The MLB Trade Deadline came and went with the St. Louis Cardinals retaining their outfield pieces. While an MLB-ready pitcher would have been a nice trade-off for one of the outfielders, what are the Cardinals left to do?
The best answer to this question, for now, is the Cardinals will have more time to assess what they have and fine-tune their plan to improve the roster.
Once President of baseball operations John Mozeliak made clear his plan to correct the enormous mistake from last season in not addressing the need for Major League-ready starting pitching, some parameters were set.
Those parameters included Jordan Walker, Lars Nootbaar, Paul Goldschmidt, and Nolan Arenado being on an untouchable list. Walker is one of the top young prospects in the MLB, and Nootbaar gained international fame during the World Baseball Classic. Those two are obviously untouchable, along with Goldschmidt and Arenado as the organization's cornerstones.
That left Tyler O'Neill, Dylan Carlson, Alec Burleson, and Juan Yepez as options to move at the trade deadline. But, Mozeliak did not move any of the outfielders. It appears he has opted to keep all of the outfielders on and let them show off what they can provide for an organization at their crossroads.
O'Neill has had a strong comeback since his lengthy stint on the injured list. Over his last seven games, he's been hitting .360/.407/.600 with nine hits, two walks, one home run, two runs, and five RBI. He is doing well, and it's a definite confidence boost moving forward, given his recent struggles to stay healthy and on the field.
Carlson was rumored to be the main target to be moved by this deadline. While he was the top prospect in the organization at one point, he's failed to live up to those lofty expectations. The opportunities he gets to play in the outfield seem sparse and anti-climatic. He has good moments but doesn't seem to get consistent playing time, primarily because he's inconsistent.
Due to Carlson's inconsistency and health concerns, super utility player Tommy Edman had an opportunity to play center field. He played tremendous defense in the spot, almost like this was his natural position. A case of wrist inflammation put him on the injury list. He was activated just as Paul DeJong was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, allowing him to go back to playing shortstop.
Over the last seven games, Carlson is hitting a shocking .111/.105/.111 with two hits and an RBI. He has three strikeouts. This could be one of the reasons Carlson wasn't traded. But, this also gives him the opportunity to step up and play to those expectations. He does have talent in the field. If he can get back on track at the plate, it will be good for him and the Cardinals.
Burleson has turned himself into quite the asset for the Cardinals getting opportunities in the corner outfield and at first base when Goldschmidt needs a day off now that Brendan Donovan is on the injured list. He's also gained time as an option to be the team's designated hitter.
Yepez may be the most shocking non-move of the deadline. While he can play multiple positions and can hit for some power, he doesn't seem to be able to make the impression needed to be a mainstay in St. Louis. Given his talent, he should be an everyday player.
The Cardinals have tremendous talent they can evaluate over the next two months. These players will essentially be playing to either remain with the Cardinals or be placed on the list of options the Cardinals will have to trade for impact players, explicitly starting pitching.
Mozeliak made good on his promise to get more pitching assets for the future. Now he must make good on the promise of an active winter to improve the team further. Mozeliak doesn't want to be in a seller's position again. Neither do the fans.