Cardinals: What is with St. Louis' willingness to trade Ryan Helsley?

Chicago Cubs v St. Louis Cardinals - Game One
Chicago Cubs v St. Louis Cardinals - Game One / Joe Puetz/GettyImages
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The St. Louis Cardinals were expected to be active in the trade market this off-season, with some of their top prospects or abundance of young corner outfield/designated hitter options being prime candidates in any potential deals. One name that the Cardinals were willing to discuss that many did not expect was All-Star closer Ryan Helsley.

According to reports from Cardinals beat writer Derrick Goold and Toronto Blue Jays reporter Shi Davidi, the clubs discussed a deal for Danny Jansen centered around Helsley after the Cardinals were unwilling to move one of their outfielders. The reporting from Davidi indicates that it was the Cardinals who wanted to trade their closer for Jansen, not the other way around.

There is a lot to unpack here. Throughout the negotiations with the Athletics and Blue Jays, it became clear that the Cardinals had no interest in trading outfielder Lars Nootbaar this off-season, but were open to dealing the likes of Dylan Carlson, Nolan Gorman, Juan Yepez, and Alec Burleson. Their willingness to part with Helsley for Jansen says a lot about how clubs value relievers, since both the Cardinals and Blue Jays seemed to be lower on Helsley than fans are.

The 2022 All-Star is coming off of one of the best seasons among all closers in baseball, going 9-1 with a 1.25 EA and 94 SO while converting 19 of his 23 save opportunities. Helsley had a disappointing end to his season in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series, but is expected to once again be a lockdown option for St. Louis in 2023. I think there are three main reasons why Helsley is not valued as high as you would think, which I will address in the rest of this story.