Well, the Cardinals won’t be getting Giancarlo Stanton, but they could still end up with a different NL East right fielder, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Braves are in shopping mode this week at the GM winter meetings, reportedly engaging in trade talks involving Evan Gattis, Justin Upton, Tommy La Stella, and Jason Heyward. The Cardinals need a right fielder, so the Braves are natural trade partners. Heyward is set to be a free agent after the 2015 season and has an expressed a wish to test free agency, so he could potentially be a nice one year bridge to Stephen Piscotty time in St. Louis, which is an attractive feature for the Cards. But could a Heyward to Cardinals deal actually work?
Heyward’s best tool is his glove: he had 32 Defensive Runs Saved in 2014, and a 24.1 Ultimate Zone rating (0 being the average). Heyward took home a Gold Glove as a result. He wouldn’t provide much more power than a Randal Grichuk or Stephen Piscotty (the next in line for the Cardinals), but his OBP and speed are huge assets. Heyward’s offensive splits are impressive: .292 AVG on the road with 6 home runs.
Here is Heyward’s spray chart. As you can see, he looks like a pull hitter, and is awful against left-handed pitchers (.169 AVG against them in 2014). Fortunately, Jhonny Peralta, Matt Holliday, and Yadier Molina all hit lefties relatively well, so Heyward’s left-handed problems aren’t that big of an issue if he get’s sandwiched between two of them in the Cardinals’ lineup. Turner Field’s dimensions are very similar to that of Busch, perhaps slightly deeper in right field, so there should be little variance in his home run output.
I think Heyward would be an decent fit in St. Louis. His skill set is not as preferred as someone like Nelson Cruz’s or Cuban star Yasmany Tomas, guys who would hit for much more power, but many believe that Heyward still hasn’t reached his ceiling offensively. According to sabermetrician Bill James, players tend to experience peak years from ages 28-32, and Heyward is still only 25. Still, it is likely that the Braves, who still want to contend next year, will ask a lot in return, perhaps even Grichuk, Piscotty or someone like Carlos Martinez from the pitching staff. Given the Cardinals’ historical conservative approach, I doubt that the Cardinals will be anything more than interested. Still, John Mozeliak surprised everyone with the Peralta signing last winter, and he could do it again this time around.