Let's face it. It sucks to read tweets like these from Jonah Keri :
@jonahkeri Shelby Miller leads MLB in ERA (1.36). He's team-controlled through 2018. Jason Heyward is hitting .250/.310/.382. Free agent at year's end.
@jonahkeri That's 2 #Maddux es in the last 3 starts for Shelby Miller. Not bad.
Rational or not, the anger just builds every time you see Heyward swing at a pitch in the dirt, when Heyward doesn't score from 2nd on a double in a game that goes into extras, or when you think how Miller's CGs could be saving our tired bullpen. What were the Cardinals thinking?!? The Cardinals I know win ALL of their trades, let players explore free agency at just the right time, and sign only the best free agents. This can't be right.
So then you have to start justifying the trade to yourself. Let's start with a few justifications that DON'T work for me.
1. But Heyward is so good on defense and such a good base runner -
It is a joy to watch Heyward's arm and to see the big guy glide around the bases. If those are packaged with an awesome bat, he's the cornerstone player the Cardinals hoped they were trading for. Without a plus bat, he's another Peter Bourjos. PB is a joy to watch, too, and he can also have frustrating at bats. Please tell me we didn't trade Miller and Jenkins for another Bourjos.
2. We'll sign him to a long term contract -
For this deal to be a win, Heyward had to be so much more valuable in 2015 that we wouldn't mind giving up the extra years of Miller. While the season isn't over yet, he's going to have to have a monster year from here on, just to match Miller's 2015 value. If Heyward's tenure in St. Louis is more than one year, then the trade seems more palatable. Maybe he's more inclined to stay in St. Louis because of the trade, but either he stinks the rest of the year, in which case do we really want him long term, or he's great the rest of the year, in which case he's really expensive.
So what does that leave? How can you justify what is looking like a terrible deal? Well, here's what I tell myself to keep myself from screaming.
1. Trust the process
If we weren't willing to give up on our own homegrown players, we also wouldn't have traded Craig and Kelly for Lackey. It seems to me like the same thought process went into both deals.
Could Craig have turned it around and become an All-Star again? Sure. Instead, he was just cut from the 40 man roster and made available to anyone in baseball and there are no takers for his contract.
The game commentators said that Kelly has the fastest average fastball of any starter this year. He's striking a bunch of people, too. It's possible we'll regret this, but I doubt it.
Imagine you could undo the Heyward / Miller trade but that also meant you had to undo the Lackey trade. So while Miller fills one gap in our rotation, the lack of Lackey creates another.
Now, these trades aren't exactly equivalent. Heyward was more of a gamble on potential than Lackey was, and neither Craig nor Kelly had Miller's pedigree. But shh! I'm trying to sleep better.
2. Think of it as Walden for Miller and Heyward for Jenkins
Remember when Jaime had a chance of making the rotation out of spring training? If he had, it's not impossible to imagine Miller as just a bullpen piece at the beginning of the year. OK, maybe that's a stretch, but still, the step down from Miller to Walden was thought to be very small.
Walden was fantastic before his injury. If Walden and Wainwright don't get injured, then even with Miller leading the world, this doesn't look nearly so bad for us. Injuries happen. They suck. But blame the GOB, luck, or whatever.
And if you think about it as Heyward for Jenkins, it's a lot easier to be patient with Heyward because it's easy to ignore prospects in other teams' organizations.
3. Team vs. player
We still have the best team ERA in baseball. Even adding the best pitcher in baseball wouldn't change our ranking on that list. Even with the injuries, we still need a bat more than we need an arm. We don't have to win this trade to win this trade. Miller could be better than Heyward this year, but if Heyward turns things around at the right time down the stretch, it could all still be worth it.
4. Just try to blame Oscar Taveras. [Hint: You can't.]
If Oscar Taveras hadn't died tragically, then this whole sequence of events never happens. We never make this deal with the Braves. Oscar probably doesn't play any better than Heyward, but we also don't trade key organizational pieces. Maybe you can get mad at Oscar, but I can't. The anger immediately seeps out of me, and I am just filled with sadness.
The front office couldn't have been planning the Heyward trade all year because weeks before the deal, they thought they had their right fielder of the future. Perhaps their judgment was clouded by the emotion or by the sudden hole in their plans. Or perhaps their judgment was just fine, as there were so many reasons to like this deal at the time.
The fact is, you have to trade to win. It would be nice if they could all be like Drew for Wainwright or Edmonds for Freese, or even Rasmus for Scrabble. But they won't be.
Maybe all of this is a two month mirage that we'll all be laughing about in a couple of years. Or maybe this has Dan Haren written all over it. That was a terrible trade that had me thinking 'What if?' for years. Now Haren is a grizzled vet that has played with numerous teams, and the pain of that trade has faded. While the Cardinals certainly would have been better if they hadn't traded Haren, the Cardinals have done OK since that trade. I wouldn't trade anything for those two World Series titles.