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Commentary | What's with the trend of former Cardinals thriving elsewhere?

At this point, it feels like Cardinals fans are being punked or something. It seems you can't turn on the playoffs without a former Cardinal doing something big
Credit: AP
Tampa Bay Rays' Randy Arozarena rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the first inning in Game 2 of a baseball American League Division Series against the New York Yankees on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

ST. LOUIS — "So what's the deal with former Cardinals seemingly owning the rest of baseball once they leave the organization?" - Me doing my Jerry Seinfeld impersonation.

But really, what gives? At this point, it feels like Cardinals fans are being punked or something. It seems you can't turn on the playoffs without a former Cardinal doing something big.

And while like others on social media I get sucked down the revisionist history hole from time to time, I'm not a part of the torch and pitchfork crowd ready to send John Mozeliak and the front office out to sea.

Yeah, right now it's pretty depressing to see former prospects and players as key cogs for another team in the playoffs, but all of the instances need context.

Let's look at Randy Arozarena first. Through four games this postseason, Arozarena has nine hits. He has two doubles, a triple and two home runs and has pretty much led the way for the Tampa Bay Rays' offense in the playoffs.

Should he have seen more of a chance at the Major League level in St. Louis? Absolutely. Do I still believe that trade is eventually going to swing in the Cardinals' favor? I absolutely do. See, perspective.

The Cardinals sent Arozarena and Jose Martinez to the Rays this past offseason for left-handed pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore.

Now, it's unclear if the Cardinals could've included Harrison Bader, Tyler O'Neill or Lane Thomas in that trade instead of Arozarena, so it's hard not indulge in thinking about that after watching the St. Louis outfield this season.

But overall, if you have the chance to get a prospect like Liberatore, you get him. At the time of the trade there wasn't a DH in the National League in 2020 so Martinez was an odd man out. The Cardinals had a plethora of outfielders, and Arozarena apparently was the odd man out there.

By all accounts, Liberatore is going to be the real deal. Arozarena may be the talk of the town right now, but this is a trade that won't get a final grade for a few years to come.

All that being said, I'd probably adopt the general rule of avoiding trades with the Rays for a while. If they're interested in one of your players, you probably should go take another look and see if you missed something. Because they just about never miss.

Let's look at the Marlins now.

Yeah, watching Sandy Alcantara dominate the Cubs and start the first game of the NLDS against the Braves was a bit depressing. And watching Magneuris Sierra gets hits and fly all over the field in the postseason made you wonder about "what if", but that's another deal the Cardinals had to make.

That deal, of course, was for Marcell Ozuna, who we'll get to in a second.

The Cardinals sent a package that included Alcantara, Sierra and Zac Gallen, who is also blossoming into a nice piece for the Diamondbacks, to Miami for the big bat of Ozuna.

Even though I liked the promise of Alcantara and Sierra at the time, I loved this trade. Fans have been complaining about a lack of offense for the Cardinals for years. They finally went out and did something to try and correct it.

Ozuna wasn't quite the star St. Louis had hoped for, but he was a much better option than what had been getting put out there.

The Cardinals had enough young pitching to part with Alcantara, and plenty of outfielders they liked better than Sierra. Now I wouldn't call either of these guys "stars" or anything yet, but they're progressing. They certainly have the talent to go even higher, but if you look back with perspective, this was a deal that Mozeliak and the Cardinals had to make.

Now let's talk Ozuna, who led the entire National League in home runs and RBI in the regular season, and has made a postseason impact for Atlanta.

The guy should still be a Cardinal.

No, he wasn't ever quite this good in St. Louis for that long a stretch, but he was easily one of the team's best offensive producers when he was here.

He also wanted to come back after becoming a free agent this past offseason, and the Cardinals probably could've made it happen on a short-term deal for perhaps less money than a player like him would normally command.

Heck, he signed with the Braves on a one-year, $18 million deal. That was only $200,000 more than his qualifying offer from the Cardinals!

The Cardinals said they wanted to see what they had in their young outfielders, and as we saw, that didn't work out so great in this abbreviated year. They really just didn't want to pay Ozuna. And now we get to watch him reset his value in Atlanta and destroy pretty much every team he faces. 

Cool.

The last particular instance I'll look at here is Luke Voit. And this one stings more than the rest, because we've seen before why a hometown guy doing big things for the Cardinals just means more.

Before Voit was leading the American League in home runs for the most iconic franchise in sports, he was barely getting at-bats for his hometown Cardinals.

St. Louis needed reliever help, and Chasen Shreve looked like a good option in New York. He wasn't terrible at first, but never made that much of an impact. The Cardinals did get Giovanny Gallegos in the deal too, which makes it hurt just a little bit less.

But let's get some perspective here, too.

A few months after trading Voit, the Cardinals ended up getting Paul Goldschmidt to play first base for them. Pretty good. The National League didn't have the DH two years ago when Voit was traded, so he couldn't have played there.

I'm sure if you pressed the Cardinals front office they'd say they'd love to take this one back. Goldschmidt and Voit back-to-back would've made for a pretty fun combo this year. But at the time, you couldn't deny this made sense.

Good on Voit for turning himself into a budding star, but I'll give the Cardinals some benefit of the doubt here. I think Voit really just proved everyone wrong, even the Yankees, by turning himself into the AL home run champ. Kudos to the kid from Lafayette.

A long, effective Cardinals tenure from Gallegos could ease the pain of this trade, at least a bit.

Bottom line, it's easy to just complain that former Cardinals assets now seem to be unstoppable on other teams. But when you go back and look at each individual deal at the time, it's hard to make a broad statement about how the front office decision making has overall been flawed with recent trades.

Should they throw some more money around to free agents? Yes, they should. Could the talent evaluation, especially when it comes to outfielders, be a bit better at times? Of course.

It may stink that guys like Arozarena and Voit are the talk of baseball for other teams, but it's not as easy as just throwing the front office completely under the bus. The "fire Mo" crowd on Twitter needs to take a breath and find some perspective.

Oh yeah, Aledmys Diaz literally hit a two-run postseason home run while I wrote this article.

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