With the Cardinals Slipping Out of Contention, Can they Reload for 2018?
With the Cardinals losing seven straight games heading into Friday, they now sit six games under .500. The Cubs heating up and the Brewers continued success is making playoffs seem unlikely for the Cardinals in 2017. Many are pushing for the Redbirds to add a marquee bat, but it may already be too late.
The club has many pieces to help them win now, so a retool for 2018 seems better than a complete rebuild. The Cardinals can win big at the deadline and add many strong pieces for next year if done right. So here is a guide for how the St. Louis Cardinals can win the deadline and be an exciting team heading into next season.
Trade Impending Free Agents Lance Lynn and Seung Hwan Oh
Contenders looking to make a run for the playoffs always need quality starters and back-end relievers. Luckily, the Cardinals have the upper hand holding two of the most valuable rentals in that department. With both Lynn and Oh having strong seasons in their walk years, the Cardinals will have no problem finding suitors to pay a hefty price for half a year of their services.
Fortunately for the Cardinals, the market for a starting pitching rental is weak this year. Lynn may be the most valuable one on the market. Currently, Lynn has a 2.88 ERA, which is good for sixth in the National League. Lynn will upgrade any contender looking to add a strong arm in the middle of their rotation. The Astros, Yankees, Rockies, and Dodgers are all contenders who figure to be looking for help in the rotation. Lucky for the Cardinals, all four teams boast some of the best farm systems in baseball.
For Oh, virtually every team looking to make a push for the postseason will be keeping tabs on him since teams can never have enough relief pitching once the postseason rolls around. After a rough start, Oh has settled down with a 1.59 ERA over the past month. Even his wipeout slider is looking just as good as ever. Right now, David Robertson of the White Sox figures to be the best closer available. But Oh's cheap salary and continued success post-Korea could make him the top arm available.
A team to watch for Oh's services is the Washington Nationals. The Nats are looking like a juggernaut with the bullpen being their only weakness. With Bryce Harper appearing to be gone after next season, the push to win now could make the Nationals willing to overpay for Oh like they did for Adam Eaton in the offseason.
Sell High on Jedd Gyorko
So far in 2017, Jedd Gyorko has been the lone bright spot in the Cardinals weak lineup. Gyorko is currently hitting .314 with 8 homeruns and a 1.5 WAR. He could provide the most value of any third baseman on the market. Plus, he's signed through 2019 with the Padres paying his salary. So, teams with salary restrictions might overpay in prospects to acquire Gyorko.
The Cardinals need to make a bold move to bring in young talent ready to contribute in order to compete in 2018. Trading Jedd Gyorko in the middle of a career year will do just that. Gyorko is able to play all four infield positions well, so he appeals to any contender with a hole in their infield.
The Red Sox, however, are the first team to come to mind with Pablo Sandoval unable to produce at the hot corner in Boston. After paying a king's ransom for Chris Sale in the offseason, the Red Sox could be reluctant to part with more top prospects, but President of Baseball Operations, Dave Dombrowski, has shown a willingness in the past to part with high end prospects for current stars.
Could the Cardinals pry stud third base prospect Rafael Devers from the Sox for Gyorko? If Mozeliak can pull that off, he needs to jump on the opportunity to finally add an intriguing offensive prospect.
Look for Change of Scenery Candidates to Swap with Randal Grichuk
The struggling Cardinal left fielder is looking like a prime change of scenery option after his recent demotion to High A after struggling once again to open the season. With Tommy Pham and Magneuris Sierra looking like part of the future plan in St. Louis, Grichuk becomes the odd man out. Still presenting high end potential, Grichuk could present a solid buy low candidate for another rebuilding club or a contender in need of a fourth outfielder.
The Cardinals, however, should not be looking to sell low on Grichuk's power potential unless they get a player of similar circumstances in return. One potential player the Cardinals could be able to get in this buy-low scenario is the Twins' former top prospect, Byron Buxton.
Obviously the Cardinals would have to offer more than Grichuk for Buxton's elite athleticism and sky high potential, but if the Twins are running out of patience with the center fielder, they might be willing to part with him for a strong package centered around Grichuk. This would give the Cardinals a position player with the superstar potential they so desperately need, so look for Mozeliak to at least inquire on the young center fielder if made available.
Gauge Interest in Matt Carpenter
The Cardinals first baseman is underperforming this season, only hitting .210 on the year. But if he turns it around the interest in his high on-base ability could notch the Cardinals a huge prospect package. The Cards don't necessarily need to trade Carpenter. He would most certainly help them contend in 2018, but the return for him could be too good to pass up. At 31 years old, it could be possible Carp's best years are behind him. Why shouldn't the Cardinals get as much as they can while he's still producing?
It is definitely a stretch to expect the Cardinals to trade Carpenter. If the deal is too good to pass up then Mozeliak should pull the trigger. The New York Yankees may be willing to overpay for Carpenter for his remaining two-year contract. It is rumored that highly touted outfield prospect, Clint Frazier, could be the center of a package the Yankees offer to land a superstar.
The Yankees have a huge hole at first base and it's rumored they will be looking for an upgrade at the deadline. With Carpenter being a left handed hitter the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium could drastically elevate his power numbers. If the Yankees offer up Clint Frazier and other prospects for Matt Carpenter, the Cardinals should capitalize to put together an exciting group of young players in St. Louis looking to take back the NL Central from the Cubs and Brewers.
Photo Credit: Jeff Curry- USA TODAY Sports
*All Stats Courtesy of Fangraphs