To Trade Or Not To Trade: The Hot Question

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s hot outside and Cardinal Nation is stirring. I didn’t come here to bash Allen Craig or Mike Matheny‘s lineups. I have done plenty of each on social media and there’s fine meaning to the phrase, “Once you tweet, it’s out there”. I am going to talk about a more fun and lively debate. I am here to talk about potential trades for the Cards to make. Trades of the pitching variety. The idea of Troy Tulowitzki and the dreamy pursuit of Giancarlo Stanton have been posted elsewhere. Those are trades that exist in the clouds. Let’s keep our feet on the ground here.

There is David Price. He is in town. He watched a game on Sunday night at Busch and liked the local brew and did the wave(last part can’t be taken back). He is on the market if you believe Jim Bowden and other scribes. The Tampa Bay Rays are streaking right now, so maybe he is not on the market. Remember folks. Don’t believe the general manager when he is asked if someone is available. Their job is to deny until they die or until a trade happens. Price is indeed on the market, but the Rays will want a lot. I am not even counting the IMOS label and half of the Arch, but talking prospects. They don’t want Allen Craig. They may want Shelby Miller as a dinner table to dine on the rest of the Cards prospects. I am talking about Oscar Taveras and Carlos Martinez. The Oscar that isn’t starting much and the wild thing Martinez. Does John Mozeliak want to part with two controllable potentially golden items? The Rays will ask for guys like Marco Gonzales and Stephen Piscotty as well. Who knows? The price will be steep but let me state something.

If Mozeliak is adamant about Michael Wacha being able to pitch again in 2014, the need for a top flight arm isn’t there. Unless he suddenly deems Wacha finished or has no faith in Miller regaining his position, do the Cards really go fishing for Price? Yes, David would change the rotation. He would make the top of our deck elite in a second. Waino, Price and Lynn coming at you in a 5 game set. Add Wacha to that mix and things get really juicy. Price is a Cy Young caliber arm who would fit in nice here. Just don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen.

Jake Peavy is being talked about again. Scouts are watching Cards prospect Rowan Wick play. A few scribes are saying he ends up in St. Louis. I broke this down two weeks ago and said it wasn’t worth it. However, keep in mind Peavy would come here at a low cost. The Red Sox are playing better but they still want to ship Peavy out while they can get something for him. Peavy wouldn’t be coming to St. Louis to save the team. He would be another doctor in an ER. He could supply innings and help around the rotation. He would come as a rental due to pitching prospects and depth in the Cards rotation. He could provide a veteran presence to a younger staff. If Wacha is on track to return in 2014, Peavy isn’t a bad bet at all be an inning safety net. Frequently in sports, perspectives change daily as the tide of action shifts.

If the Cards do want to go big but deem Price too far of a reach, there are guys like Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, pitchers with huge contracts who are on the trade block. Some kind of trade block at least. One that is visible at least to the cyber net keyboard bangers. Hamels is set to make 22.5 million from 2015-2018 and has a team option for 2019. Hamels didn’t have a great year in 2013 if you go by the standard stats that the baseball card mafia hold high and dear.  However, his sabermetrics were very good. His fielding independent ERA was 3.26 and he averaged 8.3 strikeouts per 9 innings. Hamels had a 4-1 K-BB ratio and suffered from run support. This year, his ERA is 2.83 yet he is only 4-5 even though his FIP ERA is lower and his strikeouts per nine innings is up from 2013. Hamels has a lot of money owed to him but is not breaking down. He is holding strong as a team falls apart around him. I don’t the Phillies dangle him as far as Lee.

Cliff Lee is interesting. He is set to make 22 million in 2015 yet has an option for 2016. Lee’s strikeouts per nine innings and FIP ERA are better than Hamels and his WAR in 2013 was 7.3, which ranked in the top 5 in the NL. Lee turns 36 in August but seems to be staying strong as he ages. Forget his 14-8 record in 2013. Look at Lee’s three straight seasons of 200+ innings. Lee is an inning horse when healthy and in 2014, health has been fleeting. Lee is currently on the mend and making starts on a minor league assignment. He had an elbow strain, which puts him on the verge of a potential long term injury. Lee’s throwing arm is a ticking timebomb but Mozeliak would only be on the hook through 2015. That’s the scary part with Lee. The Phillies are 43-56 and sinking in last place in the NL East. I think they may be looking to deal Lee’s solid if brittle body to another team. The cost would be less than Price due to that elbow but the potential innings Lee could provide in a stretch run and to a 2015 rotation could be vital to the Cardinals.

Jon Lester and Boston are far apart on contract talks so there is that possibility. Lester is very attractive and like Price, would be a rental. His contract expires at the end of the season. Like Hamels and Lee, Lester is performing well for a team having a rough season. The Red Sox are surging a bit, but still a long shot to make the playoffs. Lester is 10-7 and holding a 2.50 ERA in a hitter friendly division in 137 innings. His 142-33 strikeouts to walk totals is quite good and FIP independent ERA is 2.60. He wouldn’t be cheap but is a durable innings eating top of the rotation starter. Cardinals fans saw him up close and personal when he shut down the Birds twice in the World Series.

So, which suits your poison, Cardinals fans? Price, Hamels, Lee, Lester or a cheap Jake Peavy?  The price for the first four will include Oscar Taveras and/or Carlos Martinez along with other prospects. There could be another pitcher out there that Mozeliak is looking at. A lot can happen in the next week or so.

I can tell you this. The Cardinals need starting pitching and only need to decide what kind of arm they desire. Wacha may not come back or be too effective when he does reach a mound at Busch. Shelby Miller is lost in No Man’s Land and if he takes two weeks off from the rotation, he will need time to get back to starter strength. Will he be effective?  We will see.

With Adam Wainwright getting beaten up by misfortune tonight against Tampa, people will be looking at his forearm tendinitis again. I won’t go that way and that’s not coming from a wishful corner. I think Waino just had a bad night. Now, the stopper duty falls to Lance Lynn tomorrow. The uncertain quantity(Kelly, Martinez, TBD) take to the mound in Chicago this weekend.

Do you trust Miller to figure out his troubles in the pen? Do you think Wacha will come back and be his dominant self? Do you think Martinez will continue to improve? All these questions fill Mozeliak’s head on a daily basis.

What will this rotation look like in 2 weeks? For that, I have no real answer. To be determined indeed.

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