin Masterson. Then it dealt Allen Craig and young hurler Joe Kelly to Boston for veteran hurler John Lackey. After that Oscar Taveras was killed, further depleting the stockpile of young talent. Now Shelby Miller has been traded away.

The deal will further impact the role of young players on the club by taking away playing time from Randal Grichuk and potentially Stephen Piscotty, a pair of young outfielders who at a tender part of their careers.

Still, I'm glad the Cardinals did SOMETHING to address their weak offense in 2014. Heyward, who was slowed in 2013 when he had his jaw broken by a pitch, should be healthy and ready to make a big dent in opposing ERAs.