T-minus 14 Days until What Exactly?

Now that the MLB Draft is in the rear view, the countdown until the inevitable has started in some strange ways and not just due to the first losing summer since 2007. The Cardinals are making almost daily statements which is all well and good but where will it lead? For the St. Louis front office to pull this off, the clock is ticking with the only question left to answer being how will it all look once the dust has settled.

August first holds special meaning in baseball as the normal dog days of summer kick into high gear as it is but adding the Trade Deadline to the mix only puts more pressure on a club unfamiliar with the current scenario. There’s a huge difference between never selling which is where the Cards usually reside to having to make at least a half dozen moves with ripples that could take years to bear fruit. Instead of announcing next season as the goal in any potential deals, why limit your return to only prospects on the cusp of the big leagues. The Birds on the Bat can afford to be somewhat picky and take the best deal but honestly makes zero sense with many of the ill-timed recent statements.

The truth of the matter has to be that St. Louis management failed to properly read the market last Winter and won’t be able to make up for it in the now less than two weeks left for trades to be made official. And on top of that, the brass picking a college OF in the first round only makes it more obvious that the logjam for playing time is about to be more complicated unless multiple big league bats are moved as well. Here are the six moves necessary between now and the deadline for this campaign to matter moving forward.

But as is the case in any good story, first the prologue: if you are expecting to see any of the core four below, sorry but there will not be any moves for the firm of Walker, Goldy, Nado, and Donny. Nolan and Paul outside of having no-trade clauses are the best reason to look at next year (and for ticket sales) but more importantly should have the option of finishing their careers under the Arch. Jordan might be the most obvious no-doubt keeper since that Pujols guy but for me the lead off savior has been the MVP of a lost year.

Brendan Donovan wouldn’t be the first guy that comes to mind in trade discussions and rightly so given the higher profile teammates and pure rentals surrounding him. That doesn’t mean the talks are quiet, though, and this has to be where DeWitt and company draw the line. The reigning Gold Glove winner at the utility position has played six different spots in the field well until his throwing arm needed a break. Instead of taking time to properly recover, Donovan picked up a lucky number seven position of Designated Hitter and check out the numbers. The super sub had a down May like most of his teammates but since the calendar turned, all he has done is raise the batting average by over 40 points and found a power stroke from the first position in the lineup that has brought his OPS over .800.

Yes, the Cardinals must make moves in order to get back to the top of the NL Central next year but not at the expense of the next daily player who deserves an extension and not a change of address. That list honestly needs to include more than the names below, so use this as a jumping off point and expand accordingly.

  1. Jack Flaherty – the former and maybe future (all about the wording, right) potential Ace and savior to the right contender just needs the proper motivation. While the WHIP is still higher than preferred, the truth has to be a healthy Flaherty hitting the market at 28 years old isn’t coming back to St. Louis. He will never have a higher value than at this very moment and should be packing heavy on the next road trip.
  2. Jordan Hicks – who couldn’t use a set-up arm like his that can step in and close the door as needed? His value has also skyrocketed and truth be told, the Cards more than likely did themselves a disservice promoting him as early as they did. They need to recover assets now because in this scenario, both 1 and 2 would gladly accept a qualifying offer for another season at a Waino-like number.
  3. Jordan Montgomery – the only one of the group that might have returned after hitting the open market certainly has pitched himself to an entirely different level. Monty rarely received enough offensive support which likely cost him a spot on the All-Star team and oh yes, his agent is Scott Boras. All three are true rentals so the case for packaging a couple for a better return makes sense.
  4. Dylan Carlson – what a difference a year makes, huh? The so-called centerpiece of the Soto deal that never was going to happen, Carlson probably doesn’t belong on this list but sacrifices must be made in order to improve the quality of pitching in the organization. He is far from being a free agent and still cheap, two qualities any contender can use now and in the future.
  5. Paul DeJong – also can be controlled for multiple seasons given the team options and revived his career after three straight years of looking completely lost at the plate. A number of contenders could use a steady presence at shortstop, and he might not even need to be packaged anymore to get the proper return.
  6. Tyler O’Neill – on the other hand, there’s not a right answer when trying to figure out what happened to another Gold Glove winner who garnered a top 8 MVP finish just two years ago. It seems much longer than that now although a change of scenery seems to be the best answer especially after his effort was called into question by the manager.

Those aren’t the only players that should be moved in order to clean house properly, but they are the ones on the 40-man roster most likely to help replenish what is missing. If you don’t believe me, go ahead and check out the current rosters at Memphis and Springfield for pitching depth that likely could help close the gap in the National League. The Cardinals are officially on the clock with no room for error and 20 teams ready to pounce on the opportunity.

As the saying goes, there’s no time like the present so hang on for what is surely about to be a roller coaster like we have not witnessed before. And who knows it might be fun for once being the team everyone is talking about instead of the only club not to make a single deadline move.

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