August 03, 2018

Cardinals: Not 'just' sellers but full rebuild?

The St. Louis Cardinals' trade last week of Tommy Pham for a box of Cracker Jack, rather three minor leaguers from the Rays — Justin Williams, Genesis Cabrera and Roel Ramirez, all profiled by Derrick Goold at the top link — makes clear they were sellers. At the time of the trade, they were four games out of the second wild card spot, with three teams in between them and that slot in a bunched National League. A little over two weeks past firing manager Mike Matheny, they felt the managerial shakeup apparently hadn't done it, it appears.

So, now, Tyler O'Neill will get extended playing time. Harrison Bader will get more. The 40-man callups in a month will get the same.

But, is this it?

I wouldn't be surprised if John Mozeliak isn't looking at a fuller rebuild. I'm sure he'd still like to move Dexter Fowler. A combo of eating money and packaging him with another player, maybe, a Jedd Gyorko, or one or the other of the Cards' backup catchers, whether Carson Kelly or
Andrew Knizer, might be one angle, whether now or end of season. (The idea would be that the Cards would eat some salary, but not a lot, and that if you want a cheap young catcher, Team B, you'll eat most that salary yourself.)

Speaking of, the Rays aren't "buyers" in the normal sense. Why did Mo trade Pham now? Couldn't get anything from a buyer, and was that afraid of losing in arbitration? Along with that, did he think Pham's 2017 was a fluke, or at least, a career year?

Also, why couldn't he get Chris Archer back? The Pirates did later in the day on deadline day. With Carlos Martinez dinged up for the second time this year, Michael Wacha still out, and Adam Wainwright on the way to retirement, one proven starter rather than two meh minor leaguers, would have been nice. (Sidebar: Bernie Miklask turd-polishes the trade like Goold.)

Yes, Austin Meadows plus Tyler Glasnow was a bigger pay for Archer than just Pham.

And?

Throw somebody else in, Mo? Or was that a decision that Archer had hit his ceiling and you were looking to the longer term future?

Speaking of?

Then, we have this John Berry guy on Bernie's site, touting current Cards hurlers (vs Archer) thusly:
Let's dump all our starters. All the guys that have got us to 3rd in the NL with a 3.46 ERA. Start from scratch. That's the ticket.
To which I responded:
First, that's not what I said. 
Second, ERA? Some old, Miklasz-youth-era non-sabermetric stat? Archer has a lower FIP than Weaver, Martinez, Flaherty, Wacha and Gant, and that's with facing DHs regularly in the AL. 
And, again, that's with Martinez officially back on the DL, and Wacha still on the DL until at least the start of September. And, his history of shoulder problems.
Just, wow.

Note: I'm not saying the Cards should have taken Archer, but I'm not engaged in prospectitis, either. Lots of MLB teams have fans who become deep enough homers to do exactly that. Said homer also mentioned Alex Reyes in an earlier comment. Yes, another member of the injury brigade, with 46 innings two years ago as a 40-man callup, then Tommy John, then a lat injury bad enough this year needing surgery. I'm surprised Daniel Poncedeleon didn't get a by-name callout.

(Interestingly or ironically, Archer's first start was against the Cards, and it was pretty shaky, with just a 31 game score; his opposing hurler, Gant, was even worse at 26. Walks, an HBP and a long ball all hurt him.)

I would have made a run at Archer, though, per the reasons noted above. And put a bit of a prospects crowbar in my wallet. To quote an old saw: "An MLB player in hand is worth two prospects in the bush."

That said, how much to pay for Archer?

Goold talked about this the day before trade deadline, about now Mo has narrow parameters on doing trades. Well, his free agency parameters were pretty wide on both Fowler and Mike Leake.

So, again, is it time to fire Mozeliak? Three-quarters of voters in my Twitter poll want to give Mo the boot.

First, let me say that I think there's a method in his madness, even as he added outfield depth while cleaning it out at the same time.

He's looking for multiple rounds and tiers of cost control. Hence getting Williams as well as the two pitchers. He's still following up on cleaning up his bullpen. (That's in part his fault for letting Matheny mismanage it as long as he did, including this year even with a good pitching coach, Mike Maddux, at his side.)

That said, is some of this acting like a small-market team?

I've never bought the small-market vs big-market bifurcation. There are middle-market teams, too, and the Cards are one. They tilt somewhat small-market, but their winning plus fandom make them middle-market.

But, that's why Mo can't do a full rebuild. And, he's looking for cost control on his free agent mistakes.

Anyway, mid-market teams? Minnesota should be. The Twin Cities metro area is larger than metro St. Louis.

Washington is; if Baltimore weren't there, and if they had a base as rabid as the Redskins Redscum Dan Snyder Hymies (payback is a bitch) in football, they would be a big-market team. Rangers and Astros are. They're close to big-market teams, certainly on population size. The Metroplex is as big as the whole Bay Area, San Fran plus Oakland combined and San Jose in there, too. The Houston metro isn't a lot smaller. But, you have to win consistently. And, in the ’Mess, you're also competing with the Jethro Jones Boys for sports fandom. Astros have a cleaner slate there.

Miami should be mid-market or better by population size. Some want to blame previous owners. I blame South Florida (counting Tampa-St. Pete in that, sorry Rays fans expecting magic from a new stadium) as not being MLB-friendly territory. It happens. See what I said about Washington just above.

Other mid-market cities? Arizona, and the Snakes spend in that slot. Seattle. Atlanta. Denver is getting there, and sees it.

So, that's nine mid-market teams. That's Mo's competition on the wallet-busting.

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