THE REDBIRD REVIEW
As part of their offseason approach, I assume the Cardinals will look to make a trade for a starting pitcher who is more than just a depth guy.
This endeavor — while mandatory and worthy — could cause considerable discomfort for president of baseball ops John Mozeliak and his cabinet of associates.
You’ll have to excuse me for declining to put 500 potential trade-package proposals online to generate clicks. Why? Because we don’t know who tops the list of starting pitchers being targeted by the Cardinals. And we don’t know what St. Louis will be asked to give up in return.
Here’s a few things we do know:
1) There’s a shortage of middle infielders on the free-agent market. Good luck finding a shortstop capable of providing WAR value above the replacement level.
2) The Cardinals have a good variety of middle infielders. Other than Tommy Edman and rookie Masyn Winn, none are capable of playing shortstop in a full-time role. But if a team is seeking a second baseman and/or someone to help at third base, the Cardinals have Brendan Donovan and Nolan Gorman. Plus Triple A prospects Thomas Saggese and Cesar Prieto. There’s value in having movable, multi-position players on your roster.
3) With the volume of right-handed pitching continuing to rise in the majors, left-handed hitters have extra appeal. The Cardinals have a nice collection of LH bats including Donovan, Gorman, and outfielders Lars Nootbaar and Alec Burleson. Edman and outfielder Dylan Carlson are switch-hitters with something else in common: both are below-average offensively against RH pitching.
4) The Redbirds I’ve cited here are cost-controlled players that won’t cause much if any payroll pain for prospective trade partners. That’s a bonus in any trade scenario.
There’s a market for these Cardinals … but how much of a market? That’s the question that’s hanging over the trade-talk speculation. Donovan, Gorman, Nootbaar and Burleson have the most appeal. And if the Cardinals are willing to move Winn for the right price, he’d draw plenty of interest.
OK, what about Edman? Because of his blend of skills and all that he can do for a team, I’m putting him in a separate category.
Let us review:
– Edman has played at six different positions for the Cardinals including 307 games at second base, 145 at shortstop, 127 in the outfield, and 94 at third base. And – this is the big thing – Edman has a plus defensive rating at each position. And this past season Edman was credited with five outs above average in center field – an impressive count considering that he logged only 311 innings there in 2023.
– Among non-catchers, Edman ranks ninth in the majors with 45 defensive runs saved over the last five seasons. And he’s compiled that with his work at multiple spots in the field. Managers love to have dudes like this.
– Over the last five seasons, Edman was rated as the third-best baserunner in the majors according to the metrics at Baseball Reference. The FanGraphs metrics have him as the fourth-best baserunner in MLB since 2019. Edman’s stolen-base success rate in the majors is an excellent 90.5 percent. And according to Bill James, Edman has an outstanding net baserunning gain of +138 during his time as a Cardinal.
– Per OPS+, Edman has been a league-average hitter during his big-league career. Given his defense and baserunning, there’s nothing wrong with being an average hitter. But even though Edman has been less effective as a left-handed batter, he’s only six percent below league average when facing right-handed pitchers. He’s 12 percent above average vs. lefty pitchers. And a team that acquires Edman could find ways to develop more consistency from the left side of the plate. The St. Louis staff hasn’t been able to do that.
– With this mix of attributes, Edman ranks 37th in WAR among 302 qualifying position players over the last five seasons. And he isn’t eligible for free agency until 2026.
So why am I focusing so much on Edman? Answer: he has value, he’s probably an underrated trade chip, and the Cardinals can afford to move him. And that’s especially true if they’re committed to Winn as their starting shortstop.
Wait a minute … but isn’t Edman essential to the Cardinals because of his ability to cover so much ground in center field?
On the surface, yes. But the Cardinals also have center fielder Victor Scott II on the way. And he’ll likely join the big club during the 2024 season. Scott could win a roster spot in spring training, but he hasn’t played above the Double A level. The Cardinals (presumably) will give Scott some time at Triple A Memphis. But one way or another, Scott is a fast-running, fast-rising prospect and it won’t be long until he’s playing center for St. Louis.
Including the 2023 Arizona Fall League, Scott has stolen 125 bases in 145 attempts in the minors for a success rate of 86.2 percent. Splitting time at Double A and Triple A during the regular season, Scott swiped 94 bags in 108 chances (87%). Add in the Arizona League stats, and he has 112 stolen bases in 2023. Scott is good defensively, doesn’t strike out much and is showing more power. Scott, who bats from the left side, turns 23 in February.
Former MLB scout Bernie Pleskoff (Mariners, Astros) posted a scouting profile of Scott online at Forbes.
Here are some excerpts:
* “Scott has opened eyes in the Fall League with his blazing speed. Putting it mildly, Cardinals fans will love watching Victor Scott II play baseball. His incredible, game-changing speed may be why MLB.com ranks him the No. 4 player among the Cardinals Top 30 Prospects.”
* “Scott’s speed is among the best this observer has seen in quite a while on a 20-80 Scouting Grade Scale, Scott’s speed registers a Grade 80, which is extremely rare.”
* “Speed kills. And speed kills in professional baseball. Given new MLB rules, far more runs are being scored. And thanks to bigger bases, a limit on pitcher disengagements from the pitching rubber, and the pitch clock, far more bases are being stolen. Scott II profiles as the type of player that will capitalize on the new rules, and exploit any weakness regarding base stealing he senses from the opposition.”
* “Scott II isn’t only about speed. He shows some true pop in his bat. He can be a home run threat as he physically matures and gains more depth to his frame. Scott II may also gain home run power when he learns how pitchers try to get him out.”
* “This scout has seen Scott II make consistent contact in the Arizona Fall League. While scouts have expressed concerns about a potential strikeout problem, that issue has not surfaced in the games this scout has observed. Scott II has struck out only eight times in 99 plate appearances.”
* “With his speed, one might want to see Scott II walk a bit more. It would help him get on base, allowing him to use his world class speed. But Scott II goes to the plate to hit the ball. He should be able to hit for a solid big league average, but he won’t win a batting title. If he can get on base, he may steal second, and possibly third. And he’ll likely find himself in a position to score plenty of runs.”
* “Using excellent speed, and good route running, Scott II is a solid outfielder. He profiles as a take-charge centerfielder, with an ability to track balls off the bat and chase down drives to both gaps. Because his arm strength is only average, he isn’t a candidate to play right field.
* “With the potential for power to emerge in the future, and good defensive play, to this scout, Scott projects as a Grade 55 player – an above average major league talent. A grade 55 player is in the lineup daily, and not usually subject to a platoon.”
Keith Law (The Athletic) offered some notes on Scott after spending time watching prospects in the Arizona Fall League.
“He’s looked very good out in Arizona, and not just on the bases. He can play the heck out of center field, with great reads that give him unbelievable range coupled with his speed,” Law wrote. “And he’s shown better contact quality than expected for a guy who showed very little power this year, along with a decent eye at the plate, although there are definitely some adjustments needed here on pitches on the inner third.”
Law compared Scott to the former Reds speed-demon center fielder Billy Hamilton. “But he’s stronger and makes more contact (than Hamilton), which should give him a path to be the regular Hamilton never really was,” Law wrote.
There’s a reason why Cardinals Hall of Famer Vince Coleman is a huge Victor Scott fan. Under the revised rules, can you imagine the damage Scott will do on the bases? And he’s improving as a hitter. Once Scott arrived at Double A Springfield last season, he batted .323 with a .373 onbase percentage and .450 slug in 66 games.
I’ll be interested to see if the Cardinals stay with Edman or barter him for pitching. If they keep Edman, he can play center field for the Cards in 2024 until Scott is fully ready to graduate. And Edman can play second base if the Cardinals do something cuckoo and trade Gorman.
If the Cardinals keep Edman for 2024, he’ll lose trade value at the end of the season. Right now a team can trade him knowing that they’ll have him in place for two seasons until he can head to free agency. Next offseason Edman will have only one contract-controlled year remaining.
Edman is a favorite of Cardinals manager Oli Marmol but that shouldn’t matter. The Cards have solid reasons for keeping Edman but those reasons do not include “He’s their best center fielder defensively so they can’t trade him.” Forgive my rudeness, but with Victor Scott racing in the direction of St. Louis, that kind of thinking is short-sighted.
Thanks for reading …
Bernie hosts an opinionated sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. on Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. You can stream it live or access the show podcast on 590thefan.com or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.
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For weekly Cards talk, listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch and Miklasz via 590thefan.com or through 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, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Fielding Bible and Baseball Prospectus unless otherwise noted.
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.