Cardinals reloading, Braves rebuilding in wake of four-player blockbuster

Jason Heyward (left) is headed to the Cardinals and Shelby Miller to the Braves in a four-player trade that means different things for two perennial contenders.

Mitchell Layton/Brian Kersey/Getty Images

The trade is a monster, no doubt. Right fielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden to the Cardinals, right-handers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins to the Braves. It’s the kind of deal we will discuss for weeks, months, maybe even years.

And yet, I’m already thinking about what both teams might do next. The Braves clearly are in transition. The Cardinals have traded three young pitchers – Miller, Jenkins and Joe Kelly – in the past four months. So, where does each team go from here?

Some quick thoughts:

— The Braves could field an impressive young rotation next season – Miller, Julio Teheran, Mike Minor, Alex Wood, etc. But with each passing day, it appears they are pointing more toward the opening of their new ballpark in 2017 than fielding a contender in ’15.

John Hart, the team’s new president of baseball operations, has traded Heyward, Walden and second baseman Tommy La Stella in the past two days. It’s doubtful those moves will be his last.

Hart said in a conference call Monday that the Braves could go with Evan Gattis in left and Justin Upton in right. OK, but rival executives said at the GM meetings that Hart was open to moving Gattis, also a catcher, ideally in combination with center fielder B.J. Upton. And if Hart does not want to sign left fielder Justin Upton long-term, better to move him now than get a mere draft pick for him when he becomes a free agent at the end of the season.


— The Cardinals gave up four years of Miller and six of Jenkins for one year of Heyward for two of Walden. They still have seven potential starters for next season – Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, John Lackey, Carlos Martinez, Marco Gonzales and Jaime Garcia. But it will be interesting to see how they allocate their resources going forward.

Do they sign Heyward to an extension and make him the long-term replacement for the late Oscar Taveras in right field? Or do they pursue a free-agent starting pitcher such as Jon Lester, knowing that Lackey is under contract for only one more year and Wacha and Martinez still amount to questions?

— The Braves gave Heyward only a two-year deal at the end of last season because they weren’t sure exactly who he was as a hitter. Now the Cardinals will inherit that decision. Heyward, 25, is one of the game’s elite defenders. But will he grow into a middle-of-the-order hitter?

Right now he looks more like a top-of-the-order type: His on-base percentage has increased from .335 to .349 to .351 the past three seasons while his slugging mark has decreased from .479 to .427 to .384 (Heyward was limited to 104 games in ’13 due to an appendectomy and fractured right jaw).

The Cardinals can reserve judgment until watching Heyward over a full season. He likely will enjoy playing in St. Louis, as most players do, and almost certainly would be open to an extension.