A Mid-Season Audit of the Cardinals Off-Season Trades

Way back at the end of April, over at the Redbird Daily, I took a quick look on the first month’s return on the Cardinals winter trades. Now that we have reached the All-Star break, a symbolic half way point (though the season is technically 58% over), it’s a good time to revisit this topic and see how the situations have changed. Without further ado, let’s jump right in.

Trade #1 – Diaz to Toronto

Cardinals Get:

J.B. Woodman, OF: (A+) 60 Games, 6 HR, 29 RBI, 7 2B, .259/.333/.396

Blue Jays Get:

Aledmys Diaz, SS: (MLB) 70 Games, 8 HR, 23 RBI, 11 2B, .240/.277/.393, wRC+ 79

Review:

Woodman is looking like the solid organizational depth piece that we assumed he was upon being acquired. He is showing just a touch more HR power than he previously has, being just one shy of his career high of 7, set in 96 games last season. Considering that the Florida State League suppresses offensive numbers, he looks okay. Still, at 23 years old and never being much of a prospect, expectations are low.

Diaz is who we thought he was. His average and OBP are a little behind where he was in 2017, but his SLG, K% and (barely there) BB% are nearly identical. His overall offense is well below average. When not on the DL, he has been the primary SS, making 64 starts. He currently is at -1 Defensive Runs Saved, which is much better looking than his -10 mark in 2017, and more in line with his -3 from 2016. So he’s not much of a hitter and a little below average at SS. If Troy Tulowitzki hadn’t been injured all season, Diaz would likely be in the utility role that he profiles for.

Win or Loss? The Cardinals aren’t missing Diaz, even considering that DeJong missed significant time, because Yairo Munoz has been a better offensive player and is probably close to equal defensively. It also freed up a 40-man roster spot for team that has seen those become precious. Toronto got a serviceable MLB player at a position of need. As boring as it is, this is probably a wash.

Trade # 2 – Piscotty to Oakland

Cardinals Get:

Yairo Munoz, SS: (MLB) 165 PA’s (55 Games), 16 R, 5 HR, 23 RBI, .285/.339/.417, wRC+ 105

Max Schrock, 2B: (AAA) 83 Games, 35 R, 4 HR, 34 RBI, 7.4 K%, .272/.314/.362, wRC+ 76

A’s Get:

Stephen Piscotty, OF: (MLB) 88 Games, 43 R, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 24 2B, .264/.326/.457, wRC+ 115

Review:

Munoz has spent most of the season with the big club, but did spend 26 games in Memphis. The rate stats between the two levels are almost identical, outside of K%, which is 6% higher in the majors. At 24%, it could come down, but overall he has held his own as a part-time major leaguer. He can occupy multiple positions on defense, though his skill at the positions varies. Still, the ability to play the positions at all gives him valuable versatility and a little bit of power makes him a nice option to have on the bench. He may never be a starting-caliber player, but his Johnny-Peralta-Lite profile makes him a nice player to have.

After a hot start that made many fans clamor for Max Schrock to replace Kolten Wong, he has cooled considerably. His greatest skill is contact, evidenced by a stunningly low 7.4% K%. Reports are that he has done fine defensively and he has been getting some looks at 3B to increase his versatility. He has logged some innings at SS in lower levels, but those days are likely behind him. Still, his future lies somewhere in the Greg Garcia, Daniel Descalso area as a solid left-handed hitting utility man.

Piscotty has returned to being the solid all-around hitter that we expected him to be. 2017 was, unfortunately, just a lost season for him. Across the board his numbers have normalized to pre-2017 levels. It’s great to see that he is back to business as usual. The defensive metrics have not been kind. After being being a +12 in defensive runs saved over the last 2 seasons in RF, he is a -14 this year. Those metrics can be fluky, so it’s hard to say what exactly is going on.

Win or Loss? This one is tough to peg because of the circumstances that led up to it. Piscotty was the clear winner in the trade. On the field, the Cardinals look like they have a couple solid bench players, they freed up some modest future salary, and opened up room in a crowded outfield situation. Still, when you consider the outfield production the Cardinals have had this year, Piscotty looks even better. Right now, Oakland wins this trade by a hair, but it could look different in a year or two.

Trade # 3 – Ozuna from Miami

Cardinals Get:

Marcell Ozuna, LF: (MLB) 90 Games, 38 R, 10 HR, 49 RBI, 9 2B, .268/.309/.385, wRC+ 89

Marlins Get:

Sandy Alcantara, P: (AAA) 85.0 IP, 3.71 ERA, 4.55 FIP, 6.78 K/9 ; (MLB) 5.0 IP, 1 ER, 2 K’s, 5 BB

Magneuris Sierra, OF: (AAA) 82 Games, 46 R, 16 RBI, 14 SB, 20.4 K%, 3.7 BB%, .260/.289/.336, wRC+ 61

Zac Gallen, P: (AAA) 17 Starts, 91.0 IP, 4.05 ERA, 4.29 FIP, 8.90 K/9, 3.46 BB/9

Daniel Castano, P: (Rook., A) 34.0 IP, 3.44 ERA, 10.32 K/9, 0 BB ; (A+) 57.1 IP, 5.65 ERA, 5.81 K/9, 3.45 BB/9

Review:

Marcell Ozuna has been a disappointment. He was a gamble coming off of what seemed like a breakout season in 2017, and because of the order in which the Marlins wanted to move their OF’s and the Cardinals determination to get one, they jumped on Ozuna rather than waiting out the superior overall Christian Yelich. The cost would have been higher for Yelich, but the building blocks for the package were likely the same. That’s one aspect that makes the results of this trade disappointing.

Ozuna could have negated that part of it with a studly performance, something he has not given at all. His defense, in a word, has been questionable. Offensively, outside of a blazing hot 2 week stretch, he has been a singles hitter with poor pitch selection at the plate. He is 2nd on the team in RBI, simply because he has been immovable from the cleanup spot. His .385 SLG ranks 9th out of 13 hitters on the team with more than 100 AB’s this season. That is nowhere near the slugging ability that is needed to maximize run scoring opportunities in the middle of the lineup. He is there to drive in 2-3 runs at a time, not pick up an RBI on a ground-out. Overall he has been a below average hitter. I want to believe that going forward, interim manager Mike Shildt will place him in the lineup based on his actual results, rather than the perception of what he is supposed to be.

On the Marlins side, Alcantara did ascend to the majors this year, making one start before finding himself on the DL. He put up ok numbers in AAA, though he was getting plenty of help from his defense. His strikeout rate is still far too low for a pitcher that can hit 100 mph and he walks his fair share. It remains to be seen if his future is as a starter or reliever.

Sierra continues to look like Billy Hamilton-lite, which is the same offensive and defensive profile, without the elite basestealing ability. In his first turn at AAA, Sierra is striking out too much and not walking enough for a player with his skill set. His glove may get him to the majors, but he will have to develop on-base skills in order to maximize his speed and stick around. At 22 years old, he’s reaching the age where tangible signs of development need to show.

Zac Gallen has not been spectacular in AAA, but he hasn’t been awful in his first full season at the level either. He is still just 22 and has just now reached 2 years of service time in professional baseball. His rates are solid and he will likely settle in and move towards being the back-of-the-rotation arm that he projects to be.

The last piece, Daniel Castano, has seen time at 3 lower levels. The results are a mixed bag. He looked solid in the lowest levels, but hasn’t had the same strikeout punch in an extended look at A-Advanced. He will be 24 in September, so he is old for the level he is at. He was always a throw-in/lottery ticket-type for Miami with low expectations.

Win or Loss? It’s a wash right now. Miami has gotten very little from the return to this point, and the true upside of those players can be questioned. On the flip side, Ozuna has been an 8th spot quality hitter. If Ozuna sets the world on fire in the 2nd half and in 2019, helping the Cardinals reach the playoffs, it probably outweighs whatever long-term benefit Alcantara gives Miami and the Cardinals win. If Ozuna continues to do what he has and the Cardinals have to eventually trade him for a modest return, then the Marlins win, even if its just by having Zac Gallen be a solid 5th starter for a few years.

Trade #4 – Grichuk to Toronto

Cardinals Get:

Dominic Leone, RP: (MLB) 15 Games, 13.0 IP, 4.15 ERA, 10.38 K/9, 2.08 BB/9, 87.0% LOB

Conner Greene, P: (AA) 48.2 IP, 4.44 ERA, 7.95 K/9, 5.92 BB/9 ; (AAA) 15.2 IP, 2.87 ERA, 6.32 K/9, 8.62 BB/9

Blue Jays Get:

Randal Grichuk, OF: (MLB) 63 Games, 28 R, 11 HR, 28 RBI, 11 2B, 25.9 K%, 6.8 BB%, .206/.273/.427, wRC+ 88

Review:

Did you forget about Dominic Leone? After a hit-and-miss start to the season, he’s been on the DL since early May with a nerve issue. He is just another player that hasn’t worked out as expected this season. The jury is still out and we hope to see him contribute in the 2nd half and in 2019.

Conner Greene was the long-term get in this trade. He effectively replaced Sandy Alcantara in the system with his 100 mph heater, but he also throws a plus curve to go with it. Command is the major issue. After being a starter at AA, the Cardinals moved him to relief and promoted him to AAA. The reason is two-fold. 1) His future is almost certainly out of the bullpen, so he was going there eventually, and 2) the Cardinals big league bullpen has been a mess all season, so accelerating the conversion to relief and testing him against a higher level of competition gives the Cardinals an idea on whether he is an option in 2018.

I said this earlier with Diaz, but Grichuk is who we thought he was. We always wished for more, but it was not meant to be. He hits with power, strikes out a lot, and will never hit for a high average or OBP. He saw his season average drop below .100 on June 2nd. Since then, he’s hit .266 with an .866 OPS and provided the bulk of his season’s production. That’s pretty much par for the course. He should have about one more cold stretch and hot stretch in him if the last 2 seasons are any indication.

Win or Loss? The last month plus of production and a few highlight reel catches by Grichuk gives Toronto the win right now. However, considering the Cardinals have seen almost no return to this point, it didn’t take much. The wild card is Conner Greene. If he turns into a stud reliever for 4 years or so, and with the Cardinals unlikely to truly miss having Grichuk, it probably swings the trade in our favor. All of that remains to be seen, though.

Last Minute Trades:

These trades occurred right before Opening Day as players were DFA’d to clear spots on the 40-Man Roster for Francisco Pena and Jordan Hicks (Note: Greg Holland’s spot was created by moving Reyes to 60-Day DL).

Josh Lucas to Oakland for Casey Meisner

Lucas: (MLB) 14.1 IP, 6.28 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 8.79 K/9 ; (AAA) 18.0 IP, 1.50 ERA, 2.87 FIP, 8.50 K/9

Meisner: (A+) 78.1 IP, 3.45 ERA, 4.91 FIP, 6.78 K/9, 3.56 BB/9

Review:

Lucas had an impressive 3 inning relief appearance in April that made fans think we made a mistake, considering the struggles of the bullpen at the time. Since then he has been pedestrian. Small samples each way, but comparing his MLB and AAA numbers, he has the look of a Quad-A pitcher.

Due to full rosters, Meisner ended up pitching in A-Advanced this season, a level lower than he finished 2017 in the A’s system. He has pitched okay in a pitcher friendly league. He probably sees AA at some point, if a spot opens.

Win or Loss? There is no winner or loser here. The A’s got high-level depth and the Cardinals got low-level depth. Wash.

Breyvic Valera to the Dodgers for Johan Mieses

Valera: (MLB) 5/34, 4 RBI, .172/.273/.172. ; (AAA) 55 Games, 6 HR, 8 2B, 25 RBI, .279/.347/.431, wRC+ 103

Mieses: (A+) 65 Games, 33 R, 10 HR, 40 RBI, .251/.311/.424, wRC+ 108 ; (AA) 57 PA’s, 2 HR, .148/.179/.278

Review:

Valera’s potential tops out as a utility player. Being a switch hitter was intriguing, but he had no future here. He is depth for the Dodgers, and considering their middle infield situation and lack of production at 2B, the fact that he hasn’t gotten a little more of a look says it all.

Mieses is intriguing. He has a lot of power. He reached AA in 2017, but the Cardinals returned him to High-A this year. He continued his power display and managed to cut his K% by 10% compared to the same level last year. He was recently promoted to AA and has struggled initially.

Win or Loss: This is another depth move, though the Cardinals did grab a lottery ticket in Mieses. This is a bad comp to do, but his lower level profile is similar to that of Jesus Aguilar. Aguilar was able to eventually get his K% under 20% and really blossom at a later age. At 23, Meises could do something similar, but likely to a much lesser extent, and that is why the Cardinals grabbed him, for the potential. If he makes the major leagues at all, this is a clear win for the Cardinals.

Wrap-Up

In the end, the Cardinals trades mostly served to clean up the roster more than provide them with production. Ozuna could change that, Leone could change that, and Greene could change that. But for the most part the trades, which had the potential to really address significant needs, have been busts. Luckily, the Cardinals didn’t give up anything that will hamper them down the road.

Thanks for reading!

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Last updated: 08/17/2018