Like many other St. Louis Cardinals fans, I had my eyes glued to Twitter all day. I wanted to see if president of baseball operations John Mozeliak and GM Mike Girsch would make any last-minute moves before the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. By now, I’m sure you’re aware, they did not.
Many St. Louis Cardinals fans are angry, disappointed, perhaps even bitter, but few are surprised. Cardinals’ former GM and current president of baseball operations, John Mozeliak has developed something of a reputation for not making big moves at the trade deadline.
However, 2017 seemed like it might be a little bit different. Here’s a timeline of events:
June 9th, 2017: After finishing an 0-7 road trip, the St. Louis Cardinals are (27-32) and 4.5 games behind the first place Milwaukee Brewers. Then GM, John Mozeliak, holds a press conference to announce several changes.
Third base coach, Chris Maloney, is replaced by Mike Shildt. Ron “Pop” Warner and Mark Budaska are promoted to roles with the Major League club. Third baseman Jhonny Peralta is designated for assignment.
Mozeliak indicates he will re-evaluate the team in 4-6 weeks and that everyone’s jobs are on the line, including his.
June 28th, 2017: The St. Louis Cardinals option SS Aledmys Diaz to AAA Memphis.
June 30th, 2017: The St. Louis Cardinals promote GM John Mozeliak to president of baseball operations. They promote assistant GM Mike Girsch to GM. Mo calls the timing ideal because of the upcoming “busy July.”
July 14, 2017: Bill DeWitt Jr. says the St. Louis Cardinals are neither buyers nor sellers, but dealers.
July 21, 2017: Mozeliak suggests the St. Louis Cardinals need an attitude adjustment. He also says the Cardinals intend to be active in the trade market, with an eye towards improving the club in 2018 and beyond. Mozeliak claims the process will extend well beyond the trade deadline.
July 30, 2017: Lynn says “I told you all along, I’m not getting traded.”
July 30, 2017: Mozeliak tells KMOX, nothing is “imminent” due to trade “logjams.”
July 31, 2017: The non-waiver trade deadline passes.
The 2017 non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone and the St. Louis Cardinals only move was to trade Gonzales for O’Neill. The O’Neill trade generated generally positive comments from fans, including myself. The Cardinals turned an asset they didn’t seem to have a spot for on the major league roster into a prospect they could potentially flip to fill other needs.
However, I was hoping for more. With 57 games left to play in the 2017 season, the St. Louis Cardinals are (52-53). They currently sit in 3rd place in the National League Central, 4.5 games back of the first place Chicago Cubs and 2 games behind the second place Milwaukee Brewers.
Both the Cubs and Brewers made multiple moves affecting their big league rosters. The Cubs acquired SP Jose Quintana, C Alex Avila and reliever Justin Wilson. The Brewers picked up relievers Jeremy Jeffress and Anthony Swarzak.
Elsewhere around the league, contending teams like the Dodgers, Nationals, Astros and Yankees made moves to improve their 2017 chances. Teams, like the White Sox, stocked up on prospects to bolster their chances in 2018 and beyond.
Aside from that one move, the St. Louis Cardinals chose to do neither thing. Rumors had swirled that the club was listening on OFs Tommy Pham and Randal Grichuk, as well as free agent to be, Lance Lynn . It had even been suggested that the club might consider moving 3B Jedd Gyorko, who is in the midst of a career year.
For a time, the Cardinals were even linked to the potential trade of Miami Marlins star outfielders Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich. Other rumors had the Cardinals trading for Josh Donaldson or J.D. Martinez.
The St. Louis Cardinals failure to move an outfielder is going to create an interesting roster situation when Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty return from the DL. However, I don’t think moving an outfielder at the trade deadline was mission critical.
If a team made an attractive offer on Pham, who I believe may never have more trade value than he has now, or Grichuk, who no longer has a clear role on the team, I think the St. Louis Cardinals should have taken it.
The same goes for Gyorko. Sure, there’s a good chance he could regress to the mean and the Cardinals may have missed a chance to sell high on him. However, he still has multiple years of control and is a productive member of the starting lineup, so there was no immediate need to unload him.
More questionable is their choice not to trade Lance Lynn. There seemed to be more demand than supply for starting pitching at the deadline. Yu Darvish, Jose Quintana, and Sonny Gray all fetched nice returns for their respective teams.
With Lance Lynn’s impending free agency, and the Cardinals dubious chances to make a deep playoff run in 2017, it seemed like a no brainer to trade Lynn for a bundle of prospects or perhaps some bullpen arms.
If the St. Louis Cardinals fail to extend Lance Lynn or resign him as a free agent, they risk losing him for a sandwich pick after the 2nd round. It’s hard to believe nobody was willing to offer the Cardinals something more valuable than that in trade. I can only conclude that they opted to hang on to him.
The question is, why? The most obvious answer would seem to be that the front office still thinks they can make a playoff run in 2017. However, with obvious holes in the bullpen and middle of the order, it’s hard to understand why they would not seek to add pieces if that were the case.
That leaves two other possibilities. 1) The St. Louis Cardinals think they can flip Lynn at the waiver deadline when competition may be less and the playoff picture should be clearer. 2) The Cardinals think they can extend or re-sign Lynn.
Mozeliak has been known to make deals at the waiver deadline, particularly for relief pitching. It’s entirely possible that he is trying to hold off on making any deals until the club has a better idea whether they have a legitimate shot at the playoffs.
The problems I see with this approach are that a) I think it’s already pretty clear that this team doesn’t have a legitimate shot at a deep playoff run and b) if somehow the team manages to become legitimate contenders, there’s no guarantee other clubs won’t block any waiver moves the Cardinals try to make.
As for re-signing Lynn, I have a gut feeling this isn’t going to happen. I could be completely wrong, but I just don’t feel like Lance Lynn is that interested in coming back to St. Louis. Perhaps he was, early in the season, when he claimed he wanted to stay a Cardinal, but as the season has progressed, Lynn’s outlook on that happening seems to have soured.
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In the past, they have shown a penchant for wanting to try out young pitchers in the bullpen before thrusting them full-time into the starting rotation.
There is motivation to sign Lynn.
However, I could also see the club going another direction and either signing a short-term, lower cost veteran or packaging up some of this young talent to go after a legitimate top of the rotation pitcher.
I’m disappointed in the St. Louis Cardinals’ lack of action at the trade deadline. However, I am withholding final judgment until I see what they do at the waiver deadline and in the off-season.
If the St. Louis Cardinals win the 2017 World Series, manage to trade Lynn at the waiver deadline or resign him for 2018, then I’ll concede that they didn’t blow a golden opportunity by not trading him at the non-waiver deadline.
If Mo and Girsch manage to turn the St. Louis Cardinals’ surplus of pitching and outfield prospects into major league talent, resulting in a 2018 team that is more than just a fringe contender, then I’ll forgive them the boredom of their 2017 inertia.
If the St. Louis Cardinals fail to improve in 2018, the way they failed to improve in 2017, then as a wise man once said, I’ll be bitter.