Braves and Cardinals swap Jason Heyward and Shelby Miller in blockbuster deal

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In a very interesting blockbuster swap the Braves have traded outfielder Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden to the Cardinals in exchange for starter Shelby Miller and starter prospect Tyrell Jenkins.

Heyward will be eligible for free agency next offseason, so St. Louis is giving up a combined decade of team control over the 24-year-old Miller and 22-year-old Jenkins for one season of Heyward and the possibility of draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere.

Heyward hasn’t quite lived up to the hype offensively after posting an .850 OPS as a 20-year-old rookie in 2010, batting .258 with a .762 OPS in four seasons since then. However, his defense grades out as truly elite in various advanced metrics and when combined with good but not great offense makes him one of the best all-around outfielders in baseball. In fact, during the past three seasons the only outfielders with more Wins Above Replacement than Heyward are Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gomez, and Alex Gordon.

And the Cardinals paid a big price to get him. Miller is a former elite prospect with a 3.33 ERA in 370 career innings through age 23, although his strikeout rate and control have been underwhelming. He certainly has top-of-the-rotation upside and is under team control through 2018. Jenkins was a first-round draft pick in 2010 and bounced back from season-ending shoulder surgery in 2013 to pitch well in 13 starts at high Single-A this season, although he struck out just 41 batters in 74 innings.

Walden, who goes to St. Louis along with Heyward, should step into a setup role for the Cardinals after posting a 3.10 ERA with 254 strikeouts in 212 career innings for the Braves and Angels. His inclusion in this deal will likely be mostly overlooked, but Walden has shutdown potential in the late innings and throws very hard.

Astros owner Crane expects to hire new manager by Feb. 3

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HOUSTON (AP) — Houston Astros owner Jim Crane expects to hire a new manager by Feb. 3.

The Astros need a new manager and general manager after AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were fired Monday, hours after both were suspended by Major League Baseball for a year for the team’s sign-stealing scandal.

Crane said Friday that he’s interviewed a number of candidates this week and has some more to talk to in the coming days.

Crane refused to answer directly when asked if former Astros player and Hall of Famer Craig Biggio was a possibility for the job. But he did say that he had spoken to Biggio, fellow Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell and former Astros star Lance Berkman in the days since the firings.

“We’ve talked to all of our Killer B’s,” Crane said referring to the nickname the three shared while playing for the Astros. “They’ve contacted me and they’ve all expressed that they would like to help. Berkman, Bagwell, Biggio have all called and said: ‘hey, if there’s anything I can do, I’m here for you.’”

“So we’ll continue to visit with those guys and see if there’s something there.”

Crane says his list is still rather extensive and that he hopes to have it narrowed down by the end of next week. He added that he expects most of Hinch’s staff to stay in place regardless of who is hired.

Crane has enlisted the help of three or four employees to help him with the interview process, including some in Houston’s baseball operations department.

“We compare notes,” he said. “I’ve learned a long time ago that you learn a lot if four or five people talk to a key candidate and you get a lot more information. So that’s what we’re doing.”

Crane’ top priority is finding a manager with spring training less than a month away, but he said he would start focusing on the search for a general manager after he hires a manager. He expects to hire a GM before the end of spring training.

“We should have another good season with the team pretty much intact … so I don’t know why a manager wouldn’t want to come in and manage these guys,” he said. “They’re set to win again.”

The penalties announced by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on Monday came after he found illicit use of electronics to steal signs in Houston’s run to the 2017 World Series championship and again in the 2018 season. The Astros were also fined $5 million, which is the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and must forfeit their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.

The investigation found that the Astros used the video feed from a center field camera to see and decode the opposing catcher’s signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal to batters what was coming, believing it would improve the batter’s odds of getting a hit.

With much still in flux, Crane was asked what qualities are most important to him in his next manager.

“Someone mature that can handle the group,” he said. “Someone that’s had a little bit of experience in some areas. We’ve just got to find a leader that can handle some pressure and there’s going to be a little bit of pressure from where this team has been in the last few months.”

Despite his comment about experience, Crane said having been a major league manager before is not mandatory to him.

“We made some mistakes,” he said. “We made a decision to let that get behind us. We think the future is bright. We’ll make the adjustments … people think we’re in crisis. I certainly don’t believe that.”