ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves dealt outfielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden to the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday for pitcher Shelby Miller and a minor leaguer.
The deal ends Heyward’s tenure with his hometown team and lands a young pitcher to bolster Atlanta’s rotation.
John Hart, the Braves’ new general manager, signaled the start of a major overhaul after the team slumped to its first losing season since 2008. He dealt a player who was due to make $7.8 million next season and then become eligible for free agency.
“It’s very difficult to trade Jason Heyward,” Hart said. “But the deal was made to help us not only in the short term but the long term.”
Heyward, 25, never lived up to expectations after a brilliant rookie season, when he homered in his first at-bat and was voted to the All-Star Game. This past season, he hit .271 with 11 homers, 58 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. He also won his second Golden Glove.
Miller went 10-9 with a 3.74 ERA for the Cardinals, after going 15-9 with a 3.06 ERA as a rookie in 2013. He is not eligible for arbitration until after next season, so the deal represents a significant payroll savings for the Braves.
Walden made $1.49 million this past season and could have earned a raise in arbitration. He was 0-2 with a 2.88 ERA and three saves as a setup man for closer Craig Kimbrel.
The Braves also acquired right-hander Tyrell Jenkins, who pitched for Class A Palm Beach this past season.
Miller joins a rotation that could look significantly different next season without free agents Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang, who combined for 26 wins. Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy are both coming off their second major elbow operations, so a longtime strength of the team looked extremely thin heading into 2015.
The NL Central champion Cardinals felt compelled to pursue Heyward after top prospect Oscar Taveras was killed in a car crash last month in the Dominican Republic. The team hopes to sign Heyward to a long-term extension but didn’t want to go into next season without adding to the offense.
“The reality is we have to move on,” General Manager John Mozeliak said.
Heyward said he was not surprised by the trade, especially since there were never any serious talks on a new deal with the Braves.
“This is a business,” he said. “I was definitely open to long term, but that conversation never took place.”
Also, the Cardinals hired former batting champion Bill Mueller, a St. Louis native, as assistant hitting coach.
SOURCE SAYS MARTIN IS TORONTO-BOUND: A person with knowledge of the deal said the Blue Jays and catcher Russell Martin agreed to a five-year, $82 million contract.
The Blue Jays are expected to finalize the deal Tuesday. A three-time All-Star, Martin hit .290 with 11 home runs and 67 RBIs last season, while also helping Pittsburgh to a second straight playoff berth.
The 31-year-old, who grew up in Montreal, turned down a $15.3 million qualifying offer from the Pirates. By signing Martin, Toronto forfeits its first-round pick (18th) in June’s draft. Pittsburgh will receive a compensatory pick between the first and second rounds.
DETROIT TAKES OPTION ON AVILA: Alex Avila’s $5.4 million option for 2015 was exercised by the Tigers.
Avila, who turns 28 in January, hit .218 with 11 home runs and 47 RBIs last season, although concussion problems have become a concern. Detroit would have owed him a $200,000 buyout if it had declined the option.