St. Louis Cardinals: A blockbuster trade squandered

PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 29: Jedd Gyorko
PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 29: Jedd Gyorko /

The St. Louis Cardinals missed their opportunity to sell high on Jedd Gyorko.

The St. Louis Cardinals had an unexpected first-half MVP in slugging utility infielder Jedd Gyorko.  Yes, the guy who looks like he belongs in the competitive eating arena, or at your local beer league softball game, was the best all-around position player in the first half.  Jedd raked in the first half, posting a .300/.364/.519 slash line with an .882 OPS, career highs.

In addition to his lofty offensive numbers in the first half, Jedd is sixth in all of baseball in defensive runs saved.  Jedd’s sure-handedness at the hot-corner was a lone bright spot for an underachieving infield defense in the first half.

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Moreover, you are unlikely to find a more team-friendly deal than Gyorko’s deal with the St. Louis Cardinals.  Gyorko inked a five-year, $31 million deal with the Padres, including a $13 million team option for 2020. Jedd will be just 31 years old in 2020.  What’s even better, the Padres paid all of Jedd’s salary last year, and are paying $3.5 million of the $6 million due this year.

This affordable, controlled asset should have been marketed by the team that has infield and outfield depth, to garner longer-term controllable assets.  Instead, John Mozeliak and company decided to squander this sell-high opportunity when several market contenders were screaming for third base help.  I’m looking at you, Boston and New York.

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The St. Louis Cardinals Did Not Learn from Minnesota’s Mistake.

Instead, the St. Louis Cardinals decided to hold onto Gyorko. They are following the precedent of the Minnesota Twins and their missed opportunity to sell high on a similar player – Brian Dozier.

Brian Dozier had a career year last year slashing .268/.340/.546 with an .886 OPS – all career highs.

If those numbers look familiar, that’s because they are very similar to Gyorko’s first-half slash line this year.

The Twins at least attempted to sell high on Dozier, at one point nearly landing top pitching prospect Jose De Leon from the Dodgers.  Instead, the two teams could not make a deal, and the Twins opted to keep Dozier.

Dozier regressed to career norms with a .247/.333/.438 slash with much less slugging than last year.  Granted, the Twins are in a playoff race, but Dozier may never again reach the peak he obtained last season.

The Regression of Jedd Gyorko and Loss of Trade Value.

The same is true of Jedd Gyorko.  Gyorko is already regressing from his stellar first half.  His high performance and team-friendly contract through 2020 would have made him a perfect fit for the Red Sox or Yankees.  Would he net a package centered around top prospect Rafael Devers?  Could he bring back Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier or any of the other top Yankee prospects?

Given his recent decline and the unsustainable tear he was on in the first half, the St. Louis Cardinals likely missed the opportunity to strike while the iron was hot.  Gyorko may bounce back and have some trade value much like Brian Dozier is still a useful major league player.  That said, the time was ripe for a deal and the market lacked appealing third base options.  Gyorko should have been sold, and the Cardinals failed to make a deal.

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While fans are left to ponder what moves the St. Louis Cardinals will make at the impending trade deadline, no move will net them as much as selling high on Jedd Gyorko.  Unfortunately, they are too late to the party.  The Red Sox just traded for Eduardo Nunez, and the Yankees have Todd Frazier, and are poised to deal for Yonder Alonso.  Fans are now left to wonder what could have been, and will inevitably be underwhelmed by any deadline deals made by the Cardinals.