Let’s check in on the swap meet and take a look at how the Cardinals could be impacted by trades made by other teams …
Baseball’s annual gift-exchange session is underway. Until the Cardinals make their first move in the process of offloading impending free-agent pitchers Jordan Montgomery, Jack Flaherty, Jordan Hicks and Chris Stratton, we can only look at the clues that have surfaced when other teams swung deals.
I’d put shortstop Paul DeJong in the offload category. He may not be an imminent free agent in the traditional sense, but a team that trades for Pauly D doesn’t have to exercise a club option to retain him for 2024.
The action heated up Wednesday, when the White Sox took advantage of Angels owner Arte Moreno’s fervor to make deals in a desperate lunge for a postseason spot.
To secure walk-year pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, the Angels picked up two appealing rentals by parting with two of their top four prospects in catcher Edgar Quero and lefty pitcher Ky Bush.
This is a generous return for the White Sox, who added a young (20) catcher with an impressive all-around skill set and a starter that projects as a No. 4.
(I should also point out the Angels have a more highly-ranked catching prospect in Logan O’Hoppe. And while Quero and Bush are promising talents, they didn’t make it on Keith Law’s Top 60 MLB prospect rankings (or the honorable-mention list) published by The Athletic on July 21. But still: a nice trade for the CWS.)
Before completing this deal, the Angels pulled Shohei Ohtani from the market and informed teams of their plans to keep him in place for the remainder of the season – with hopes of convincing him to sign a record-breaking free-agent contract that could exceed $500 million.
In that context this trade was part of Moreno’s strategy to go all-out to impress the Ohtani unicorn. Moreno wanted to show Ohtani that (1) the Angels are committed to winning and will do what’s necessary; and (2) the earning of a playoff entry ticket in 2023 is just the beginning of a successful future for the Halos.
If Ohtani believes that, he may be willing to listen when Moreno offers $500 million or more in a contract extension. Once Moreno made the decision to pull Ohtani from the seller’s market, it makes sense to take the next step by trying to improve the LAA roster. Expect Moreno to take more big swings before Tuesday’s trade deadline.
On the other hand, if Moreno’s latest gamble fails and the Angels crater down the stretch, Ohtani will proceed to collect on the largest free-agent contract in MLB history. Ohtani seems destined to do that, anyway.
Why would Ohtani stay with the Angels? If you can’t win with Ohtani and Mike Trout, there’s no reason to put faith in Moreno and buy in. Even if the Angels make it to the 2023 postseason tournament, Ohtani will have more attractive options. And if he wants to win a couple of World Series, the Angeles aren’t the vessel.
The Angels, third in the AL West, have a 17.1 percent shot to make the playoffs according to FanGraphs. Moreno’s franchise hasn’t made the postseason since 2014 and hasn’t won a playoff game since 2009.
What does this trade mean for the Cardinals?
Well, the White Sox are being praised for their return in the first major offload of the 2023 trade deadline. Does this mean the Cardinals will get a little more than initially hoped for when shopping their available pitchers and shortstop? Maybe, but I don’t think one trade between the White Sox and Angels will reset the trade-value charts. As my friend, the baseball analyst Joe Sheehan told me, “I don’t think the market is that linear.” And he’s right.
Perhaps most of all, we should remember that the White Sox sent two pitchers to the Angels, so the return inevitably would be higher.
There appears to be plenty of interest in what the Cardinals are putting out there, so it’s up to president of baseball operations John Mozeliak to cash in. Can he land a starting pitcher or two that are on the verge of becoming part of a big-league rotation? Is there a developing high-velocity, high-strikeout reliever out there who could soon graduate to the St. Louis bullpen?
My takeaway from the White Sox angle? You’ll do better, and make more happen, if you bundle trade pieces instead of doing it one at a time.
To use a hypothetical example, the Cardinals could increase their return for a walk-year starter like Jordan Montgomery by making it a package deal that includes closer Jordan Hicks.
If a team covets a starter and an outfielder, the Cardinals can do that. And let’s just say that a team has the urge to acquire Dylan Carlson because of his youth and untapped potential. Carlson, 24, and won’t be eligible for free agency until 2027. Put DC in a bundle that includes Monty or Flaherty, and the Cardinals should fare pretty well — much better than if they simply traded a stand-alone pending free agent starting pitcher.
The Cardinals could pair a walk-year starter — Montgomery or Flaherty — with another Cardinal to come up with several combinations.
— Walk-year starting pitcher and a closer (Hicks.) For a pitching-needy contender that’s short of a starter and a power reliever, the idea of obtaining a starter-closer tandem would raise the pulse rate.
— Walk-year starting pitcher and an outfielder. (Carlson, Tyler O’Neill, Alec Burleson, perhaps even Juan Yepez.)
— Walk-year starting pitcher and a shortstop (DeJong.)
— Walk-year starting pitcher and a speedy, versatile, good-fielding utility asset (Tommy Edman.)
— Or the Cardinals could make Hicks the headliner and include another asset from the names I’ve mentioned. Unless, of course, St. Louis signs Hicks to a contract extension before the trade deadline.
— Heck, the Cardinals could even bundle three trade pieces to increase their return.
The Cardinals benefited from the White Sox move, simply because a good starting pitcher, Giolito, is now off the market. The White Sox also showed the Cardinals how to enhance the trade value for rentals by trading a pair of them instead of one.
Mozeliak and associates have a lot of ways they can be creative to get something meaningful accomplished over the next few days.
Thanks for reading …
Bernie hosts a weekday sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app.
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The “Seeing Red” podcast on the Cardinals, featuring Will Leitch and B. Miklasz is available at 590thefan.com, the 590 the fan app or your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.
All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Fielding Bible, Baseball Prospectus or Bill James Online.
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.