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It’s Too Early to Call the Shelby Miller Trade a Bad One

So, that Shelby Miller trade…was that a bad idea?

Many Cardinal fans likely had that question upon seeing highlights of Miller’s near no-hitter Sunday versus the Marlins. Given the season-ending injury to Adam Wainwright, it might seem nice to hit the re-set button on the deal that sent Miller to Atlanta and brought Jason Heyward to St. Louis.

Shelby Miller
Miller has a 1.33 ERA in 54 innings pitched for the Braves in 2015.

But to suggest that the Cards should be regretting the deal at this point would lack proper perspective. 

In my case, it’d also be hypocritical.

Miller has been one of the best starters in baseball, compiling a 1.33 ERA, a 0.83 WHIP and a 43/16 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 54 innings. Heyward, on the other hand, is batting just .244 with three home runs, 10 runs batted in, and has stolen only four bases. While Heyward has played well defensively and has provided aggressive base running, he also made a costly mistake on the base paths in Saturday’s extra innings loss to the Tigers, and his OBP is only .301.

That said, it’s early.

If Cy Young awards came out pre All-Star break, Ubaldo Jimenez would have won in 2010 instead of finishing behind Roy Halladay and Adam Wainwright.

If MVP Awards came out in the first two months of the season, Justin Upton would have taken home the honors in 2013 instead of Andrew McCutchen, who wound up hitting .317 with 21 home runs and 27 stolen bases for the Pirates. (Upton, meanwhile, hit 27 home runs but batted .263 with only eight stole bases while driving in 70 runs to McCutchen’s 84 RBIs.)

Maybe Miller will go on to win the Cy Young and Heyward will struggle to hit .250. Who knows?

The point is it’s too early to be taking stock of this trade.

Baseball is a 162-game grind and just because a player starts fast doesn’t mean he’ll finish strongly.

Even if the above scenario does play out, it’s unfair to criticize John Mozeliak for trying to make his team better at that moment. Mo did his best with the information available. Plus, I praised the deal at first, so I don’t want to be a hypocrite.

At the time of this trade, Mozeliak needed to fill a void in right field after the passing of Oscar Taveras. Some believed then that the Cardinals should have given a full-time opportunity to Randal Grichuk, but Mo decided to roll the dice on Heyward’s upside.

Although some felt Mozeliak panicked, it was hardly a rash decision on his part.

Here’s another factor to consider: Miller may have never realized his full potential in St. Louis. That might sound nuts given his 2013 campaign, and how he’s preformed in Atlanta, but who’s to say this trade didn’t spur Miller’s development? It’s convenient to say Miller would have succeeded in St. Louis just as he is now in Atlanta, but the fact is that we don’t know.

Perhaps his trade to the Braves was the tipping point in Miller’s career. Maybe he needed this. Had this deal never happened, maybe he would have continued to tease everyone with his potential before settling in as a middle-of-the-rotation starter.

Or maybe Mozeliak simply made a bad deal that cost him a front-of-the-rotation arm for at least the next four years. As hard a pill as it would be for Cardinals fans to swallow, the reality is that bad trades happen in sports. We all want “our” general manager to be perfect when it comes to acquisitions, but perfection isn’t achievable in that role.

Let’s also not forget that Mozeliak has won more trades than he’s lost. Matt Holliday, Colby Rasmus, Edward Mujica and John Lackey all come to mind as trades that’ve benefited the Cards in various ways. If the Miller/Heyward deal winds up only benefiting the Braves, Mozeliak will take some heat, but his track record will show a net gain overall.

For now, let’s be patient and see how the rest of the season unfolds. There’s plenty of baseball left, and while Miller is off to a fast start, it’s not unreasonable to think Heyward could catch fire and start balancing the scales of this trade.

Read More: 10 Trade Targets for the Cardinals’ Rotation