Key Additions: OF Jason Heyward, RP Jordan Walden, IF Mark Reynolds
The Cardinals were very quiet during the winter, but they did make one significant splash with the acquisition of Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden. We’ll touch on Heyward in a more significant way later, but this was an “all-in” move by St. Louis, acquiring the former Braves outfielder with limited service time on the books in an effort to maximize the 2015 season.
Aside from Heyward, Walden and Reynolds are ancillary pieces. Walden, the former Angels closer and Braves set-up man, has elite upside (10.8 K/9 in his career) in the bullpen when healthy, and Reynolds fills a need as a bench power bat that can (somewhat) effectively play two corner infield positions. There were certainly busier teams in the offseason, but the Cardinals improved.
Key Subtractions: SP Shelby Miller, RP Pat Neshek
Naturally, St. Louis had to give something up in order to acquire Heyward, and the centerpiece of that deal was Shelby Miller. The 24-year-old starting pitcher threw 370 innings for the Cardinals with a sterling 3.33 ERA, and Miller is a former elite prospect. However, his 2014 output (3.74 ERA, 6.25 K/9) left something to be desired, and St. Louis preyed on Atlanta’s desire to get younger and cheaper.
Pat Neshek is the other “main” piece of the 2014 team that is out the door, and the now 34-year-old reliever was lights-out in 2014. Neshek posted a 1.87 ERA over 67.1 innings (71 games), and he parlayed that effort into a lucrative deal with the Astros. The Cardinals have a quality stockpile of bullpen arms, but it isn’t a stretch to think that Neshek’s 2014 performance will be better than Walden’s 2015 showing.
Next: 3 Players to Watch