July can be one of the most exciting months in the baseball calendar. It can also be one of the most stressful as a fan.
It’s officially trade season, and whether your team truly needs to make a deal or not, there’s bound to be fans clamoring for a trade.
As the Cardinals have struggled, talk of potential deals has only increased, with names and trade packages being discussed ad nauseam. There’s always a vocal corner that, when things aren’t going well, declares that a trade, any trade, needs to happen to fix it. As if a trade is the magic potion to cure all problems.
This got me thinking, and the conclusion I came to was that it’s not always wise to simply wish for a trade when things are going South. This year’s Cardinals team is a prime example.
Fans talk about trading and acquiring players as if it’s like going to the grocery store. It’s not. You can’t just say, “I want some power hitting” and then it appears in your cart. You have to give something to get something.
Subscribing to that mindset shows a lack of patience and would be an unfair knee-jerk reaction to a team that, while it has struggled, consists of a core group that has proven itself to be a championship caliber team.
A key thing to remember is that a baseball season is an intense grind. It’s a marathon, not sprint. At some point, you have to trust that these guys will play themselves out of the funk.
It’s easy to get caught up in the now and demand wins, and that’s not inherently wrong. It’s understandable.
But for someone like General Manager John Mozeliak, there are many more factors that have to be taken into consideration than just the “now.”
For a team like the Cardinals to upgrade at the Major League level for this season, they would likely have to tap into their wealth of young talent in the minor league system to appease a rival club looking to trade, while also trading away a regular at the Major League level (i.e. Allen Craig, Matt Adams).
Seemingly any trade offer thrown at them from rivals the last several seasons has demanded that players like Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong-type players be included.
Other teams want what the Cardinals have perfected, and that’s drafting a developing players. The Cardinals were voted Organization of the Year by Baseball America in 2013 and 2011. They didn’t earn those honors by trading away their prospects like so many other organizations do, often times for two-month rentals for the stretch run.
To me, it makes little to no sense to trade away top talent to make a rash, knee-jerk trade. The idea of trading away Allen Craig makes sense given the logjam at both first base and the outfield, but keeping him also makes sense. A team-friendly contract for a guy who has proven himself to be an RISP machine doesn’t come around every day. He’s also an organization guy, and there’s something to be said about keeping guys like him around.
Part of the reason the Cardinals have been so successful is because ownership understands what it means to build an organization. Mozeliak and others take pride in the player development system, and it’s a proven strategy.
Mozeliak has to consider what the best long-term options are for the organization. If losing the battle (this year) to win the war (multiple titles down the road), I’ll take that any day.
Now, I don’t expect Mozeliak and Co. to want to lose any battle, even if it does mean to win the war. That’s not how he’s wired. So I do expect some sort of a deal to be made.
The Cardinals need offensive help, yes. As of July 3, they rank last in the National League in home runs (48), near the bottom in RBIs (295) and slugging percentage (.362) and second-to-last in runs per game (3.64). I’m all for upgrading there, but not if it requires a massive haul on young talent.
As of July 3, the team sits 5.5 out of first place in NL Central and 1.5 back in the Wild Card. All things considered, those are manageable deficits with half a season left to play. The current players have earned the equity to be given a chance to play out of the slump. A 5-5 record on the West Coast road trip, including two straight wins over San Francisco to close it out, is certainly encouraging.
I think Mozeliak will indeed make some kind of a move between now and the July 31 deadline. I doubt it will be the Giancarlo Stanton-esque blockbuster type of trade that’s been rumored, and they don’t need a blockbuster. But I do believe he’ll make a move.
As we saw in 2011 with the Colby Rasmus trade, and even in 2012 and 2013 with the Edward Mujica and John Axford deals, Mozeliak is very good at his job. He’s smart, creative and decisive. That takes away a lot of the anxiety that comes with trade season.
But I won’t be surprised if Mozeliak keeps some of his key cogs in St. Louis and in the farm system. He’s made an investment in them, and he might as well see if he gets his return.