St. Louis Cardinals: Don’t lunge for too far for Nolan Arenado
After bad trades and free-agent inaction, St. Louis Cardinals’ President John Mozeliak might surrender too much for third baseman Nolan Arenado. Be careful.
St. Louis Cardinals’ president John Mozeliak may be feeling a bit desperate in his negotiations to acquire Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, and that’s cause for concern, no matter how much you love the possibility of Arenado playing third for the Redbirds this year.
Mozeliak, you see, has taken heat for sitting out the late July trade deadline despite the Cardinals’ many needs, plus he’s been hammered for making no significant free-agent moves in the fall, plus Mo the trader is on a cold streak (slight reprieve for his recent Matthew Liberatore acquisition).
While the jury’s still out concerning last year’s Paul Goldschmidt deal, it looks like he overpaid for Marcell Ozuna (the three traded prospects had a 5.8 WAR to Ozuna’s 2.2 last year), and he’s looking like the loser in the trades that shipped off Tommy Pham, Marco Gonzales, Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty (who hasn’t been great but has outplayed Yairo Muñoz).
A desperate man is the last thing you want in delicate trade discussions.
Whether he reads the blogs or not, Mo has to know that whiffing on the Arenado auction will infuriate much of the St. Louis fan base. Yes, he signed a three-year contract extension in November, but no one wants to be hammered on daily talk radio. If the Rockies push the price sky-high on Arenado, will Mozeliak have the nerve to say no?
Cardinals fans who’ve been around know what happens when a trader gets desperate. In the winter of 1972, owner Gussie Busch, enraged that Steve Carlton kept insisting on a $10,000 raise, forced general manager Bing Devine to trade the lefty. Devine had to make a deal, and make it fast, which gave him no leverage at all. He wound up making a swap for Philadelphia’s Rick Wise, a decent pitcher but not half the hurler that Carlton became after the deal.
In June of 1983, manager Whitey Herzog soured on first baseman Keith Hernandez, who was, in the manager’s eyes, “dogging it,” wrote Peter Golenbock in 2000s The Spirit of St. Louis: A History of the St. Louis Cardinals and Browns.
Herzog, quoted in the same book, said Hernandez’s contract was up at the end of the season and he would likely demand $1.5 million a year. “I didn’t want to pay him that much money and put up with his horse(bleep) attitude,” Herzog said. So the manager made a frantic deal at the June 15 deadline, sending Hernandez to the Mets in exchange for a pair of scrub pitchers, Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey.
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Mozeliak would be better off taking a more restrained approach to the Arenado trade negotiations. While he might be feeling pressure from Cardinals Nation, he has no gun to his head. He also must know that the best fans in baseball won’t applaud a give-’em-everything deal for the slick-fielding, hard-hitting third baseman.
Cards followers are well aware that top prospects Dylan Carlson and Nolan Gorman are immensely valuable pieces of the future, and they’d hate to lose either one, although the Rockies might insist on one of them (Gorman?).
So how much is too much for Arenado? Hard to say. Certain Cards fans love to invent empty-the-dumpster deals where the club gives up a bunch of players they don’t value that much anymore — Dexter Fowler, Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas, Alex Reyes, etc. — for a superstar.
Unfortunately, the other guys will want at least one potential stud in the package. There’s little hope the Rockies will settle for a relatively painless, bag-of-journeymen swap, so be prepared to wince if the trade ever goes through. One very good, and potentially great, Cardinal might be lost in the trade.
If you really love Arenado — and I do — you can live with that. Just hope Mo doesn’t panic and push too many chips to the middle of the table.