The Deadline Brings No Life To Cardinals

We’re 1/2 an hour past the trading deadline.  The ONLY trading deadline, I feel compelled to remind you.  We can’t delude ourselves about players clearing waivers or anything like that.  Rosters, save for waiver wire moves (which, given the recent activity of the Cardinals with Adalberto Mejia and Zac Rosscup, has to be noted), are basically set from now until October.  After today, there’s nobody coming over the hill to provide reinforcements.  This was it.  A true deadline.

And the Cardinals did nothing.

OK, fine, nothing is the slightest of overstatements.  They sent Jedd Gyorko, who had been told yesterday to put his rehab ideas on hold, to the Dodgers for what is reported to be a mid-level minor leaguer (which probably means he’ll be about 30th on Kyle Reis’s Dirty 35) and cash.  (EDIT: As I finish this sentence the trade is announced: Gyorko, international cap money, and cash go to LA, the Cardinals get Tony Cingrani and minor league pitcher Jeffry Abreu.)  Cingrani hasn’t actually pitched this year, meaning this was a swap of 60-day DL folks.  Also, he’s supposed to be out the rest of the year, the last year of his contract.  Abreu is in Rookie League ball and is just 19.  Maybe he’ll grow into something, maybe he won’t.  Given all the Cards gave up to get him, you’d hope he at least had decent potential.

So for this current Cardinal team, the one leading the division, nothing changed.  Nothing all week has actually impacted this team save Mejia whenever he’s available to pitch.  We’ll see how big an impact he’ll make but it’s long odds it’ll be anything more than minimal at best.

The Cardinals did nothing.

It’s not like there wasn’t a problem to address.  I’m fine with them not doing anything with the offense.  The contracts are a little tough to manage and people are starting to come around.  Get Marcell Ozuna back and not let Yadier Molina play every day when he returns and the lineup can be fine.  The bullpen was all right as well.  They could have used a little bit of rest, but the arms out there are reasonable.  Tyler Webb probably goes down when Mejia comes on board, but that’s the weak link.

But they need help.  And the best way to have helped them was to get a starter.  Because there is a huge, gaping maw at the back of this rotation.  Here’s what the fifth starters have done in their last starts:

Date Pitcher Against IP R
7/27 Ponce de Leon HOU 2.1 5
7/22 Ponce de Leon PIT 3 1
7/17 Ponce de Leon PIT 3.2 4
7/12 Ponce de Leon ARI 6.2 1
7/4 Wacha SEA 3.1 4

Now, Michael Wacha did have three out of four pretty good starts before that and Daniel Ponce de Leon has had some extended outings that were OK, but getting less than four innings from your starter every fifth day isn’t exactly a great recipe for resting the bullpen.  Or winning games, for that matter.  That’s the sort of thing that can have a cascade effect.  The Cardinals have been fortunate–Wacha gave them a number of innings after Ponce de Leon left his last time out, for instance–but that’s not a strategy for success going forward.  With Wacha now moving into the rotation (where he has a 5.05 ERA in 14 starts), things look to play out similarly to what we’ve seen for most of the season.

The Cardinals needed a starter.  That need was greater than I’ve seen in a long, long time.  They didn’t get one.

Most of the time in these situations, you can point to someone coming up in the minors and say, “Well, OK, they didn’t want to block that guy” or “He’ll come up and take the starts.”  You can’t do that here.  Who else can legitimately start instead of Wacha or Ponce de Leon?  Ryan Helsley?  Maybe if they stretch him out but they’ve bounced him around all year that it’s hard to know where he is in stamina.  (He’s making his second start in Memphis tonight, per Brian Walton, after going just over two innings last time.  Most likely he’ll need a couple more starts to really be able to be an improvement.)  Jake Woodford?  Besides not being on the 40-man, he’s also faded from his early starts.  Who else is there?  The Cardinals have a real weakness in pitching depth with Alex Reyes still hurting and Austin Gomber likely out for the year.

But the Cardinals did nothing.

I get that prices were apparently quite high after the Marcus Stroman trade.  Arizona was apparently asking the moon for Robbie Ray, a pitcher that I wasn’t overly high on (though would have been glad to see in Cardinal red).  However, Tanner Roark went for a minor league outfielder.  Roark’s a guy that can give you six innings fairly regularly, sometimes five, sometimes seven.  He’s got a 4.06 ERA away from Cincinnati.  Would he have been the missing piece?  Probably not.  Would he have improved this team?  It’s hard to say that he wouldn’t have.

Look, the “All In” idea for 2019 has been overblown, but there’s no doubt that John Mozeliak put significant emphasis on 2019, at one time indicating that they might look at it and figure out 2020, 2021 when they reached that bridge.  There’s no legitimate way to say that Mo wasn’t concerned about the postseason drought and had promised to go hard to rectify that.  He never was going to empty the farm system, but it’s not unreasonable to expect that he would have dealt off a few pieces for a short-term deal.  Instead, nothing.  Heck, even last year’s deals brought back talent that was close, whether it was Chasen Shreve (who immediately went on the roster) or Genesis Cabrera or Giovanny Gallegos (who have participated this year).  You can’t even say that this year.

We never know all the ins and outs, but I’ve been a staunch defender of the Cardinals and Mozeliak’s time in St. Louis and I can’t be on the side of management here.  I know there are difficulties, I know there are high prices, but sometimes you have to bite the bullet.  Sometimes you have to push the chips in.  Again, I can understand not giving up Nolan Gorman for a rental like Zack Wheeler, but was there nothing the Mets would take less than that?  (Maybe not, as Wheeler is still wearing blue and orange in a curious move.)  It sounds like maybe folks wanted Gorman and Dylan Carlson and some major league talent and the club wasn’t willing to give up any of that.  Depending on the ask and who was coming back, that might have been reasonable but it also might have been very risk-averse.

Again, you are at this point because the offseason wasn’t as active as it could have been.  If you sign Dallas Keuchel in the spring, you probably aren’t hunting for a starter now.  It feels like the front office is playing today’s game of baseball–it’s either swing for the fences or draw a walk if you don’t strike out.  And they aren’t willing to take the risk they might strike out.

It’s frustrating to see this team make a run and get back into first place and the front office not do anything to help them out.  Remember, the players were vocal about wanting additions.  Instead, all they are seeing is someone shipped off for a rookie league ballplayer.  I’m not sure how that will go over in the clubhouse, but I can’t imagine it’ll be a good feeling.

Maybe it’ll work out but I think it’s fair to say that if the Cardinals fail to make the playoffs, it’s on the front office.  That’s probably not fair, given they brought in Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew Miller and both have been big reasons why we can even have this conversation, but reinforcements didn’t come.  It’s not surprising that the battle would be lost.


Tuesday, July 23 (4-3 win at Pittsburgh)

Hero: Jose Martinez.  Two hits, including the tiebreaking homer in the fifth.

Goat: Tyler O’Neill.  0-4 with two strikeouts.

Notes: Dakota Hudson gave up three in the first but then settled in….Paul Goldschmidt continued his home run streak….Giovanny Gallegos and Andrew Miller slammed the door and made the run stand up.

Wednesday, July 24 (14-8 win at Pittsburgh)

Hero: Paul DeJong.  Three home runs will get you here.  Four hits will often get you here.  Five RBI will get you here.  Put it all together and this is a no-brainer.

Goat: John BrebbiaMike Mayers had the worse line by a walk but he was just coming off the IL.  Brebbia was concerning, allowing two runs in the ninth of a game that was well in hand.

Notes: Paul Goldschmidt had two hits, including another homer….three hits, including two doubles, by Yairo Munoz….Kolten Wong had two doubles….Adam Wainwright continued his road struggles, allowing four runs in five innings, but was able to stay around long enough to get the win because of the offensive backing.  Which isn’t out of the ordinary for Waino, is it?

Thursday, July 25 (6-3 win at Pittsburgh)

Hero: Paul Goldschmidt.  Two hits, including a home run in his fourth consecutive game.

Goat: Paul DeJong.  0-3, but he was able to drive in a run.

Notes: Miles Mikolas put up a quality start, striking out five in the process….it was a little surprising to see Andrew Miller and Carlos Martinez in this one, especially Martinez given the three run lead, but Mike Shildt has been playing with playoff intensity as of late….home runs by Kolten Wong and Dexter Fowler, showing that the power is coming from everywhere right now.

Friday, July 26 (5-3 win vs. Houston)

Hero: Paul Goldschmidt.  His three-run blast gave the Cardinals the lead that they would not relinquish.

Goat: Andrew Miller.  Thrust into a tough situation, he wound up walking in the go-ahead run before getting the final out of the inning.  Thankfully, Goldschmidt picked him up.

Notes: Another solid outing from Jack Flaherty, even though he’s not picked up a W since June, I don’t think.  Pitcher wins, though, right?  What are they good for?….John Gant may be hitting a wall, allowing two walks and a hit and putting Miller into the situation that he couldn’t escape from….another two-hit night from Kolten Wong, who has really picked up the pace as of late.  Feels like he did this last July/August as well.

Saturday, July 27 (8-2 loss vs. Houston)

Hero: Paul Goldschmidt.  His fourth inning homer got the Cards on the board, even if it was too late by that point already.

Goat: Daniel Ponce de Leon.  Michael Wacha gave up the grand slam, but Ponce de Leon put all the runners there, plus allowed two other runs before that, all without getting more than an out in the third.

Notes: Tyler O’Neill had two hits….Wacha actually pitched pretty well save for that homer.  A number of hits but he was able to work out of any jams.

Sunday, July 28 (6-2 loss vs. Houston)

Hero: Tommy Edman.  Two hits, the only player with more than one.

Goat: Dakota Hudson.  Five runs in four innings.  Hudson seems to be scuffling a bit more than he was in May and June, which may be adjustments by the league, may be fatigue, may just be regression.  Whatever it is, it’s not helpful.

Notes: They really should have been able to do more against Wade Miley….nice to see Rangel Ravelo get his first extra-base hit and first RBI….0-4 with two strikeouts for Harrison Bader, which wrote his ticket to Memphis finally.

Tuesday, July 30 (2-1 win vs. Chicago)

Hero: Giovanny Gallegos.  As he seems to always be able to do, he came into the game with the bases loaded, the game really hanging in the balance, and got the Cardinals out of it.

Goat: Dexter Fowler.  0-4 with a strikeout, the strikeout coming with two outs and Tommy Edman at second.

Notes: Remember when we were wondering if Paul Goldschmidt was worth what the Cards gave up for him?  Last night reminded us exactly why the Cardinals got him.  A tiebreaking home run (right after Gallegos got out of the jam) shifted all the momentum the Cardinals’ way….Adam Wainwright ran into trouble in the sixth (after the Cubs tried to run him out of it with a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play) but on the whole had another great outing with high stakes.  As long as he’s at home, he’s turned into a reliable option….Gallegos, Andrew Miller, Carlos Martinez (who looked remarkably sharp with the extra rest) will shorten a lot of games down.

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