This past offseason was a relatively busy one for our St. Louis Cardinals. While overall it seemed to drag throughout baseball, the Cardinals were one of the most active teams. Whether or not they acquired your preferred targets is completely separate debate, but no one can describe the winter as inactive for this team.
Reviewing free agent signings is fairly simple. There is one player’s performance and a monetary value. So far the Cardinals more bargain-type moves for Bud Norris and Miles Mikolas are looking really good, whereas the higher expenditures on Luke Gregerson and Greg Holland haven’t produced results early on. We can circle back to those moves later in the year.
Right now, let’s talk about the trades that were made and check in on how productive the players on both sides have been through one month of the 2018 season.
Trade #1 – Diaz to Toronto (12/1/17)
J.B. Woodman, OF: (A+) 16 Games, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 2 2B, .250/.339/.385
Blue Jays Get:
Aledmys Diaz, SS: (MLB) 25 Games, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 2 2B, .183/.230/.354, wRC+ 52
Quick Thoughts: The Cardinals made the decision that opening up an extra spot on the 40-man roster, and saving about $2M, was worth more than keeping Diaz for shortstop depth behind Paul DeJong. The team had demoted him for most of 2017, hoping he would make needed adjustments, now that the league had learned of his pull happy ways and pitched him accordingly. Those adjustments never happened and the team seemingly soured on him because of it. For Toronto, Diaz would become an experienced safety net behind the oft-injured Troy Tulowitzki, and sure enough has become the starting SS due do another DL stint for Tulo. His struggles this April aren’t far off from the .217/.234/.391 line he sported in St. Louis last April. I won’t post the images (you can view them here), but I can assure you that his spray charts again show the largest percentage of his batted balls being grounders to the left side. He has continued to be less than solid defensively as well. Same old Diaz.
Woodman is an organizational depth piece. He helps round out the rosters in the lower levels of the minor leagues and he was able to be acquired without taking up a precious spot on a tight 40-man roster. He has never shown any power at the plate, but as a left handed hitter, something the Cardinal don’t have a ton of, he was worth taking a flyer on.
Trade #2 – Piscotty to Oakland (12/14/17)
Yairo Munoz, SS: (MLB) 11 Games, 2/18, 11 K’s; (AAA) 11 Games, .250/.308/.333, wRC+ 70
Max Schrock, 2B: (AAA) 22 Games, 15 R, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 4 SB, 7.3 K%, .337/.385/.427, wRC+ 114
Stephen Piscotty, OF: (MLB) 27 Games, 11 R, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 7 2B, .278/.345/.381, wRC+ 103
Quick Thoughts: We know the backstory with this trade, and the non-baseball side of it was absolutely incredible. On the field, Piscotty has looked a lot more like the hitter we knew in 2015 and 2016, during his first month in Oakland. His struggles in RF have continued though, as Baseball-Reference has him at -11 defensive runs saved in the early going. Now, he was a +8 last season, but we saw some really rough moments, so it’s not surprising that the early metrics aren’t pretty. 1B could still be his ultimate destination. Good for Stephen though that he is off to a solid start at the dish, he’s a guy fans will always root for.
For the Cardinals, Munoz is likely more of a 2B/3B guy than a SS, though he could hold up there in short spurts. He seems to fit the Jhonny Peralta mold. He parlayed a strong spring into an opening day roster spot, but wasn’t able to do anything with it. He will likely settle in at Memphis and prove to be a valuable depth piece/ utility man over the next few years. Max Schrock is likely the better find in this trade. This guy has done nothing but hit in his minor league career and it’s continued at Memphis. He doesn’t have much power and isn’t a great glove man, but his contact skills are off the charts. As a left handed bat, he could find himself in a Greg Garcia type role eventually. Both he and Munoz helped fill in a middle infield situation that was a little void on offensive upside.
Trade #3: Ozuna from the Marlins (12/14/17)
Marcell Ozuna, LF: (MLB) 25 Games, 8 R, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 3 2B, .250/.268/.333, wRC+ 65
Sandy Alcantara, P: (AAA) 5 Starts, 26.0 IP, 3.81 ERA, 9.35 K/9, 5.54 BB/9
Magneuris Sierra, OF: (AAA) 21 Games, 13 R, 0 RBI, 4 SB, 26.7 K%, 4.4 BB%, .235/.270/.294, wRC+ 45
Zac Gallen, P: (AAA) 5 Starts, 29.0 IP, 3.10 ERA, 7.14 K/9, 2.54 BB/9
Daniel Castano, P: (A+) 4 Starts, 23.1 IP, 3.47 ERA, 4.63 K/9, 1.93 BB/9
For the Cardinals, I think it’s pretty clear that we have yet to see the best of Marcell Ozuna. There have been clear signs of pressing, namely a lack of patience when he bats with runners on. Eye test only, he appears to be trying too hard to get the big hit, and he is swinging at pitches he should be taking. Therein lies one cause for his 2.9% walk-rate. Coming into this season, he walked a hair above 7% of the time for his career. That isn’t elite but it’s solid enough. What he is doing right now can’t be sustained. He showed signs of a turnaround during the Mets series, and then (along with everyone else) took a step back in the Pirates series. Some of the underlying numbers point towards a possible breakout happening and I’m sure we’ll be happy with him soon enough.
For the Marlins, Alcantara has been solid at AAA as the oddly low K/9 from last year is trending up. However, the BB/9 is way too high as the raw talent seeks to put it all together. Sierra is going to have a hard time sticking at a high level with his bat. His speed and defense give him a Billy Hamilton profile, but he has yet to show the knack for steal that Hamilton has. For guy that is going to have to rely on contact/speed for hits, that 26.7% K-rate is ugly, but its also his first month at AAA and he just turned 22. Zac Gallen may be the first former-Cardinal to reach Miami. He has basically continued doing what he did all of last year, which is to just be incredibly solid. He needs to find a few more K’s, but he could settle into a solid 4th/5th starter role, which would actually help the Marlins quite a bit. Castano was the lottery ticket, and he has found overall success in High-A, but he is giving up a ton of contact. It remains to be seen what he will become.
Trade #4 – Grichuk to Toronto (1/19/18)
Dominic Leone, RP: (MLB) 13 Games, 11.2 IP, 3.86 ERA, 10.03 K/9, 1.54 BB/9, 92.6% LOB
Connor Greene, P: (AA) 4 Starts, 19.1 IP, 3.26 ERA, 7.91 K/9, 4.66 BB/9
Blue Jays Get:
Randal Grichuk, OF: (MLB) 25 Games, 6 R, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 2 2B, 31.2 K%, 9.1 BB%, .106/.208/.227, wRC+ 20
Quick Thoughts: For the Cardinals, Leone has been mostly good, but has left a few too many fat pitches up. His worst game against the Brewers turned a W into an L. Still, those things may be flukes as the rest of his numbers are in line with the fantastic season he had in 2017. He is also stranding runners at a ridiculous 92.6% rate so far. That will come down. Greene effectively replaced Alcantara, as he throws 100 MPH but isn’t quite getting the K’s desired and is still walking a few too many. Still, he has generally found success thus far in Springfield and is a very exciting arm.
For Toronto, same as it ever was for Grichuk. He may just be the new Adam LaRoche, a notorious slow starter, though this is significantly worse than what he did the last few Aprils. Still, I imagine his power will come alive in that ballpark soon enough and the overall season will look very Grichuk-y.
So far, the Cardinals have come out slightly ahead on the trades just because Grichuk and Diaz have struggled so much, but they really can’t be judged this early. Besides, I didn’t come here to pick winners an losers. Hope you all enjoyed checking in on some of our former guys.
Thanks for reading!