What in the world are the Braves thinking?

Published 4:58 pm Friday, November 21, 2014

I am as diehard a Braves fan as anybody, but I found myself scratching my head in disbelief at some of the recent moves they made.

Trading right fielder Jason Heyward and hard throwing relief pitcher Jordan Walden to the Saint Louis Cardinals for starting pitcher Shelby Miller and minor league pitcher Tyrell Jenkins was their first major move.

Heyward, a two-time Gold Glove winner, batted .271 last season with 11 home runs, 58 runs batted in and 20 stolen bases. He had a .351 on-base percentage. During his five-year Braves career, he had a .262 batting average with 84 home runs, 292 runs batted in and 63 stolen bases. He is under contract through the upcoming 2015 season.

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Hiller had a 10-9 record for the Cardinals in 2014 with a 3.74 earned run average and 127 strikeouts in 183 innings pitched. He started 31 games each of the past two seasons after debuting in 2012 with one start and a handful of relief appearances. He will be under team control through the 2019 season and will become eligible for arbitration in 2016.

I don’t know anything about Jenkins, but Braves President of Baseball Operations John Hart says he will improve the Braves minor league pitching, which he describes as woefully thin.

Maybe the deal involving Heyward will work out for the Braves, but on paper it looks awfully one-sided favoring the Cardinals. Hart has a track record of building strong teams as general manager of the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt—at least for the moment.

Walden is another Brave I really hate to go elsewhere. He was a former closer for the Los Angeles Angels, who was the Braves late inning setup man for Braves closer Craig Kimbrel. He had a 4-5 record with four saves and a 3.15 earned run average. He struck out 116 batters in 97 innings.

In his five-year career, Walden has a 12-13 record with 38 saves and 254 strikeouts in 211 2/3 innings.

Another Braves move that looked a little strange to me was the deal they made for the man to replace Walden in the bullpen. They traded second baseman Tommy LaStella to the Chicago Cubs for hard throwing relief pitcher Arodys Vizcaino, a former Brave who was traded to the Cubs in 2012 for left-handed pitcher Paul Maholm and outfielder Reed Johnson.

What made the trade with the Braves really questionable to me is the fact that Vizcaino has an injury history. He missed the 2013 season because of injury.

I also question the Braves trading of LaStella, who proved to be a good hitter, for average and power, when they brought him up last season. He is also a solid defensive second baseman.

Phillip Gosselin, who the Braves brought up late last season, is right now the top candidate to start at second base. Jose Peraza, who is being groomed as the Braves second baseman of the future, is not likely to be called up until 2016.