St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Dylan Carlson will face unrelenting pressure after the reveal that John Mozeliak was hesitant to trade him.
Dylan Carlson didn’t ask for this. The St. Louis Cardinals lost out on the blockbuster to end all blockbusters in the Juan Soto sweepstakes, and one of the reasons was John Mozeliak’s reported reluctance to include Carlson along with top prospects in a deal with the Washington Nationals.
Now Carlson will be under a microscope. If he doesn’t live up to expectations, fans will be incensed that a generational talent slipped through their fingers.
It’s a tall order. Carlson has performed decently to this point for the Cardinals. He started off sluggish in 2022 but has picked it up in the last month. In 2021, he finished third in National League Rookie of the Year voting. Advanced stats show him lacking in exit velocity and hard-hit percentage, but having a solid chase rate. He is, in my eyes, a decent starting outfield option who has room to improve, but likely won’t become a star.
The idea of Carlson being the tipping point on a deal is puzzling, and there was surely more under the hood regarding negotiations and who was and wasn’t off-limits. But when the media named Carlson as one of the players the Cardinals wanted to keep, he became the subject of ire among fans who were clamoring for Soto.
Matthew Liberatore comes to my mind as a player who faced similar pressure after Randy Arozarena, one of the players the Tampa Bay Rays acquired in that trade, went ballistic in the 2020 postseason and nearly gave the Rays their first World Series title. Liberatore hasn’t had too much exposure to the major leagues, pitching 27 innings so far in his rookie year, but the results have been middling.
It’s understandable that fans will be analyzing Carlson’s performance closer than ever, and I’m hoping this doesn’t make Carlson press and try to overperform. While I appreciate the fact that some of the information regarding the trade proposal was shared with the public, I can’t help but think that if this information had been withheld, fans would be more accepting of the result and less likely to jump on Carlson if he underperforms.
I worry about Carlson for the burden that was just placed on him, and hope he finds a way to turn it into motivation for a great career. But regardless of his future, I hope fans don’t bear a grudge toward him. Ideally, everyone will be open-minded and believe that Carlson can flourish, but failing that, they should direct their anger at the front office, not the guy on the field giving his all for the team.