With the St. Louis Cardinals finishing a trade to acquire Paul Goldschmidt, my hopes that the Cardinals would try and acquire reliever Archie Bradley as a perfect compliment to the Silver Slugger first baseman were dashed. Here’s why I think that while the trade was great, acquiring Bradley would have made it even better.
Paul Goldschmidt was just acquired by the St. Louis Cardinals, and most fans are rejoicing at the value of the deal. I personally believe that while it was a great deal, it could have been better with the addition of Archie Bradley.
The St. Louis Cardinals came into this offseason looking for two things in particular that have haunted them for years: a power bat and relief pitching. While Paul Goldschmidt would cover one of those bases, that second need remains.
I believe that with his combination of youth and talent, Bradley would have been one of the best candidates the Cardinals could go for to fill a reliever need.
While he was originally drafted as a starter with the seventh pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, Archie Bradley has proven to be one of the better young relievers in the league. While his numbers regressed somewhat in 2018 after putting up a stellar 1.73 ERA in 63 relief appearances in 2017, his 3.64 ERA in 2018 was still decent, and many signs point towards him continuing to grow.
The first and arguably the most important is his age and team control. He doesn’t hit free agency until the 2022 season, which would give the Cardinals an opportunity to gauge his fit on the team at a cheap price. Goldschmidt’s situation will be fluid as well, as all signs are pointing towards him not signing a long term extension to remain with the St. Louis Cardinals in the near future.
Bradley would be a young relief arm that is ready to pitch at a high level right now, giving the St. Louis Cardinals both important short term value and long term flexibility. This is exactly the kind of player the Cardinals are looking for, one that can contribute towards winning now while growing towards an even brighter future with guys like Jack Flaherty, Carlos Martinez, Jordan Hicks, and more (*cough* *cough* Bryce Harper *cough* *cough*).
From a baseball perspective, Bradley would have brought a low walk rate to the St. Louis Cardinals, which has trended down every season despite his ERA and WHIP rising in 2018. It was never astronomically high, but Bradley lower his BB% from 13.7% in his 2015 rookie season to 6.8% in 2018 is still impressive.
Walks were a huge factor in the problems the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen had last season, registering the second highest walk rate in the league among relief staffs at 10.87%. Adding Bradley to the mix would certainly help bring that number down.
While he hasn’t given given many opportunities in the closer role in Arizona, Bradley has performed well in high leverage situations. In 2018, he limited batters to a .193/.293/.368 line in 100 batters faced in high leverage situations. While the slugging percentage and the 7.20 ERA in those situations are concerning, the slash lines trending downwards from his impressive 2017 shows that he can continue to improve.
He throws three pitches, but the four seam fastball is where he makes his money. It hums at an average velocity of 96 mph, and has shown the ability to paint all four corners at that velocity. He also throws a sinker that remarkably reaches a 96 mph average as well, and a decent curveball to top it all off. While the sinker and curve have slightly below average spin rate, a 96 mph sinker is nothing to scoff at, especially when you have good control of it.
That control faltered somewhat in 2018, which lead to some of the regression in Bradley’s numbers. He was still able to paint the corners with his fastball, but they crept towards the heart of the plate at times as well.
Some may argue that 2017 was a fluke year for Bradley, but the steady development that he’s shown makes me disagree with that. At just 26 years old, Bradley still has plenty of time to develop quickly. He has shown the ability to adapt on the fly, quickly learning how to fit into late game, high leverage situations after spending most of his life as a starter.
Would it have been worth?
The question is less about Bradley’s value, but more about whether or not giving up extra pieces to acquire him would have been worth it. Based on what the St. Louis Cardinals gave up in these deal, it is a resounding yes for me.
The St. Louis Cardinals ended up giving up Luke Weaver, who is just 25 years of age, and has shown that he can play at a major league level at a young age. However, his arsenal and body type seem to profile him more as a reliever, and the Diamondbacks would be able to develop and incorporate Weaver much better than the Cardinals can.
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Carson Kelly is a name that many St. Louis Cardinals fans have wanted to see traded in recent months. Once an elite catching prospect and at just 24 years of age, Kelly garnered some trade value because of his age and position. The Diamondbacks don’t have a clear cut catcher prospect past Double A, as there are still questions as to whether or not Daulton Varsho can play behind the plate.
This is where Kelly comes in. Kelly has major league experience, and can serve as a young backup catcher, and a backup plan in case Varsho transitions to the outfield. It may not be the most valuable thing to the Diamondbacks, but to sweeten the deal, the St. Louis Cardinals had no qualms letting Kelly go.
Finally, Andrew Young is a young unheralded second baseman prospect who wasn’t particularly on the Cardinals radar. Only having to give these three guys is a far cry from the potential losses of Tyler O’Neill and Dakota Hudson that people were dreading.
Would I have switched out Young for a Elehuris Montero to grab Bradley? Personally, in a heartbeat. Am I mad the St. Louis Cardinals didn’t? Not at all.
The Goldschmidt deal was one that all St. Louis Cardinals fans can love. That doesn’t mean that it couldn’t have been better, and grabbing Archie Bradley would have been one of the ways to make it even sweeter than it already is.