MLB notebook: Braves, Cards address needs in 4-player swap
ATLANTA — Jason Heyward stirred up enormous expectations when he joined the Atlanta Braves at age 20. He homered in his first big league at-bat. He was voted to the All-Star Game as a rookie. He was hailed as the future of the game by Hank Aaron.
Heyward never quite lived up to the hype, and now he’s heading to a team looking to bounce back from tragedy.
Concerned that Heyward would leave as a free agent after next season and rebuilding with an eye toward their new stadium, the Braves dealt their right fielder and reliever Jordan Walden to the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday for promising pitcher Shelby Miller and a minor leaguer.
“It’s very difficult to trade Jason Heyward,” said John Hart, the Braves’ new general manager. “But the deal was made to help us not only in the short term but the long term.”
The NL Central champion Cardinals felt compelled to pursue Heyward after top prospect Oscar Taveras was killed in a car crash last month in the Dominican Republic. The team hopes to sign Heyward to a long-term extension but didn’t want to go into next season without adding to the offense.
“The reality is we have to move on,” St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak said.
Heyward said he was not surprised by the trade.
The deal signals a long-term strategy for rebuilding the roster by the time the Braves move into their new suburban ballpark in 2017.
By trading Heyward and Walden, the team shed what could have been as much as $10 million from next season’s payroll while acquiring a 24-year-old pitcher who is not yet eligible for arbitration and can’t become a free agent until after the 2018 season.
Miller went 10-9 with a 3.74 for the Cardinals, after going 15-9 with a 3.06 ERA as a rookie in 2013. He joins a rotation that also includes young starters Julio Teheran, Alex Wood and Mike Minor.
Walden was 0-2 with a 2.88 ERA and three saves as a set-up reliever for closer Craig Kimbrel.
Atlanta also acquired right-hander Tyrell Jenkins, who pitched for Class A Palm Beach this past season.
Around the majors
Alex Avila’s $5.4 million option for 2015 has been exercised by the Tigers. Avila, who turns 28 in January, hit .218 with 11 home runs and 47 RBIs last season, although concussion problems have become a concern over the last couple years. Detroit would have owed him a $200,000 buyout if it had declined the option. … Former All-Star Brook Jacoby has been hired as hitting coach of the Blue Jays. Jacoby, 54, was Cincinnati’s hitting coach from 2007-13 and Texas’ minor league hitting coordinator last season.