The season continues to roll on and the St. Louis Cardinals struggles are not going away. What to do, with the deadline steadily creeping closer, is a question that does not have a simple answer.
The St. Louis Cardinals are a few weeks away from the midpoint of the season and things aren’t looking promising. As of today, the Cardinals are six games under .500 and five games back in the division. These are not insurmountable numbers by any means. Unfortunately, even after the changes to the makeup of the team, success seems as elusive as ever.
This leads the Cardinals and their management to an impasse. To buy or to sell, that is the question.
However, what if I told you the answer could be both? It has been previously discussed that this team has a few options that could net some prospects, if the team was to sell. I wrote about that option here. Moving a few players would allow the team to restock a top-heavy farm system.
Selling remains a viable option, but, as St. Louis Cardinals fans, we know they are not in the business of full-blown rebuilds. This team has too much history of winning to go down the “blow it up and start over” route. Acquiring an impact player at the deadline, while also moving a few valuable pieces, could set the team up for success as soon as next season.
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The impact bat that I am specifically referring to is Manny Machado.
The All-Star third basemen has the range for days, as Jedd Gyorko learned this past weekend. Machado is a free agent after the 2018 season.
The Baltimore Orioles do not look like they will truly be contenders this year, or even next, especially with the success of their AL East foes the Yankees and Red Sox. Their core roster, including their pitching, is aging.
If the Cardinals were to take advantage of the Orioles struggles, it could be extremely beneficially for this team’s future.
It is common knowledge that when Manny Machado hits the market, a number of teams will pursue him. If the Cardinals get Machado on the roster this season, and show him how great it is in St. Louis, they could have an upper hand in negotiations when the time comes.
The Cardinals ownership has been open about willing to spend to improve the team. If you take into account the TV deal they signed, there is no reason this team can’t sign Machado to a long-term deal, regardless of cost. Machado would instantly become the face of the franchise, and potentially the most marketable player this team has ever had.
Trading with the Orioles won’t be easy. Machado is a 24-year-old star and, regardless of his numbers this season, will command a solid return. This is where being buyers and sellers at the deadline would come in handy.
If the Cardinals were to deal the likes of Lance Lynn, Trevor Rosenthal, Seung-hwan Oh and potentially Jedd Gyorko, they could potentially replace the prospects lost in a deal for Machado, and then some.
Machado is in the middle of a prolonged slump at the plate, but his career numbers speak for themselves. In 2015 and 2016, Machado was top five in voting for AL MVP. In those seasons, he hit 35 and 37 home runs respectively, while posting an average of .286 in ’15 and .294 in ’16. Those numbers would slide perfectly into the gaping hole as the Cardinals three hitter.
Those numbers at the plate are something this team desperately needs, but they are not all Machado brings to the table.
Last off-season, John Mozeliak said the team was focusing on defense. There probably isn’t a better defensive option for the Cardinals than Machado. He is a human highlight reel at the hot corner. It’s the same position Cardinal fans watched Jhonny Peralta attempt to play the last two seasons.
The move would allow the lineup to fall into place better than it is now. A true three hitter is something this team desperately needs. Stephen Piscotty is not a three hitter; neither is Matt Carpenter; neither is Jedd Gyorko.
Fluidity in the lineup is something this team could absolutely use. You would hope there would be less pressure on guys like Molina and Piscotty. This allows them more comfort at the plate and more production.
This path might be the easiest to quick success for the Cardinals and management. In moving a guy like Lynn, you allow the future to arrive sooner in the form of Luke Weaver or Jack Flaherty. This gives the young guys more time to acclimate to the Majors, and potentially find themselves as mainstays in the rotation in 2018.
Moving guys like Oh or Rosenthal makes sense for one reason, their value. A solid reliever will demand a solid price. Contending teams know that if they want to win it all, they need a shutdown bullpen. These two pieces may bring the most in any return the Cardinals receive in a deal.
Cardinal fans are not used to losing. If things continue the same way, this team will miss the playoffs for the second straight year. If this team wants to avoid making it three, they need to seriously consider going this route. Adding a player like Manny Machado would bring something fans have not experienced in a while: excitement.