The Flame’s Not Dead, But It’s Flickering

Another day and no resolution on the Giancarlo Stanton front.  However, if the rumors and reports are accurate, it seems like St. Louis might be best served by moving on.

According to Craig Mish last night, neither St. Louis nor San Francisco is on a (I assume) recent list of teams he’d accept a trade to.  (It’s possible that he’s just referring to the general no-trade clause that we’ve been dealing with this whole time, though I thought that only had the Dodgers on it as acceptable and right now there are teams other than LA that he can be dealt to without asking his permission.)  The Cardinals have been working on this deal for longer than the five weeks that it has been since the end of the World Series and it still feels like they’ve made no headway.  Mish cautions that the Cards aren’t out of the mix for Stanton yet, but let’s look at it this way.  San Francisco has a lot of advantages over St. Louis in this whole thing and they haven’t been able to seal the deal.  I don’t think Stanton has ever felt farther away.

(Imagine, though, if Stanton goes to the Dodgers and Shohei Ohtani winds up in, say, San Diego.  Missing out on both prizes of this offseason would be pretty painful, especially when many Giants fans felt Stanton was already in their pocket.)

I’m not saying that the Cardinals should just pull out of the Stanton sweepstakes or anything.  Obviously until he makes a decision, the whole Dumb-and-Dumber “so you are saying there’s a chance” thing comes into play.  You want them to be in a position to strike if things line up right, but now it feels like there are so many moving parts that to have them line up just right is asking the cosmic tumblers to click into place.  (Two movie references in one paragraph.  I feel like Dan Buffa.)  John Mozeliak talked about patience in an interview with Derrick Goold last night and it’s not a terrible thing, but it feels like patience will only get you so far.  You can wait and wait and wait and it may still never come to fruition.

The club is obviously working on various other plans and hopefully they are ones that are close to fruition.  The fanbase, which was already not inclined to cut a lot of slack, has become restless over this Stanton ordeal and there needs to be something to show for this offseason soon.  The move for Miles Mikolas is intriguing and interesting, but it can’t be anything more than an appetizer or a side salad to this winter’s main event, whatever it might be.

Which raises the question, what are Plans B, C, D, and the rest?  We haven’t heard Josh Donaldson‘s name much as it doesn’t feel like Toronto is motivated to move him.  There were the rumors of a Chris Archer, Alex Colome, Evan Longoria deal and while that’d be a lot of fun, Longoria’s not the transformative bat that we have continued to ask about.  Not that most fans would be disappointed to add Archer to the rotation and Colome to the bullpen, but the focus for this offseason was an impact bat and while I’ve been a fan of Longoria for quite some time, I don’t know that he qualifies as that anymore.  He had a strong 2016, but the years around have been good but not great and he’s under contract until he’s 37, I believe.  Again, having a strong defender and 20 homer bat at third isn’t a bad thing, but Jedd Gyorko‘s given that sort of pop the last couple of years and his defense hasn’t been terrible.

Most of the focus would tend to stay on Miami and their other outfielders, Christian Yelich and Marcell OzunaViva El Birdos and others like Adam Butler over at The Redbird Daily have been high on Yelich as a solution to the problems St. Louis is having (and if you listen to Goold much, it seems he’s on that bandwagon as well), but if Miami moves Stanton, how motivated are they to move a guy like Yelich, who they have signed through 2022 and will only cost $7 million next year and $9.75 million the year after?  Wouldn’t that be the guy that they wanted to build around as the leader of their next youth (and cheap) movement?

That leaves Ozuna and I guess your feeling on him can be tied to how representative you think his 2017 is going to be.  Ozuna hit 50 points higher than he ever has, had 14 more homers than his previous career high, and his 145 OPS+ dwarfs anything else he’s done.  Next season will be his Age 27 season, which is when players are often starting to develop into whatever they are going to be.  So if you are telling me that he’s going to hit .312 with 37 homers or a reasonable facsimile thereof, I guess that he would be that bat that we’ve been looking for.  Of course, there are just as good odds that last year was a career year and he’s going to wind up more like a .275 with 25 homers guy.  Which is good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s hard to say that’s going to transform the lineup.  There are a lot of players in that same arena that already calling St. Louis home.

No matter who comes, unless there are options that aren’t even being whispered now (a complete possibility given this front office, but not to be expected), it’s going to have a bit of a disappointment attached to it, I think.  A lot of folks put a lot of stock into a Stanton deal.  Getting what would appear to be a lesser talent, even if it is a good, smart move that makes the team better, is going to feel a little less than stellar.  Still, we’ll all forget any impatience or disappointment if the 2018 Cardinals can win a lot of ball games, so hopefully a move will be made soon that will put them closer to that ideal.

You would figure the roster would be significantly different by this time next week.  (Though, in fairness, we’ve thought that a few times already this winter.)  Winter meetings will be done and surely Stanton will have made his decision by then.  I would hope so, at least.  For a winter that promised us a lot of “roster churn” from the front office, it’s been remarkably stagnant, it feels like.  Trevor Rosenthal is gone and Mikolas is here, but that’s really about it that is notable.

As for Mikolas, he’s an interesting guy that blossomed in Japan after being nondescript in the beginning of his MLB career.  He’s also carried quite a workload the last year or so in Nippon Professional Baseball, which should mean that he can cover a chunk of that innings gap we have been looking at.  His addition also means that Alex Reyes can start the year in the bullpen and at his own pace while Jack Flaherty can develop a bit more in Memphis.  (Obviously, this all is as of right now–trades could change this.)  Mikolas looks to be a mid-rotation starter but there’s plenty of disagreement about what he’ll do in the big leagues.  Still, even at his worst it looks like a pretty good fourth starter and it allows for either development or trades.  It’s not a big contract–two years, $15 million, I believe–so it can’t burn them like a Brett Cecil contract can.  (I still hold out hope for Cecil to get back to form this season, though.)

While this is a move that makes sense and improves the club, that’s not the sort of shakeup that we as fans have been expecting.  We’re probably getting closer to that sort of move but that doesn’t mean it is imminent.  Patience may be a big thing for Mo, but it’s not our strong suit!

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