– Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images
Last off-season the Cardinals traded David Freese and Fernando Salas to the Angels for Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk. This deal filled several holes for the Cardinals. It moved Matt Carpenter to third base, Kolten Wong to second, and solidified the outfield bench with the two new acquisitions. Yesterday’s deal with Atlanta also filled more than what you see on the surface.
The big name is Jason Heyward. Heyward comes over to St Louis after an inconsistent five seasons in Atlanta. In 2012, Heyward’s power showed up with 27 homers on the season. Since then, his power numbers have fallen off. He hit 14 homers in 2013 and 11 long balls this past season. However, Heyward’s game is much more than hitting. He finished with a 6.35 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), which was 11th in Major League Baseball among position players. In Defensive Wins Above Replacement, Heyward finished second in MLB among outfielders. Jason Heyward will come to St Louis and play for the first time without having the weight of the world on his shoulders. He doesn’t have to be the man in St Louis. The optimistic Cardinal fan inside wants to think Heyward will find his stroke and produce they way Atlanta fans thought he would. But, if he just plays the way he’s been playing, St Louis still has a better right field situation than most of the league.
Jordan Walden gives St Louis a steady rock in the back end of the bullpen. He features a heavy sinking fastball that touches 98 MPH. In 50 innings of work, he only allowed two homeruns and recorded 62 strikeouts while posting a 2.88 ERA. Walden’s arm is much needed, considering Jason Motte and Pat Neshek will most likely not be back in St Louis next season.
Acquiring Heyward helps keep the St Louis bench in order. Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk will give Mike Matheny some right handed options and both players can play plus defense. Grichuk can spell Heyward against tough lefties and Bourjos will still be a late inning defensive upgrade over Jon Jay.
Jason Heyward is only under club control for the upcoming season. After that, there’s no telling where he’ll go. He could re-sign in St Louis, but I see that as unlikely. Depending on the season he has in 2015, he might get six years with an AAV (Average Annual Value) of over $15 million. If he does leave after one season, that opens the door to top prospect Stephen Piscotty. Piscotty had a decent year at Memphis last season, but needs another full season there to hone his skills. His swing looks great, but his power hasn’t quite shown up yet. With another season at Triple-A Memphis, Piscotty will only get better and the Cardinals will only be better in the long run.
The Cardinals don’t have many holes to fill. Cardinal Nation should feel good about their starting eight. Molina, Adams, Wong, Peralta, Carpenter, Holliday, Jay and Heyward. The one thing the Cards need offensively is a right handed bat to come off the bench that can play first base. Corey Hart’s name has been tossed around, and I like that fit. The pitching rotation is full. Wainwright, Lynn, Lackey and Wacha will fill spots one through four. The fifth spot will be most likely occupied by Marco Gonzales or Carlos Martinez. If Gonzales wins the spot, Martinez will go to the bullpen. If Martinez wins the fifth spot, Gonzales will most likely go back to Memphis and be groomed as a starter.
Just assume Gonzales breaks camp as a starter with the big club. Martinez, Walden, Maness and Rosenthal will make up four of the seven bullpen spots. Randy Choate will take one of the two lefty spots, with either Kevin Siegrist or Sam Freeman filling the other. That last bullpen spot could be filled in house with Keith Butler or Sam Tuivailala.
What about Jaime Garcia? Garcia has shown flashes of brilliance when healthy. But, when is he healthy? If he can enter 2015 at full strength, that could move Martinez to the pen.
There really isn’t much left to fill in St Louis. Aside from the power right handed bat off the bench, I think most of Cardinal Nation wouldn’t mind seeing Randy Choate leave town. Andrew Miller would be a perfect fit for that “Lefty Specialist” role for Matheny.
There is still a lot of off-season remaining and we have all been surprised by the Cardinal front office before. I don’t see any more big names making a splash in St Louis, but I could be wrong.
139 more days till opening day!