ST. LOUIS - What would a Cardinals yard sale look like this July? Who saw this coming in February? Either answer is hard to swallow as the trade deadline's teaser trailer starts to play in team clubhouses this week.
2017 has already been a season of change for the St. Louis Cardinals. General Manager John Mozeliak has traded Matt Adams and designated veterans Jonathan Broxton and Jhonny Peralta for assignment. Randal Grichuk has spent weeks in the minors, and Paul DeJong is working on his second pot of coffee with the team. For a team that tripped out of the gate and stubbed their toe since, you have to ask yourself a simple question: who else is going to be sent out this summer?
Let's be honest, folks. Fixing this Cardinals team isn't going to be easy or pretty. The team hasn't been sellers in over a decade. Even when they lost and didn't make the playoffs, it looked like an aberration more than anything substantial. But the writing is becoming more clear with every series lost-and the Baltimore Orioles destruction marked the seventh series loss in the past month of action.
Over a week ago, I wrote that the Cards could be headed for a 75 win season, and 48 hours later, I wrote that despite their doom and gloom status, the Birds could STILL contend for the National League Central division title. But is it worth the struggle and delay? Do the Cardinals want to win a bad division this year or contend for a World Series in five years or less?
So, who should Mozeliak look to trade? Let's go over the list of most likely former Cardinals with the odds they depart:
Lance Lynn (3-1 odds)
The durable inning eating pitcher who once won 18 games and posts a career earned run average of just over 3.00 got roughed up for seven runs in Baltimore Sunday, but has put together a stout first half of pitching. In returning from Tommy John Surgery with a bang instead of a complete bust, Lynn is preparing himself for a monstrous payday this winter. Unless the Cardinals know they can re-sign him-and let's be honest, their recent history there is rather rough-they need to look to trade him. He is only 30 years old, and can command a hefty return. If Mike Leake can get 80+ million, Lynn will get 100 million. The Cards have too many needs on their roster right now to spend that much. Lynn should net a healthy bat or a fine group of prospects.
Jedd Gyorko (4-1)
The utility guy turned cleanup selection for a deflated Cards team is having a career season, and could command attention from teams needing a power boost and some versatility in the field. Gyorko is a cheap bat who can pop 25 home runs and provide steady defense. While his 2017 has returned closer to normal, Gyorko is still on pace for 21 home runs and a .291 average. This is as good as he is going to get, and his value won't ripen in another season or two. When a stock is high, you trade it for something younger and more valuable.
Randal Grichuk (4-1)
Let's face it; the outfielder's time in St. Louis is numbered. You don't get sent to Palm Beach without a message ringing loudly and clearly in your head. Grichuk had every opportunity to make left field his own, and instead he made Cards fans pine for the services of designated hitter, Matt Holliday. Instead of running away with the job, the Cards put Matt Adams in left field. Instead of locking it in, Grichuk allowed Magneuris Sierra and Tommy Pham to take flight. The Texas native is who we thought he was: a decent power hitter with a huge hole in his swing. Opposing teams know what he is, and may still pay a prospect or two for it. Power plays in a lot of ballparks, so I wouldn't be surprised to see the Cards cash in.
Tommy Pham (4-1)
The 29 year old outfielder is having his best year at the plate, posting a slash line of .277/.373/.466 and most importantly, staying out of the medical room for the most part. Pham has been undermined by his body for the majority of his career, so here he is, competing and doing well in mid-June. He isn't a part of the team's future, especially with fellow journeyman Jose Martinez waiting in the rings, so getting something for his robust 2017 would be wise for Mozeliak. I don't see Pham finishing the season in St. Louis. However, checking on him right now may be wise to make sure he didn't pull a muscle at breakfast.
Trevor Rosenthal (5-1 odds)
How much longer do the Cardinals wait before they either pay Rosenthal his money or trade him away? The 27 year old former closer has nine holds on the season, four strikeouts for every walk, and an impressive WHIP just over 1.00. All that adds up to trade now for an asset that won't look this good if you wait. Rosenthal is your best reliever and arm, but he's not the closer, so collect prospects for his services while you can. As much as all of Cardinal Nation would like to see a return for Seung Hwan-Oh, he is an older arm having a back to earth campaign himself. Rosenthal has the higher demand, and if the Cards don't want to pay him big dollars, trading him may be the ticket.
Kolten Wong (8-1 odds)
The second baseman is having his best season in quite some time, but even with the resurgence, teams may be scared off by a forearm strain and elbow injury. Both of Wong's limbs are problematic, and trading him now wouldn't claim the juiciest return. It'd be like trading away a computer with a faulty USB port. Wong is getting on base and hitting for average, and becoming the player that the Cards asked for two years ago. A team friendly contract allows the Cards to see if Wong returns to play at least 100 games this summer, and raise his value for a potential offseason move or permanent spot in the 2018 lineup.
Aledmys Diaz (12-1)
Diaz's .700 OPS is a sharp decline from where he was last year, slugging everything and getting on base at a furious clip. With his future not projecting as a shortstop and his contract not breaking the bank, Diaz would seem to be a likely trade candidate. However, the low cost and still possible high reward makes the Cuban export a valuable commodity. Unless DeJong is ready to step in, there are no shortstops in the current system ready to do what Diaz can do. His speed still plays, and his defense isn't as bad as 2016. He'd be a component in a deal and wouldn't net a high return due to his ONE great season, so he stays.
Matt Carpenter (15-1)
As much value as Carpenter could swing on the open market, I still think he is highly valuable to a Cardinals team in transition. He has corrected his 2017 season, and if you take him out of this lineup, how bad does it look without him in it? What does next year look like? Do the Cardinals have a Carpenter waiting in the wings to produce like him? He isn't the stud the fans want him to be, but Carpenter's services still come on the cheap, and shouldn't be quick to move.
Adam Wainwright (20-1)
Looks like a good idea on paper. The 36 year old pitcher is having an even worse season than 2016, if that was possible. The ERA and WHIP are higher, and the opponent batting average is .306. Wainwright enjoyed a brief return to greatness last month that has since evaporated with two abominations in Cincinnati and Baltimore. Wainwright's game score of -10 Saturday is the worst of his career, and makes you question rather the Cardinals have give him a rotation spot in 2018. However, don't expect him to be moved this summer. The value he would net the Cardinals reaches far below what he means mentally to this team as a clubhouse leader of men. Other teams won't soak up that remaining 30 million or so of his contract, so keeping him is the likely option.
Stephen Piscotty (50-1)
While the Stanford graduate is having a down year offensively at the moment, he is still getting on base and represents a part of the future to the Cards. Will he be playing first base in a few years? Possibly, but Piscotty's value to the Birds is still higher than a return. I simply don't see them pulling the trigger on a player they just signed to a six year deal. His two home runs on Sunday will hopefully lead to a more slug happy summer, and I still think Piscotty will grow into one of the leaders on this team.
Yadier Molina (150-1)
Just stop it. Forget about it. Not. Happening. If the Cardinals traded Molina, riots would break out in downtown St. Louis. Chaos. Madness. Basically a Saturday night at Chucky Cheese.
There are others that could be candidates, but that's the main list of suspects. No, the Cards can not trade Brett Cecil or Mike Leake. Their contracts pin them to St. Louis, and Kevin Siegrist wouldn't net much on the open market right now. The players listed above are the ones the Cards could part with, and still be in a spot to compete next season. Young guys like Harrison Bader, Carson Kelly, Luke Voit, Patrick Wisdom, Austin Gomber, Jack Flaherty, Oscar Mercado, Dakota Hudson, and others are rising up through the ranks. Alex Reyes is going to return next year, and Luke Weaver may start for the Cardinals very soon.
The Cardinals need to decide if they want to win a bad division this year or get in line to compete for a World Series in a few years. If they can't sign Lynn this winter, trade him. If you aren't going to sign Rosenthal, trade him. Get something before an elbow pops or a performance goes downhill. The Cards are 31-37 and 5.5 games out of first place, and the clock is starting to tick.
When Mozeliak shook the tree and reshuffled the coaching staff, he sent a message to the team and front office to get right or reassemble. That was on June 9-and the team has gone 5-5 since, including losing three of four to the division leading Brewers and a series to a slumping Orioles team. Message received-and then deleted.
The Cardinals aren't in need of a John Lackey deal type wakeup call; they are in need of a rug pull from underneath their comfortable feet.
Whether it's easy to watch or not, John Mozeliak has some tough choices to make next month.
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