Welcome to the last ten days of July, St. Louis Cardinals fans. A time where MLB teams wheel and deal, setting themselves up for a long playoff run-or an endless future of success. Sometimes, it can be both, but it's rare. The Chicago Cubs saw a need and dealt from their deep stock of minor league talent on July 13 to acquire Chicago White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana. And then the Sox dealt Todd Frazier to the Yankees for more young talent.
It's time for John Mozeliak to recognize the moveable talent he has in house, and find a team to work with. And I'm not talking about Matt Carpenter, who has become the whipping boy for Cardinal Nation this week. While he isn't the great Cardinal fans want him to be, Carpenter still provides too much value to be dealt. Tommy Pham is having a great season, but will teams take bets on his fragile health. Jedd Gyorko has a big bat, versatile glove, manageable contract, but all of those make him too valuable to deal away. Michael Wacha is having a great month, but teams know too much about his scapula injury.
After all, it's a pitcher needy market at the moment, and that leaves two Cardinals front and center to trade: starting pitcher Lance Lynn and all purpose reliever Trevor Rosenthal. I don't expect both of these guys to be Cardinals on August 1.
The timing couldn't be more perfect for a deal. Lynn came into today's start having not allowed an earned run since July 4 against the Miami Marlins. He had shut down the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates for 13.1 innings, and has won three of his last four starts. The worry over his innings and effectiveness post-Tommy John Surgery have subsided into a newfound bliss over the arrival of the old Lance.
The velocity may not be be as high as it once was (via Brooks Baseball, mph down to 92 from 94), but the adjustment has forced Lynn to become an even better all around pitcher. In an ordinary season, Lance Lynn throws his four seam fastball 58-62 percent of the time; in 2017, he's only thrown it 48 percent of the time max. The cutter and sinker have gotten more usage this season, with Lynn mixing and matching.
The bread and butter of Lynn is his ability to get batters out without the help of his defense, and that's still a strength in 2017, even with the enhanced home run allowed total. At the tail end of a three year/21 million dollar contract, Lynn is an attractive 30 year old starter with miles left on his limb.
A team like the Boston Red Sox could acquire Lynn to fortify the backend of their rotation, or the Arizona Diamondbacks could snag him to hold ground with the cast iron strength of the Los Angeles Dodgers rotation. Lynn has value, and the reasoning for dealing him has not changed since last month: he has an expiring contract, the Cards are not in real contention for a title, and there is a need for starting pitchers on the cheap now.
Rosenthal is an asset with real versatility, though, and the Cardinals need to finally pull the trigger before the Lee's Summit native starts to roll downhill, or have his arm take extended damage in a Mike Matheny bullpen usage program. He has always wanted to be a starter, or at least have the shot, so what if a contending team gave him the opportunity while utilizing his late inning abiities.
Trevor Rosenthal can set up, close like an All Star, and has the pitching arsenal to start in plenty of MLB rotations, but the Cardinals won't pull the trigger on the last part due to current need and a young staple that includes Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty.
Rosenthal is getting ruthless with hitters this season, posting a career best 2.14 FIP (fielding independent pitching) mark. In 36.1 innings, he's struck out 58 batters, which accounts for a 14.4 strikeouts per nine innings rate. In case you missed it, that rate is insanity for a late inning arm. Rosenthal is like Rick Vaughn without the prison history or Major League 2 problems. As Crash Davis would say, the baseball gods blessed his arm with a thunderbolt-and the Cardinals must take advantage.
It's not like the Cardinals are a terrible team in 2017; they just aren't going to win anything substantial in October but a trip to their most favorable vacation spot. They dropped to fourth place Wednesday night in New York with the Mets having way too easy of a time bashing Mike Leake and holding the Cardinals bats in check. If not for a whimsical Wacha performance Tuesday, this series might look a lot different today. This weekend, the hot Chicago Cubs await the Birds-and the forecast calls for carnage.
Trading Lynn and Rosenthal sets the Birds up for a great return in prospects to rebuild their farm system for the next 5-10 years, and you can't pass that opportunity up for an extra few months of nostalgia or glimmer of playoff hope. The Cards aren't going to give either pitcher a long term deal, so why mess around and hold onto them, only to watch them walk away with a only a low draft pick coming back?
It won't be easy watching them walk, especially Lynn. While Carlos Martinez is a wizard, I prefer watching old school cowboys sling the baseball on a pitching mound. Guys like Lance, who handles the media with a witty banter that I wish others would acquire. I'll miss watching Lynn climb the mound with a perfectly trimmed beard, his jawline glistening in the sunlight while firing oppressive heat at hitters. Lynn is the pitching equivalent of Matt Holliday, constantly walking the under-appreciated line in St. Louis.
The 2017 Cardinals didn't respond well enough to John Mozeliak's June charge after the coaching re-shuffle. They are a continuous 5-5 in their last ten games team at best, and that means change is in order. Trading away valuable assets (Randal Grichuk's value is only larger than Aledmys Diaz's at the moment) is the smart play. I don't expect the Cardinals to uncork a full scale sell, but they have to be practical in a difficult time.
By August, Lance Lynn and/or Trevor Rosenthal should be wearing other uniforms. While that's unfortunate, it's the business side of sports biting hard again.