If Ben Cherington was a hitter, he just took a pitch on the outside corner. One can only picture Cherington sitting in his office late this morning, feet up on his desk, sipping on a coffee as his phone beeps an alert announcing that Jason Heyward just got traded to St. Louis.
This is not to say that Heyward was someone Cherington was targeting this offseason. Apparently, he wasn’t. Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that the Red Sox never even engaged in trade talks with the Braves for Heyward. Were the Red Sox not interested? Did they just assume he wasn’t available?
The Red Sox should have been interested. Heyward is a gold glove right fielder. It is a must to have an above average defensive outfielder in right field in Fenway.
The Red Sox are also lacking any thump from the left-handed side of the plate of the lineup. They have David Ortiz and … David Ortiz… and, well, nobody else. Heyward has struggled to live up to the lofty expectations placed upon him when he came into the league. He didn’t help lower those expectation by homering in his first major league at-bat. He did hit 27 homers in 2012 and looked well on his way on the path to the Hall of Fame, which most scouts viewed as a certainty.
In August of 2013, however, Heyward’s career derailed when he broke his jaw when he was hit in the face by a pitch. Note to the Miami Marlins: you may be wise to learn something from the incident. Heyward has never been the same since the scary accident. The Marlins on Monday signed Giancarlo Stanton to a 13-year, $325 million contract. Stanton hasn’t stepped on the field since being hit in the face by a pitch in September.
Heyward’s average has slowly rebounded, but the power has been absent. He only hit 11 homers in 573 at-bats in 2014. He continues to get on base at a high clip, maintaining his trademark plate discipline. Don’t forget the Red Sox love players who take pitches and get on base, even if they strike out or don’t, necessarily, hit for a high average (see Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes).
So, yes, the Red Sox should have been interested in Jason Heyward. If they weren’t, then Cherington was napping in the batter’s box.
The Cardinals gave up young pitcher Shelby Miller to obtain Heyward. As if that weren’t enough, the Braves included hard throwing Jordan Walden in the deal. Walden has struck out 254 hitters in 211.2 innings in his career. The Cardinals were the huge winners in the deal, especially if they can lock up Heyward long term.
There were many disappointing aspects to the Red Sox 2014 season, but at the top of the list has to be the diminished value of many of their top prospects. Coming into the season, the Red Sox were considered to have a deep farm system, particularly well-stocked in the pitching department. But Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Anthony Ranaudo, and Brandon Workman all saw their stock tumble in their first real exposure to the majors. Maybe fans should be more skeptical of the next wave of pitching prospects: Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, Brian Johnson, Matt Barnes, and Edwin Escobar. Or maybe the Red Sox should deal some of those arms while their stock may still be high.
The Heyward deal could be an indication that maybe the league doesn’t value the Red Sox prospects as highly as they do. While none of those previously mentioned names are major league ready now, some should be considered real close by now. No chance the Braves would want to take a flyer on Clay Buchholz, eh? Buchholz has had better stretches of dominance than Shelby Miller. Could the Red Sox have pulled off a deal with Clay Buchholz plus “fill in the blank” for Heyward? The Red Sox should have at least taken a swing at the chance.
Cherington had better be ready for the next pitch.