Let me start off by saying this: I’m tired of hearing about how the Cardinals have built a “win-now” team with an “all in” mentality. Just about every St. Louis trade deadline analysis article has dealt with something along those lines, and nothing could be further from the truth. Why? It’s simple. To be considered a win-now team, you actually have to win now. Since the July 31st trade deadline, the Cards are 8-7 and have lost 4.5 games on the first place Brewers in the NL Central. Just to put that in perspective, the Cubs and Mariners have won as many games during that time period. Yes that is a winning record, but to me a win-now team is one that is making a run to win the World Series.
Maybe John Mozeliak and Tony La Russa were trying to build a win-now team, but they certainly didn’t succeed. Maybe they do have an all in mentality, but it is severely misguided. After the jump, I’ll explain why St. Louis was not, contrary to common belief, one of the game’s biggest “winners” at the trade deadline.
For me, MLB’s trade deadline has always been one of the more interesting aspects of the season. Some years the deadline is remembered for who was traded, and some years it’s remembered for who wasn’t traded, but it never lacks excitement and anticipation. If you think about it, the deadline and the two weeks leading up to it is an extremely high risk/high reward time. Teams can either make or break a stretch run to the postseason while impacting their long-term future at the same time, so I’ve always felt that this is when the true intelligence of general managers is tested.
Before getting into any details, here’s a layout of all deadline transactions for St. Louis:
|Edwin Jackson||Colby Rasmus|
|Octavio Dotel||P.J. Walters|
|Marc Rzepczynski||Trever Miller|
|Corey Patterson||Brian Tallet|
|Rafael Furcal||Alex Castellanos|
With a total of six additions in about two weeks’ time, it’s easy to get caught up in the quantity of moves made by the Cardinals. After all, that’s about 25% of the team’s 25-man roster. They made more moves than any other team in baseball by far, but it’s not about how many players you get, it’s about what those players can do for your baseball team. I’ll take quality over quantity any day of the week because come playoff time, mixing and matching doesn’t usually work out. You need a handful of guys who you can count on to get the job done and perform at a high level consistently. Anyone who honestly thinks that the Cardinals’ newest acquisitions can be a part of that handful of guys is mistaken.
The first problem I have with these transactions is that St. Louis gave away several players who would have been under team control for the foreseeable future while getting in return only one guy (Rzepczynski) who is locked up through 2012. This will make the upcoming offseason, which was already sure to be complex as it is, that much more difficult to manage for John Mozeliak. Secondly, I just don’t see any of these guys putting the Cardinals over the top and taking them to the promise land. Sure, Mozeliak will go on and on about how they addressed needs by filling a gap in the rotation and inserting two late-inning contributors, but talk is cheap. Not one of the new Redbirds is what I like to call a difference-maker. Finally, I said it before and I’ll say it again, trading away a player with talent and potential like Colby Rasmus just wasn’t smart.
Look, in no way am I disputing that St. Louis had to make some changes at the deadline in order to win the World Series or even reach the postseason. However, I feel like the Cardinals were kind of stuck in the gap between an aggressive push and a conservative mindset. I have a hard time believing that Mozeliak and La Russa honestly considered this team to be World Series caliber at the start of August.
Look no further than the National League division leaders and contenders to understand my point. Philadelphia? They went out and got the best player on the market in Hunter Pence, which solves one of their few problems and makes them a lock for the NL pennant in my opinion. San Francisco? Last year’s champs acquired Carlos Beltran and Orlando Cabrera, boosting their offense and putting them right back in the hunt. Atlanta? The Braves added extreme speed to their lineup by bringing in Michael Bourn. Milwaukee? The Brewers made their big moves in the offseason by bringing in Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, but they also picked up a solid closer in Francisco Rodriguez. There’s a common theme here. All of these teams are in contention down the stretch and all added big-name guys to their respective rosters.
I’m not saying that the Cardinals’ new acquisitions are the reason for the team’s mediocre play of late, but I know for sure that they aren’t doing much to fix the problem. No matter how you look at it, St. Louis was outdone by a number of teams at the deadline this year, and it will likely come back to haunt them.