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With Their Starting Pitching Imploding, Cardinals Are Looking Like Sellers at the Trade Deadline

As the MLB season nears July, general managers are examining their clubs and formulating an opinion: will they be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline?

When Cards GM John Mozeliak tried to shake up his disappointing team by imposing coaching-staff changes on June 9, the Cardinals responded by sweeping a woeful Philadelphia team. But since then the Cardinals have dropped five of seven; the big shakeup, so far, has led to a 5-5 record. The rotation is collapsing. The bullpen is roughed up. Thanks to Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler, the offense has been scoring more runs as of late, but the Card are receiving little production from the No. 3-4-5 spots in the lineup. And we know about the defense and base running and managing.

Question: does this look like a team that will be in the buyer’s mode come mid-late July? There is no reason for a firm answer right now, but unless something changes dramatically and very soon, it would be hard to imagine Mozeliak going into the buyer’s mode a month from now.

Yes, Mozeliak has time. But he also has a team that’s 10-22 in its last 32 games. A team that’s fallen to 5.5 games behind first-place Milwaukee in the NL Central. A team that’s already 12 games out in the league wild-card race. Unless there’s a sudden turnaround — and winning this next series at Philadelphia doesn’t qualify — then why would Mozeliak part with prospects and tamper with the future in a lost-cause deal to enhance a deeply flawed team?

For the first 43 games the Cardinals had the best starting-pitching ERA in the majors, at 3.00.

In the last 25 games the Cards’ starters are free falling, with a collective 5.76 ERA and only seven quality starts. That rotation ERA ranks 27th in the majors and 14th in the NL since May 25.

During this 25-game rotation reality check, only the brilliant Carlos Martinez has remained strong and reliable. Here’s some updated numbers from a stat that I recently cited:

Since May 25, Martinez (in five starts) has a 2.21 ERA, four quality starts and has averaged 7.3 innings per assignment. But the other rotation arms … goodness …  it’s simply horrendous these days.

These stats entail the 19 combined starts made by Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Mike Leake and Michael Wacha and the one spot start taken by Marco Gonzales:

— 20 combined starts, a 7.09 ERA

— Only three quality starts between them in the 20 starts.

— Martinez was nipped for one homer over his 36.2 innings; the others were pounded for 22 home runs in 96.1 innings — a horrible blast-off rate of 2.05 homers per nine innings.

— A weak average of 4.8 innings per start.

— Starters not named Carlos Martinez lasted fewer than six innings in 14 of their combined 20 starts.

I’ll be blunt here: If the Cardinals’ rotation can’t get back in form to supply consistent quality and a healthy share of innings, this season cannot be saved.

Heck, even with the No. 1 rotation ERA in the majors in their first 43 games, the best the Cards could muster was a 23-20 record. Since the starting pitching went wayward on May 25, the Cardinals have staggered to an 8-17 mark.

If the Cardinals want to refreshen this rotation and give it more zest, the organization has multiple options at Triple A Memphis. And they could move Wacha to the bullpen, where he’d likely be more effective because of the short-burst nature of the role.

Mozeliak may have shaken up the coaching staff, but until now the same feeling of urgency hasn’t applied to the roster except for the release of infielder Jhonny Peralta.

That’s just a quick look-in at this topic for now; I’ll dive deeper into this issue in the coming days and weeks.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

More: Karraker – Adam Wainwright is Losing His Battle with Father Time

  • Sellers.

  • Brad Bugger

    Unfortunately the selling should have begun a couple of weeks ago, when Lynn and Oh had higher market value.

  • Tom Ryan

    I look forward to your specifics, Bernie, I notice Lynn, Wacha, Oh, Siegrist, and Rosenthal have contracts ending in 2017. Unfortunately, we lack major league ready bullpen lefties and closers, so I doubt we trade Rosenthal and Siegrist.

    • James Berry

      Rosey has 1 more year of arb for 2018 and Siegrist has 2 more for 2018-19. Wacha also has 2 more years. Of the group that you listed, Rosey would/could probably bring back the most in a trade. All of them could be traded. Wacha may be the best one to keep and use out of the BP. The way he plows through lineups his first time through, gives me a belief that he is suited as a closer. Gonzalez could easily replace Siegrist. Marco can actually get lefty hitters out.

      • Tom Ryan

        Excellent points, scary whom we could use as a closer next season? I agree about Marco, think relief is his future, would make it easier to move Siegrist if Mo is inclined. Veteran minor league RH reliever Montgomery keeps getting guys out at AAA, hope he gets added to the 40 man and brought up soon if an injury happens. Building toward a much better bullpen through trades or free agency is critical for 2018, IMHO. I think we should retain two of our three young starters to move into the rotation next season out of Reyes, Flaherty and Weaver.
        What’s your feeling about going after a #3 or #4 hitter? Go after him now or the off season? I keep flip flopping my thoughts on the timing, but will take those one or two bats at any IF or OF position, then adjust our current players to positions or trade bait as needed.

        • James Berry

          Most, not all, but most, big thumpers are at corner spots. Be it infield or outfield. Ideally, that bat comes as a 3rd baseman. Problem is, there are none that available. Teams don’t want to part with those players. The only 3rd baseman that will be a FA after this season, that catches my eye a bit, is Moustakas. Despite his power display this season, he really hasn’t been a 3-4 type hitter.

          Justin Upton can opt out with the Tigers after this season. He’s a decent power bat, but the only way he opts out is if he can get bigger money. I doubt he will and trading for him would be costly. Plus, he’s extremely streaky. Not someone you could trust every day in the 3 or 4 slots.

          By all reports, J.D. Martinez can be had, but he’s sketchy, at best, as a fielder. Plus, he’s a bit fragile, so it seems.

          This next FA class is not very overwhelming with talent.

          • Tom Ryan

            No, it’s not. Maybe the Braves will feel “guilty” and trade us Freddie Freeman since Adams has been so productive for them in that park. I notice that Longoria is not off to his typical power start, but at age 31 and locked in another 5 or so years, we don’t need him anymore on our wish list. Freeman or one of the Miami OF or bust, I suppose, then we may not have a prospect left to deal for relief pitching, though.

          • James Berry

            Ozuna worries me. He’s rather up and down, year to year. Plus, he has had some issues with authority through the years in Miami. I know that that could just be an Ozuna versus Miami thing, but then again, it could be an any authority thing.

            Yelich would cost a huge package. Also, is he really developing more power or is it one of those anomaly things?

            Want to make a HUGE splash? Offer a package for Stanton that would be next to impossible to refuse. Problem with that is, what would we have left to put around him to contend?

            Freeman is the face of the Braves. Adams either gets traded at the deadline, or he rides the bench as a PHer or insurance for Freeman.

          • Tom Ryan

            I’m out of names, may need to shore up the relievers and cut the deadwood going into 2018, have to hope Mo finds a bat….maybe a terrific AAA 1B, 3B or corner OF a team can afford to trade for another need like CF, where we have excess with Sierra (prefer to keep him), Bader, Grichuk and the rising Mercado, plus our SP prospects we don’t need for our own 2018 staff.

          • James Berry

            I know there are many fans that fell into instant love with Sierra, but i’m not sold. He needs more seasoning in the minors, but that’s not my problem with him. I think the love so many have for him is based in sentimentality for a bygone era of Cards baseball. They see his speed and immediately think of the 80’s Redbirds. He doesn’t, to this point, carry a bat that really plays in this era. If he were a middle infielder, i’d have a different opinion, but he plays CF and i want my CFer to have some good pop. It doesn’t have to be 30+ homers, but 15+ and gap power is a must. Bader, to me, fits that bill much better.

          • Tom Ryan

            The jury’s out on both of them, but I disagree about needing power in CF and feel Sierra’s superior speed, arm, and nice, level swing give him more upside than Bader, more of a 4th OF, IMHO, unless he catches on with the right team. Bader is more polished, having played SEC ball, but Sierra is a year and a half younger at 21, and should eventually learn how to steal more bases, being a blazer who hits for average. BTW, Sierra is currently playing mostly LF as Mercado has surprised as an all star CF at AA, is only 22, hitting around .330, and has stolen over 20 bases. Quite a logjam with those 3, Pham and Grichuk, so somebody will get traded.

  • Scott Warren

    Sell, sell and sell some more. Who in their right mind would keep this core of players together? Oh that’s right, the guy who assembled them and said they were a quality major league baseball team. No one is untradeable and that should be the mentality here.

  • Rich Rauch

    Sellers. (At the rate this team is going, Mo would have to mortgage the future to buy all the pieces they’d need for any chance to compete in the postseason. No, thanks.)

  • badgerboy23

    Carlos is untouchable. They won’t/can’t trade Yadi/Waino. Everybody else is on the block. I doubt that we win 70 w this bunch, like to see some youth and flexibility. Biggest problem? I have seen no indication in 6 seasons whatsoever that MM has the ability to coach up young players. He is the wrong manager for any team except one that is loaded with skilled veterans that needs a kumbya moment once a week.

  • dan

    Sell everything. Keep Carlos. Commit to a total rebuild — who on this team do we believe we could build around? Carp? Fowler? Wong? Seriously. It’s time for Bader, Sierra and others to join the big club and learn on the job. That means losses. But I’d rather see a true core develop than watch this listless, comical bunch.

  • Tim

    Unfortunately, the selling should have started last year . The later we do, the worse off we would be. It takes two years to rebuild so if we start now, it will be in 2019 when we can expect to be competitive.

    Carp, Gyroko, Lynn, Leake, Oh all have value. Hopefully we can snag an All Star in return.

  • JeremyR

    The problem with not trading prospects is shown in the farm system today. Players who rot in the minors until forced to be called up or those who perpetually bounce between AAA and the majors. This creates a log jam and they lose players in the Rule 5 draft.

    At a certain point you need to stop hoarding players. Either call them up and see what they can do, or deal them

  • ken

    B-b-b-but, Lance Lynn is a bulldog!!!!

  • BradW

    If you have a team full of slightly-above replacement level players, and these players are referred to as your “core”, then it’s time to rebuild.

  • M W

    This shouldn’t even be a question.
    It’s in the best interest of the organization to sell.
    Even the best teams need to regroup sometimes.
    Trade Lynn, Oh and Carpenter. I would consider trading Rosie for the right offer as well.

  • MRomine

    there is so much that needs to be done to this team to get it on track I just don’t see this happening this year. Wanio is done, Leak, looks lost, Wacha might, possibly be useful in the bullpen but not even sure of that. There are only two starters that I would consider keeping in the rotation right now, Martinez and perhaps Lynn if he can get back to where he was just a couple weeks ago. But we don’t have a top notch #1 starter, Carlos is probably a bonafide #2.

  • rightthinker4

    Sellers definitely! However, you can’t get rid of everybody. No. 1, MO has to decide on who he wants to build around. No. 2, do the Cardinals have any marketable players that can bring better than they’re getting rid of? No. 3, who will the manager be in 2018?

  • Jody Wassmer

    I’d trade anyone on this team not named Carlos Martinez. Carpenter could bring some serious young talent from the right team. Gyrko, Lynn, Oh and Rosie could all bring much more than a resin bag. Yadi and Fowler are likely not going anywhere with their contracts. Martinez and Reyes offer a formidable #1 and #2 going forward. Above all, get rid of Mathenius and his BFF Mabry. They’ve sucked the life out of this team.

  • chris sauer

    After 100 years of Cub futility, Cub fans embraced new ownership /leadership and the Cubs sold the idea to the base that they only had to endure a few more years of anguish. First round picks and a good eye for talent got them to the dance. I don’t think a couple of down years will kill the Card’s base. MM will be fired after two more horrible years and the Cards will rise up again with new and better talent. This year is a bust for the Cards, but the Cubs won’t repeat if that makes you feel better.

  • geoff

    The Cards aren’t going very well right now. They aren’t much fun to watch because they can’t hit field or throw or run. Now they are having trouble pitching as well. I sure hope they can get things going, but the contracts Mo has given out have kinda handcuffed the team. Tough year. I somehow get the sense that if the DeWitts have to keep eating not so great contracts that Mo may be made available to the rest of the industry. Has anybody noticed that the team put together by the antique Tony LaRussa led group in Arizona can play a bit. They all got canned before their team came together. Matheny and Mo had some pretty good success for a few years before they were able to weed out most of the antique LaRussa players were distributed to the rest of the league. Maybe there is more to this knowing baseball and eye test stuff than the new experts are willing to acknowledge. I know one thing for sure….If Mike Schildt is the next George Kissell, as everyone keeps touting him to be, he sure as hell doesn’t need to be coaching third base in St Louis, he needs to be grooming baseball players who know how to play the game.

  • Jay

    Fire Matheny and hire Oquendo.