The 2023 MLB Trade Deadline is hours away, with a scheduled stoppage at 5 p.m. St. Louis time. For the Cardinals, it’s the final day to move players until the offseason percolates after the World Series.
Wait! Let’s pause my hurry-scurry notebook to get to some fresh news.
1. According to multiple media reports, the Cardinals have traded shortstop Paul DeJong to Toronto. According to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi, the Cardinals will receive minor-league pitcher Matt Svanson. He isn’t on Toronto’s Top 30 prospect list but has showed promise in two levels of Class A ball this season, powering to a 1.11 ERA, 39 strikeouts and a 0.93 WHIP over 32.1 innings. He’s averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings this year. His overall strikeout rate is 31.3 percent, and he combines that with a high ground-ball rate, 56%. That’s an intriguing combination. He hasn’t allowed a home run this season. Svanson is a big fellow, standing 6-5 and weighing 235 pounds, and his fastball reaches 98 mph.
That said, Svanson put up these impressive numbers as a 24-year-old in Class A baseball, so he may not be as dominant as the stats indicate. It’s wait-and-see time but he obviously fits the big-punch power-pitching capability that the Cardinals are trying to cultivate on their organization. The Blue Jays promoted Svanson to Double A on Monday, and the Cardinals have assigned him to their Double A affiliate in Springfield. I’m told that Cards scouting director Randy Flores liked Svanson, and that’s a plus for me.
“Svanson is a reliever who was taken in the 13th round in 2021 and is putting up good numbers in A ball before a recent promotion,” wrote Rustin Dodd of The Athletic. “One thing to like: he throws from a near three-quarters delivery … (the trade) is a reasonable move on all sides.”
After DeJong’s horrendous 2021 and 2022 seasons, I could not envision a scenario that had a good team, a contending team, wanting to trade for him at the deadline.
By dealing DeJong the Cardinals can place Tommy Edman back at shortstop when returns from the IL. (He’s ready to go now, at least at DH, but may not be used at shortstop right away.) And in theory Edman can also be part of the outfield cast especially if the Cardinals trade fourth outfielder Dylan Carlson.
And by moving DeJong the Cardinals have opened a space for their phenom prospect and future shortstop Masyn Winn. He’s coming soon. You can hear the loud noises from his bat. In his last 50 games at Triple A Memphis, Winn batted .324 with a .389 OBP and .571 slug for a .960 OPS. His peak streak included 11 doubles, four triples, 11 homers, 39 RBI, 52 runs and five steals.
Wynn is a marvel defensively — what an arm! — but right-handed MLB pitchers may give him trouble early on. At Memphis Winn had a .999 OPS vs. lefties and a .759 OPS vs. righties.
DeJong gave the Cardinals an unexpectedly solid 2023 season, which made him a tradable commodity. By moving DeJong the Cardinals have opened a space for their phenom prospect and future shortstop Masyn Winn. And that’s really exciting.
DeJong turns 30 on Tuesday. So happy birthday. And he rates a thank you. DeJong has been a Cardinal since 2017. He hit 115 homers and slugged .426 during his time here. He’s a great guy who was committed to community service in St. Louis.
DeJong put his career back together and helped the Cardinals during a tough season. Because of his surprising contributions, he was one of the brighter spots of St. Louis baseball in ’23. Nothing was expected of DeJong going into the season, but he did enough to become a worthy starting shortstop and eventual trade asset. And no one would have predicted this when the calendar flipped to 2023.
I’m chuckling at the folks that already are ripping the Cardinals for getting such a minor return for DeJong. Hold on, people. You were the same group of hopelessly unhinged haters that told us — over and over again — that DeJong was absolutely worthless. So what did you expect in this trade exchange … a top prospect? Perhaps Vlad Guerrero Jr?
The Blue Jays didn’t wait long to secure help after losing shortstop Bo Bichette to a knee injury Monday. The 25-year-old Bichette is a terrific player, a two-time All Star who leads the American League in hits (144) and batting average (.321) in addition to supplying 25 doubles, 17 homers and 59 RBI. But the Jays needed insurance, and DeJong was a sensible choice.
DeJong was an overall plus performer for the Cardinals this season, ranking sixth among MLB shortstops in Outs Above Average at +8. DeJong is 14th among MLB shortstops with a 1.5 WAR this season, putting him above Trea Turner, Willy Adames, Carlos Correa and Jeremy Pena among others. DeJong hit 13 homers in 279 at-bats, and was just below the league average offensively in wRC+.
1a. DeJong joins two former St. Louis teammates — relievers Jordan Hicks and Genesis Cabrera — in Toronto. Let’s have some fun and list the sum of the three moves that put three Cardinals in Toronto.
— The Cardinals trade lefty reliever Cabrera, righty closer Hicks and shortstop DeJong to the Blue Jays.
— Toronto trades: catching prospect Sammy Hernandez, starting pitching prospect Sem Robberse, starting-pitcher prospect Adam Kloffenstein and Class A pitcher Matt Svanson to the Cardinals.
You can all argue over winners and losers. I don’t like instant-reaction trade grades, but for those who do … The Athletic gave the Blue Jays a B+ and the Cardinals a B for the DeJong deal.
Final thought: I think we should include the Ryan O’Reilly trade in this Toronto-STL trading partnership. O’Reilly, a center, and the Blues’ captain, was dealt to Toronto at the 2023 NHL trade deadline along with forward Noel Acciari.
In return the Blues received the Toronto’s first-round 2023 draft pick, prospect Mikhail Abramov, forward Adam Gaudette, Ottawa’s 2023 third-round pick and Toronto’s 2024 second-round pick.
2. Meanwhile, multiple Cardinals are staring at the clock and standing by for alerts. The list is topped by starting pitcher Jack Flaherty and outfielder Dylan Carlson. A secondary catalog would include the names of outfielder Tyler O’Neill, reliever Giovanny Gallegos, and utility men assets Tommy Edman and Brendan Donovan.
3. I’d truly be surprised to see the Cardinals give up Donovan. I’d be less surprised – but not stunned – by a Gallegos trade. I’m surprised to hear that the St. Louis front office is reportedly holding Edman close and shielding him from interested traders.
4. No one would be surprised to see the Cardinals barter Flaherty, DeJong or Carlson today. O’Neill has drawn interest from teams that are yearning for a boost of instant offense and T.O. is a lottery ticket. He could go bust for the team that acquires him – or could bust up ballparks with an explosion of power over the final two months. O’Neill has added value because he won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2024 season. The Cardinals once again have committed to O’Neill as their starting left fielder … but is that for keeps? Can they be persuaded to trade him. And if the Cardinals trade O’Neill, does it mean they’ll keep Carlson? And what about Alec Burleson? Is he a serious trade candidate?
5. The Cardinals have an outfield logjam that is perpetually clogged. And when it isn’t perpetually congested, they’re giving away talented, impactful outfielders that flourish elsewhere … Randy Arozarena, Adolis Garcia, Lane Thomas, etc. Yeah, I know. The Cardinals made a correct trade in donating Thomas to Washington for starting pitcher Jon Lester at the 2021 trade deadline. But Thomas is another example of an outfielder that the Cardinals viewed as expendable.
6. Which reminds me of another head-shaking, head-scratching statistic. How bad is the St. Louis front office at evaluating outfielders? This: Garcia, Arozarena and Thomas had combined for 8.1 WAR this season through Monday. Meanwhile, the entire colony of Cardinals outfielders has collectively amassed a 5.2 WAR so far in 2023. Good grief.
7. Flaherty is an interesting trade candidate for teams that are looking at him. His peripherals aren’t great, mostly because of a 11 percent walk rate this season. His strikeout rate (22%) matches the MLB average and ranks 39th among qualifying starting pitchers. And the batting line against him – .278 average, .368 OBP and .427 slug – is concerning. But at least some of that has to do with unfortunate batted-ball luck; opponents have a .346 average against him on balls in play.
On the plus side Flaherty is healthy. He’s made his most starts and pitched his most innings since 2019. And he’s gotten better during the season. Jack had a 6.29 ERA over his first seven starts with an ugly 14.2% walk rate. And he gave up too many homers, popped for an average of 1.6 per nine innings.
But over his last 13 starts Flaherty has posted a 3.58 ERA and the team has a 10-3 record in his assignments. Over the last 13 starts his strikeout is a tad lower, but the walk rate has dropped to 9.7% and his home-run rate is 0.6 per nine. His strikeout-walk ratio has improved to 2.2 during the 13-start stretch. Compared to his first seven starts, opponents are down by nine points in batting average, 36 points in OBP and 19 points in slugging. His average game score in his last 13 starts is an above-average 52.
Flaherty pitches with intense competitiveness, and that has to be a plus when potential trade partners examine him. As rentals go, Flaherty has some appealing qualities as a solid mid-rotation starter.
7a. If Flaherty isn’t dealt, will the Cardinals engage him in negotiations on a contract extension? Or will they simply make a qualifying offer after the season and collect a compensatory draft pick when he signs as a free agent with another club? Flaherty would be OK in the 2024 rotation — but not if Cardinals management will do the usual spin-con job and try to cast him as a No. 1 or No. 2 starter.
8. This, from ESPN’s Buster Olney: “One staffer says there will be a barrage of starting pitcher deals completed today, maybe in the last couple of hours before the deadline, as desperation begins to factor in for buyers and sellers. Justin Verlander, Flaherty, Eduardo Rodriguez and Michael Lorenzen among the names in play in that corner of the market. Braves, Dodgers, Reds, Astros, Orioles among the primary buyers.
9. Rumors persist on the Yankees’ interest in Cardinal outfielder Dylan Carlson. But do the Yankees still reside in the “buyers” block of the neighborhood? Tuesday-morning headline at The Athletic: “This Yankees season can’t be saved by trades.”
The Yankees are 16-22 in their last 38 games. They just completed an awful 10-15 July. Even though the booming bat of Aaron Judge returned to the lineup over the weekend, Yankee opponents Baltimore and Tampa Bay pitched around him to go after the other parts of a weak NYY offense. Through Monday, Judge had six walks in 13 plate appearances since returning from a torn toe ligament that had sidelined him since early June.
In June-July the Yankees ranked 29th in the majors in runs, last in batting average (.217), 25th in slugging (.379) and 26th in wRC+.
Several Yankees are stuck in lengthy slumps – most notably first baseman Anthony Rizzo and the overrated slugger Giancarlo Stanton. Rizzo hit .170 with a .496 OPS and one homer during June-July and was 57 percent below league average offensively per wRC+. Stanton is hitting .171 in his last 42 games with a .375 slugging percentage.
In July, Yankee starting pitchers other than Gerrit Cole combined for a 6.65 ERA.
Wrote Athletic baseball scribe Chris Kirchner: “The Yankees haven’t shown owner Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman this group is worth adding to because of how poorly they’ve played.”
10. That doesn’t mean the Yankees would necessarily bypass the chance to add Dylan Carlson. He’s 24 and can’t become a free agent until 2027. Potential trade partners are well aware of the Cardinals’ sad history of failing to properly evaluate or develop outfielders and would likely see Carlson as a viable project who could blossom in a different setting.
From David Adler of MLB.com: “For a team with one of the most notable ballpark features in baseball — the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium — the Yankees are sure light on left-handed bats. The prime trade fit here is probably Cody Bellinger, but he’s reportedly off the market, so Carlson from the Cardinals is the next-best thing. The 24-year-old switch-hitter would get plenty of at-bats from the left side in New York, with the chance to prove he’s still the talented hitter who popped 18 home runs as a rookie in 2021. The Yankees are also the slowest team in the Majors (26.5 ft/sec sprint speed), and Carlson is an above-average runner (28.0 ft/sec for his career) who’s provided excellent baserunning value for St. Louis in his tenure there.”
10a. Carlson hasn’t done much to motivate the Cardinals to keep him. Though he had a swell 16% walk rate in July that generated a .333 onbase percentage for the month, Carlson batted .182 with a .200 slugging percentage in 69 plate appearances. After Carlson’s slugging percentage peaked at .415 on June 20, he’s batted only .200 with a .214 slug — and just one extra-base hit (a double) in 85 plate appearances.
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.