It has been a career filled with ups and downs for Carlos Martinez. The St. Louis Cardinals have made Martinez a staple in their plans for the last several seasons, and he has overall rewarded them. In 2020 however, it has been a struggle. To be fair to Martinez, he did have a case of COVID-19 and it seemed to be pretty serious. He needs respect for being able to go pitch this year and that could explain some of his struggles.
He has had some injuries and has been a bit inconsistent throughout his career, even though his career numbers are pretty eye-popping. His career record stands at 58-43 with a 3.51 ERA and he’s accounted for 14.8 WAR. He also has 31 career saves and had success as the Cardinals closer for much of last season.
Still, the sense is that the Cardinals would probably like to move on. He’s under contract for 2021 and has a few option years beyond that. I do not think the Cardinals will release him and eat that salary but I do think they will explore trades for him.
The big question is how much trade value he has. After his inconsistencies and injury history, will teams be eager to take on his salary for 2021? I see a few options if this is the case. The Cardinals could maybe eat some of his money and ask for a better return, or they could package him with a prospect to maximize the trade return and also potentially get someone else to take on his contract.
Martinez has been a great Cardinals pitcher and he’s still talented. His raw talent can probably elevate him to the top15-20 starting pitchers in the sport. Add in his ability to be an impact bullpen arm, and the upside is there for him to be a successful pitcher again in 2021.
But … probably with another team.
Lane Thomas has not had many opportunities this season, with a crowded outfield mix. Adding to that was him being infected with COVID-19 and missing some time. Like with Martinez, it is unfair to place too much criticism on a player who had to deal with the coronavirus this season. Still a potentially strong outfielder, it seems more and more his ceiling might be that of a fourth outfielder. With an already underperforming outfield and the Cardinals needing to find ways to improve the offense this coming offseason, it seems like a few outfielders might possibly be shipped out in trades.
Thomas probably has limited trade value but out of the current crop of outfielders, he is one that looks to have a smaller role going forward and perhaps the most likely one to be expendable.
The outfield is hard to guess going forward, and there are several different ways the team could go with it. Thomas might stick around and compete for a bench spot in 2021, but I think at least one outfielder might get dealt before the 2021 season and Thomas is as good a guess as any.
Daniel Ponce de Leon
“Ponce” has been the definition of swingman since his debut with the St. Louis Cardinals. Daniel Ponce de Leon has been used as a starter and as a long reliever, and he’s done so well. His career record of 2-7 is deceiving and shows that win/loss records aren’t always a good way to judge a pitcher.
Regardless, he’s a pitcher who probably has some value and has an undefined role with the Cardinals moving forward. He’s frequently used to fill in when there is an injury in the starting rotation but might not be the top choice to be in the rotation on a regular basis. For some other teams, he could easily crack the middle of the rotation and serve as a more regular contributor.
Austin Gomber is another who fits into this mold. I could see either of these players getting traded, but both have value to the Cardinals.