Jordan Walden Rumors

Braves, Cardinals Trade Jason Heyward For Shelby Miller

The Cardinals have acquired right fielder Jason Heyward and right-hander Jordan Walden from the Braves in exchange for righty Shelby Miller and pitching prospect Tyrell Jenkins, the teams announced.

Jason Heyward

A blockbuster in every sense of the word, the Cardinals will acquire one of the game’s most valuable outfielders in Heyward and an excellent setup man in Walden. Heyward just turned 25 in August yet already has five full Major League seasons under his belt. His offensive game hasn’t developed to the superstar level that many had expected, though he still owns a lifetime .262/.351/.429 batting line. His .269/.335/.479 batting line and 27 homers in 2012 give an idea of the power upside that Heyward brings to the table, however.

Where Heyward truly shines, however, is with the glove, as evidenced by career UZR and DRS marks of +74.1 and +97, respectively (UZR/150 pegs him at +17.6). That excellent glove paired with a solid bat has led Heyward to be valued at 4.3 fWAR and 4.9 rWAR per season throughout his career. There’s little doubt that Heyward is an MVP-caliber talent, although to realize that potential he would likely need to return to his 2012 form at the plate while maintaining his stellar defensive work.

Heyward is only under control for one more season and will earn $7.8MM in 2015, but Walden is a bit more of a long-term asset for the Cardinals, as he can be controlled through the 2016 season. Projected to earn $3MM in 2015, the 27-year-old Walden posted a 2.88 ERA with 11.2 K/9, 4.9 BB/9 and a 45.2 percent ground-ball rate for the Braves last season. Armed with a fastball that averages roughly 96 mph, he should give manager Mike Matheny yet another hard-throwing option to pair with the likes of Trevor Rosenthal at the end of the St. Louis bullpen.

In Miller, the Braves have acquired at least four years of control over a high-upside arm that looked to be on the verge of stardom for much of 2013 before a rough finish to the season and a step backwards in 2014. Miller frequented top prospect lists for his entire minor league career after being selected 19th overall in 2009, with Baseball America ranking him as highly as sixth in the game heading into the 2013 campaign. That season, he posted a brilliant 3.06 ERA with 8.8 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and a 38.4 percent ground-ball rate in 173 1/3 innings. He saw his strikeouts dip late in the season though and was curiously a non-factor in the 2013 playoffs, leading many to speculate that he was either injured or simply out of gas after posting a career-high in innings pitched.

Miller maintained his velocity in 2014, but he displayed some signs of control issues that caused his ERA to jump to 3.74 (while FIP and SIERA pegged him at 4.54 and 4.60, respectively). For one, Miller’s BB/9 rate jumped to 3.6. But looking beyond that, his first-pitch strike rate dropped about two percent, and his opponent contact rate for pitches in the strike zone jumped from 85.6 percent to 90 percent, suggesting that he struggled to command the ball within the zone. Nonetheless, Miller’s upside is sky-high, and the Braves had a clear need in the rotation with both Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang hitting the free agent market. Both Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy are recovering from their second Tommy John surgery, leaving Atlanta with Julio Teheran, Mike Minor and Alex Wood as rotation candidates, perhaps along with swingman David Hale.

Jenkins, 22, isn’t simply a throw-in for the Braves, either. The Cards drafted Jenkins 50th overall in 2010, and the right-hander cracked BA’s Top 100 prospect list following the 2011 season — ranking 94th. Touted for his off-the-charts athleticism, Jenkins has seen his prospect star dim a bit since that time due to shoulder surgery, though he did return midway through 2014 and post a 3.28 ERA in 74 innings in the Class-A Advanced Florida State League. BA ranked him 17th among Cardinals prospects heading into 2014, noting that his fastball sits 93-96 mph when healthy and adding that he features an improved curveball as well.

The trade fills a need for both clubs, although the circumstances in which St. Louis came to have a need for a right fielder are of course tragic. It’s been difficult and felt inappropriate at times to look at the tragic death of Oscar Taveras and his girlfriend through a baseball lens, but many have wondered if is untimely loss would lead the Cardinals to look outside the organization for outfield help. MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth noted in his Offseason Outlook for the Cards that such measures could be necessary, and the path that the team has taken will improve the team in 2015, even if the trade is unfortunately linked to tragedy.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


NL East Notes: Desmond, Fish, Phils, Hamels, Braves, Medlen

The Nationals made Ian Desmond a seven-year, $107MM extension offer last year, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports, though that also included contract deferrals that would have reduced its true value. Negotiations are expected to pick back up in the months to come, per Kilgore, and that offer will presumably be the starting point. Desmond, who put up another strong year and is now one year away from the open market, is one key piece of the team’s increasingly pressing long-term strategic questions.

Here’s the latest out of the division:

  • The Marlins‘ interest in the starting pitching market is fairly diverse, as Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports. Possible trade targets range from buy-low (Ubaldo Jimenez) to buy-high (Johnny Cueto), and interest on the free agent markets includes Kyle Kendrick and Ervin Santana. The unifying force here is probably the expected ability of these varying arms to provide innings; as I noted yesterday, the Fish hope to add a solid, veteran presence to their staff.
  • Spencer also spoke with the Miami brass about Giancarlo Stanton, and discusses the team’s reasoning for trying to build a winner around him now, even if an extension cannot ultimately be worked out. “We’re trying to get away from that, that we have to trade everybody because they get expensive,” Hill said. “Enough of that. We want to win. We want to keep as many of our pieces as we can.”
  • There are “a lot of good fits” for Phillies outfielder Marlon Byrd, who is likely to be traded, sources tell Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Philadelphia is seeing interest in Ben Revere as well.
  • Of course, the flashier chip for the Phils is lefty Cole Hamels. As Salisbury reports, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says “the free agent market will kind of dictate where this thing goes,” referring to the possibility of striking a deal. “[A]t some point the dominores will start to fall and then we’ll see where it takes us,” said Amaro, who notes that there is no need to deal Hamels since he “traverses the timeline” of contention that the club has in mind.
  • Hamels would prefer to be dealt, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Nightengale provides additional teams to which Hamels cannot decline a trade (on top of the previously-reported Cubs): the Yankees and Rangers are the two A.L. clubs, with the Dodgers, Nationals, Cardinals, Braves, and Padres among the National League teams.
  • The Braves increasingly sound inclined to aim for the near future, and we’ve already heard several prominent names listed as possible trade candidates. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman provides two more, via Twitter: reliever Jordan Walden (who projects to earn $3MM in arbitration) and young second baseman Tommy La Stella.
  • Braves president of baseball operations John Hart says the sides will “need to get creative” to work out a deal to keep Kris Medlen, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. While the team has every hope of keeping the righty, his second Tommy John procedure and $5.8MM projected arb price tag do not make for a straightforward situation given the team’s tight payroll. Sherman suggests that a significantly lower guarantee, combined with incentives and a 2016 option, could be palatable for both sides. It seems that Medlen would be able to do better, however, were he to force the Braves’ hand: he would either be tendered a contract, or hit the open market with plenty of suitors given his upside.

Latest On The Braves’ Offseason Plans

After speaking with president of baseball operations John Hart, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that the team could be aiming for a brief rebuild with an eye on the 2017 campaign.

The Braves’ top priority is to add a couple of starting pitchers that could step into the rotation. However, they’re better positioned, financially, to do that on the trade market, which would likely require dealing some established players, as the team doesn’t have a particularly deep farm system in the way of MLB-ready talent. O’Brien writes that one plan could be to trade both Jason Heyward and Justin Upton, with Evan Gattis sliding into left field and Christian Bethancourt handling everyday catching duties. Hart’s preference is to retain Gattis due to the four years of team control he has remaining.

O’Brien also adds that the Braves appear willing to listen to offers for any reliever with the exception of Craig Kimbrel, specifically listing Jordan Walden and David Carpenter as potential candidates. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweeted earlier tonight that the Braves might have interest in moving a relief arm for a back-of-the-rotation starter. That would provide them with some much-needed innings next season, as the team is currently thin beyond Julio Teheran, Alex Wood and Mike Minor. Swingman David Hale could move into the rotation again, and the Braves have Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy as options with little certainty.



Braves Avoid Arbitration With Jordan Walden

The Braves have reached agreement on a one-year, $1.49MM deal with Jordan Walden to avoid arbitration, according to Darren Wolfson of ESPN 1500 Twin Cities (via Twitter).  Walden was projected to earn $1.5MM by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.

Walden, 26, came to the Braves in a November 2012 deal that shipped Tommy Hanson to the Angels.  The right-hander had a 2.47 ERA and limited opponents to a .194 batting average in 47 appearances from April through August, but stumbled in the final months of the season.  Walden's final line was a 3.45 ERA with 10.3 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9.

Walden is represented by Don Mitchell of Gaylord Sports Management, as shown in the MLBTR Agency Database.


Rosenthal On Padres, Norris, Profar, Miller

Ken Rosenthal shares a few hot stove-related items in his latest column for FOX Sports…

  • The Padres are known to be looking for starting pitching, and Rosenthal notes that San Diego would prefer to pick up a younger starter who is signed beyond this season.  An exception could be Ricky Nolasco, as Rosenthal repeated his suggestion from yesterday that Nolasco could be open to re-signing with the Padres given that the pending free agent hails from southern California.
  • Astros right-hander Bud Norris is cited as one of the controllable younger arms that fits the mold of what the Padres are looking for, though one rival executive thinks Norris "isn’t the best bet to make a team leap forward.  Will he help a team improve? Yes. Would I stamp him as a difference-maker? Not a definite.”  Norris has been connected to the Pirates, Giants and Orioles in trade speculation and I profiled him as a trade candidate last month.
  • While the Rangers could use some outfield help, the decision to use Jurickson Profar as an outfielder is somewhat risky, Rosenthal opines.  Profar is learning a new position on the fly and has yet to deliver much at the plate in his brief Major League career.  If he struggles, he'll lose some trade value if the Rangers decide to move him, and the team may also have more trouble convincing Ian Kinsler to eventually move to the outfield to make room for Profar at second base.
  • The Astros had an arrangement in place to draft Shelby Miller with the 21st overall pick of the 2009 draft, Miller tells Rosenthal, except the Cardinals took Miller with the 19th pick.  Miller, a Texas native, was also managed by a Rangers scout during a high school showcase event but the Rangers passed on Miller with their 14th overall pick in the draft and instead took righty Matt Purke, who never signed with the club.
  • The Jordan Walden-for-Tommy Hanson trade is looking like "a steal" for the Braves, in the words of one rival executive.  Walden has been a force (2.70 ERA, 10 K/9, 6.50 K/BB rate in 23 1/3 IP) out of the Atlanta bullpen while Hanson has battled injuries and posted a 5.10 ERA over nine starts with the Angels.

Angels Acquire Tommy Hanson For Jordan Walden

The Angels have acquired Tommy Hanson from the Braves, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter). Atlanta will receive Jordan Walden in the one-for-one trade, MLBTR has learned. The teams have confirmed the trade.

Uspw_6630220Hanson, 26, pitched to a 4.48 ERA with 8.3 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 174 2/3 innings this year. The right-hander missed time with shoulder tendinitis last season, and his fastball velocity has been trending in the wrong direction as well. Hanson is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, and Matt Swartz projects a $4MM salary. He will remain under team control through 2015.

Walden, 25, pitched to 3.46 ERA with 11.1 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 in 39 innings this year while missing time with a biceps strain. He was an All-Star as a rookie just last season, when he posted a 2.98 ERA with 34 saves in 60 1/3 innings. Walden is under team control through 2016. Earlier this week we heard he was "very available" after the Angels signed Ryan Madson.

The Angels are in the market for starting pitching this offseason after trading Ervin Santana and declining Dan Haren's option. Zack Greinke is a free agent as well, though he is in very high demand. Hanson gives the club a young arm to fill out the rotation behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson. Walden, meanwhile, gives the Braves bullpen depth and a power right-handed setup man in front of closer Craig Kimbrel.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.


SoCal Links: Walden, Angels, Fujikawa, Field, Kuroda

The Angels finalized their contract with Ryan Madson today, but here's some more out of Southern California…


Quick Hits: Walden, Indians, A’s, Appel, Molina

Here are some notes from around the majors…

  • The Angels renewed the contract of closer Jordan Walden, the team announced.  The Halos also agreed to terms with 21 other players on one-year deals for 2012.
  • The Indians are "looking around for a left fielder" in the wake of Grady Sizemore's injury, tweets Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.  With so many outfielders already in camp, the Tribe are likely looking for no more than another part-timer on a minor league contract.
  • Bill Madden of the New York Daily News believes Major League Baseball won't allow the Athletics to move to San Jose.  Madden doesn't think three-quarters of the teams would approve of violating the Giants' territorial rights to San Jose, quoting a baseball lawyer who says teams would be wary of voting for a measure that could cost them in the future.  As an example, the Phillies, Mets and Yankees wouldn't be likely to vote against territorial rights since such votes be used as precedent for a team to someday move to New Jersey.
  • Right-hander Mark Appel hasn't quite pitched up to expectations for Stanford this season, writes Baseball America's Conor Glassey.  In particular, Appel's K/9 rate is lower than several recent high-drafted pitchers during their sophomore years.  Appel is a contender to be the first overall pick in the June amateur draft.
  • Yadier Molina's five-year, $75MM extension with the Cardinals was driven by the catcher's defense and leadership, reports MLB.com's Matthew Leach.  "[The St. Louis pitchers] understand his value more than sabermetricians could ever start to pick it apart, and what other people inside the game even understand," said Cards manager Mike Matheny.  "There's so many intangibles. You can't put numbers to the things that this guy does in helping this team win. And I think that's [exemplified by] two world championships since he's taken over behind the plate."

Angels In The Market For A Closer

8:21am: The Angels have inquired on A's closer Andrew Bailey, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  He clarifies that the interest was early and has not intensified.

7:41am: The Angels are "definitely" in the market for a closer, tweets SI.com's Jon Heyman. Los Angeles would apparently like a veteran presence to help Jordan Walden along. Heyman feels that Ryan Madson makes the most sense for Los Angeles to pursue.

Walden, 23, doesn't seem to need too much help. The flamethrowing rookie posted a 2.98 ERA in 60 1/3 innings this season while striking out 10.0 per nine innings and recording 32 saves for the second place Halos. His fastball averaged 97.5mph, while strong FIP (2.79) and SIERA (3.01) marks back up his success.

The Angels are also in on Aramis Ramirez and have an offer out to C.J. Wilson. Late last night, we heard GM Jerry Dipoto has budget limitations that will limit his spending to $15-$20MM, barring any moves to free up some more payroll.