Right after the All-Star Game on Tuesday, Sports Illustrated reporter Jon Heyman was rushed onto the MLB Network on-field studio to announce the news: the holder of the all-time saves in a season record Francisco Rodriguez had just been sent to the Brewers for some mid-level prospects.
The natural first reaction (I had it too) was that Cards GM John Mozeliak had to counter with a move of his own. In fact, Mo was even discussing with the media what kind of deal he will be making with the trade deadline now only a bit more than two weeks away. But now my question is Why? Why is a trade taken for granted?
K-Rod is good, but he will operate as a setup man in Milwaukee since a big paycheck hike is in store for the team if he ends 21 more games. So his role is diminished in an already awful bullpen (20 losses, most in the Majors). So how good did this move really make them? Better than the Cardinals? I don’t think so. The only reason the NL Central is even close at this point is because the Cardinals were banged up ever since Adam Wainwright went down in spring training. But now, they’re healthy. Matt Holliday, Albert Pujols, David Freese, Skip Schumaker, Gerald Laird and Kyle McClellan are all healthy with the only key players still on the DL being Allen Craig and Eduardo Sanchez. They were equal with the Brewers when they were injured. Now, everyone’s back.
So, to me, the Cardinals are better than the Brewers by not making any deals. In a way, getting Pujols and others off the disabled list are trades in their own right.
Plus, what do the Cards really need? The primary answers to that would be defense, relief and starting pitching. Defense is an obvious hole, but you can’t point to a single player who is on the field solely because of his defense. For instance, why does Lance Berkman play right instead of Jon Jay, who is a much better rightfielder? Because Berkman puts up MVP numbers at the plate. So while defense is important to most teams, it’s obvious that it will not be an integral part of this one.
If you had said the Cards needed to make a deal to help the bullpen a month ago, I would have totally agreed with you. But now, the entire thing has been re-worked since Opening Day:
Bryan Augenstein (Still injured)
Miguel Batista (Fired)
Mitchell Boggs (Demoted for some reason, re-promoted)
Ryan Franklin (Fired)
Brian Tallet (Injured)
Fernando Salas (Promoted, now closer)
Lance Lynn (Promoted, now long reliever)
Raul Valdes (Promoted, now lefty specialist)
P.J. Walters (Promoted)
Eddy Sanchez (Promoted, injured)
Maikel Cleto (Promoted, demoted)
Brandon Dickson (Promoted, demoted)
Raul Valdes’ job is kind of confusing right now. As one of only two lefties in the ‘pen, you would think his job would be to face other lefties. But actually, he has faced 11 right-handed batters (.273) and nine left-handers (.222). (He’s also never pitched in a winning game in six outings, but only one of those was his fault.) So we don’t know if he will be good or bad yet. We do know that Trever Miller is having an awful year. One unknown and one bad equals the need for lefty relief help: the only thing I think the Cards need to trade for. Fernando Salas has done a great job closing games, so the highly-proposed move for Heath Bell, who offered to come over from San Diego, is unnecessary.
And offense is obviously not a problem.
One more thing to consider: Who gets traded in these trades? The only chip that carries enough value for a big name player is Colby Rasmus. I’ve said it before and will keep saying that a trade of Rasmus is not a good idea right now. He is too young, has not hit his ceiling yet, and is playing virtually for free right now. If it ever looks like he won’t top out like he should, get something for him either this offseason or next year. But it’s better to wait and see than give away an All-Star in a tight payroll setup just to one-up the Brewers’ new setup man.