Jason Heyward has been a fixture in the Braves' lineup since 2010. He was a first-round draft pick in 2007.
Photo: Curtis Compton
Photo: Curtis Compton

Braves trade Heyward to Cardinals

J-Hey is no longer a Brave.

The Braves’ offseason shakeup went to a whole new level Monday when they traded Gold Glove right fielder Jason Heyward to St. Louis along with reliever Jordan Walden in exchange for standout starting pitcher Shelby Miller and minor league pitcher Tyrell Jenkins.

This deal sends shockwaves through Braves Country, as Heyward, 25, is a fan favorite and a player that many hoped the team would build around for many years. The McDonough native is homegrown Brave, drafted and developed by the Braves, guy who had not reached the star level anticipated after his sensational rookie season in 2010, but who was nonetheless a dynamic talent and the face of the franchise in the view of many fans.

But he was entering his final season before free agency and the Braves weren’t willing to pay him the kind of money they thought he wanted in a long-term extension. Heyward was set to make $8.3 million this season and new Braves president of baseball operations John Hart said last week there were no plans to work out an extension and that he thought Heyward as well as left fielder Justin Upton would test free agency after the 2015 season.

Heyward hit .271 with a .351 OBP and 20 stolen bases in 2014, while posting career lows in home runs (11) and slugging percentage (.384). He has a .262 average and .351 OBP with 84 homers, 63 stolen bases and 292 RBIs in five seasons, including career-highs of 27 homers and 82 RBIs in 2012.

Miller, who turned 24 in October, is 26-18 with a 3.33 ERA in 69 games (63 starts) in just over two major league seasons, with 312 strikeouts in 370 innings. He should be a top-half-of-the-rotation spot with the Braves, joining incumbents Julio Teheran and left-handers Alex Wood and Mike Minor.

He is still a year away from arbitration eligibility, meaning the Braves have Miller under contractual control for four seasons. He was 10-9 with a 3.74 ERA in 2014 in 32 games (31 starts), and had 127 strikeouts in a career-high 183 innings.

He made a name for himself with a stellar rookie season in 2013, when Miller went 15-9 with a 3.06 ERA and 169 strikeouts in 173.1 innings, leading all major league rookies in wins.

Miller is 6‐0 with a 2.14 ERA in 10 September starts, including a 1.48 ERA in five September starts in 2014.

Jenkins, 22, a supplmental-round pick (50th overall) in the 2010 draft was 6-5 with a 3.28 ERA in 13 starts for Class-A Palm Beach this year. Braves officials saw him pitch recently in the Arizona Fall League, where he had a 2.22 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings over six starts.

Walden was 4-5 with a 3.15 ERA in 108 appearances over two seasons with the Braves, with 116 strikeouts in 97 innings. He had a 2.88 ERA in 58 appearances in 2014 and made $1.49 million in his first year of arbitraiton eligibility, a salary that was expected to rise to about $3 million in 2015.

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