If you’re reading this, it means Monday’s 3:00 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone without the Cardinals making a move. John Mozeliak and Michael Girsch decided 4 1/2 games out with two months of baseball remaining wasn’t worth selling, and they were unable to bolster a middle-of-the-lineup that consisted of Harrison Bader and Paul DeJong on Sunday.
In my estimation, Cardinals fans are evenly split over the buy or sell debate. Fans implored the Cardinals to do something. Tired of the status quo, they grew weary of a team that has played bad fundamental baseball for a season and a half. They long for a bat in the middle of the order – the sun in the lineup’s proverbial solar system – around which the rest of the lineup orbits.
It looked like Giancarlo Stanton might be that guy. After all, with $300+ million on the books it wouldn’t have taken the prospect haul required for Christian Yelich. Sure, Stanton is expensive, but money is not something the organization lacks. A $1 billion TV deal is on the horizon. The club raked in $300 million in revenue last year according to Forbes. Stanton could be had if management could stomach the cost.
As it turned out, Miami – new ownership and all – wasn’t as willing to part ways with Yelich as previously believed. It was reported that the Marlins believed Stanton would decline a trade to St. Louis out of a reluctance to live in the midwest.
If not a bat, then a reliever. Surely Mo would move to augment a bullpen that has squandered many hard earned leads. In my view, however, the bullpen is not the most pressing need. Rosenthal can be better. Oh can be better. Cecil can be better. The bullpen is a blip on the radar. The offensive issues will linger into the foreseeable future if not addressed.
Lance Lynn and Trevor Rosenthal, two of the Cardinals’ most valuable trade chips, have surged the last two weeks. Lynn’s 1.47 ERA in July speaks for itself, and he’s exceeded my expectations in his first season removed from Tommy John. Rosenthal has given the bullpen a foothold by controlling the ninth inning this week. His six out save on Friday – with the tying a go ahead runs in scoring position – and perfect ninth on Sunday were two of the most clutch performances this season.
At 4 1/2 games out, do you really want to part with those pieces?
So Mozeliak held. And I think it might be okay.
1. The playoffs remain in reach.
The Cardinals have also been one of the unluckiest teams in baseball. Their contact quality in the first half indicated their record should have been 51-37. Even if that’s not an exact formula, they’ve been the unluckiest team in the NL. Rosenthal appears to have the ninth inning under control (for now), so progression to the mean might actually be a possibility.
Stephen Piscotty and Dexter Fowler are also about to return from the DL. Sure, they’ve been disappointing, but they’ve both had trying seasons. Fowler has had to adjust to a new city, new team, and new spot in the order. Along with Piscotty, he’s had his share of injuries. Piscotty, on the other hand, has a had a tough year. His mother was diagnosed with ALS and he’s had a series of injuries. If he can supplement his on-base skills with some power, he will help the offense.
According to Fangraphs, the Cardinals still have a 21.6% chance to make the playoffs. That’s higher than the Brewers, who have spun their wheels to start the second half. While the Cubs are surging, the Cardinals completed a 5-2 homestand against two teams ahead of them in the Wild Card race. Tommy Pham said the Chicago series has motivated them, and the subsequent homestand shows he might be correct.
2. The Cardinals farm system is strong.
They are only ranked 12th in Baseball America’s organizational talent rankings, but I think they’re better than that. Alex Reyes remains among, if not the, best pitching prospect in the game today. He is a potential ace with a 102 mile per hour fastball that would pair awfully nice with Carlos Martinez in the wars to come in the NL central.
Luke Weaver, Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, and Zac Gallen have earned promotions after dominating at the start of the season. Sandy Alcantara has struggled in his first run through Double-A but still possesses an Alex Reyes-like fastball and is highly thought of.
They are equally deep in the outfield, and a trade from that depth remains a possibility this offseason. Magneuris Sierra made the jump from High-A to the big leagues and held his own. Oscar Mercado resurfaced from the prospect abyss to become a plus outfielder who is leading the Texas League in stolen bases. Randy Arozarena might have a better hit tool than both of them, with above average speed and defense to boot. They acquired Tyler O’Neill from Seattle, and he might be the only hitter in the organization that has the potential to hit third. He has plus power, and unlike Randal Grichuk, takes his walks.
Delvin Perez, still just 18 years old, is honing his craft at Johnson City under the tutelage of Jose Oquendo and others. He has the talent the Cardinals have been unable to access in the draft and imaginations can run wild with a skill set like his.
Some would argue the club should trade from this depth. I think that argument has merit. But I see it another way, and maybe Mo does too.
The Cardinals have continued to develop the homegrown pitchers that have eluded the Cubs. While none of their hitters are sure things like Kris Bryant seemed to be, several could be. Tyler O’Neill has the power to win an MVP if he can continue to improve his plate discipline. Delvin Perez might be the next Francisco Lindor. If a lineup nucleus wasn’t available – and it doesn’t seem it was – why make a foolish trade? Has this team even shown they are worthy of a significant midseason addition?
If they don’t acquire a centerpiece this offseason, one MUST be found after 2018. Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and many other potential MVP’s will be available. They’ll have their pick of a dozen or more teams. Recent history has shown a reluctance among players to commit to St. Louis long term, whether it’s Jason Heyward or (reportedly) Giancarlo Stanton. That’s a risk ownership is taking.
Nevertheless, the trade deadline has come and gone, and the Cardinals are the same. What they will become remains a mystery.
Thanks for reading.