The unofficial second half began Friday as the St. Louis Cardinals got back into action following the All Star Break. But trade season is also officially underway, and the Cards are looking to improve so they can make another run at the postseason.
Lance Berkman is due to come off the disabled list this weekend while the team is in Cincinnati, making the lineup and bench whole for the first time in months. Obviously, upgrading the pitching staff is now the most logical move for the Cardinals—especially in the wake of losing both Chris Carpenter and Kyle McClellan for the season, and having no idea when they’ll see Jaime Garcia again. The debate on who to go after could be endless: Top of the rotation guy? Innings-eater? Closer? LOOGY? Middle reliever? All of the above? Regardless, you have to give up something to get something as the old saying goes. And the Cards have some depth. They have guys they can deal.
This list is by no means easy to compile. And the number of players going each way is a huge factor. John Mozeliak may end up packaging one group of players to acquire another group of players like he did for the Colby Rasmus trade in 2011, or he could do a one-for-one swap. So I’m compiling a list, and it is by no means comprehensive. But since the Cards need to add to their pitching staff, I’m going to avoid designating pitchers on the active roster as “expendable”—even though a guy like Fernando Salas seems to be as far from “untouchable” as a reliever can get. And if they had a better relief option in the minors, that guy would be up…he wouldn’t be trade bait either. Are there better starters than Jake Westbrook out there? Of course. But anyone who thinks the Cards are going to be able to trade him for Cole Hamels is quite obviously hoarding all the good drugs.
So we’ll focus on position players, and pitchers not currently on the 25-man roster. I think you might know who I’m talking about. Again, there might be 50 players in the entire organization the Cards could do without, but players off the 40-man roster without name recognition—or players on it with no real upside—aren’t likely to bring much of a return. Anyway…my list:
Tyler Greene (2B, SS) – Shocking his name would pop up on this list, eh? Greene has been given every opportunity to stick with the big club. At first, we all thought it was nerves playing for Tony La Russa. Well, La Russa is gone. And the Cards are getting the same old, same old from Greene. One concession: he’s never gotten a legitimate chance as a shortstop, his natural position. Perhaps that’s the best reason of all to trade him. His value may not be much, but packaging him could help yield the Cards a player who can be consistently productive…something they probably will never see from Tyler Greene.
Shane Robinson (OF) – Sugar Shane has done everything asked of him: start, come off the bench, pinch hit, pinch run, you name it. He may never be a great player, but he is a good player and could have a role with any club as a fourth outfielder. Unfortunately, the Cardinals have like three other guys that can fill that role right now. Robinson is the classic odd man out, and he may benefit from more time in AAA. But he still retains some upside for any club, and would be a good addition to a package deal for an impact arm.
Matt Adams (1B) – He’s the Brett Wallace of 2012, except Adams can actually move. He’s blocked six ways from Sunday at 1st base, and that happens to be the only position he can play. If the Cards don’t have Carlos Beltran next year, I think Adams’ value is a little higher because Allen Craig would likely be needed in right field. He may anyway after Beltran leaves. But at this point, Adams’ trade value is pretty high, and may not get much higher.
Bryan Anderson (C) or Steven Hill (C) – The Cardinals are good behind the plate. Yadier Molina is obviously here to stay, and Tony Cruz is more than capable as a backup. And if he isn’t, backup catchers aren’t real tough to find. Anderson has never developed into what some thought he could be, and Hill is just a tic ahead of him offensively. Neither has a ton of value alone, but a team looking for catching depth may be interested in one of them as part of a package.
Brandon Dickson (RHP) – Dickson has some experience at the big league level and has some upside. Where he projects in a given rotation is anyone’s guess, but pitching is always at a premium and the Cardinals have enough organizational depth to dangle Dickson for a team looking for a young arm.
Shelby Miller (RHP) – This one is tough to swallow. Miller has been perceived as untouchable since he was drafted in 2009. And his struggles in 2012 are no reason to give up on him. But again—in order to get something, you have to give up something. The real, logical reasons Miller can be deemed expendable are: A) the emergence of Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly as viable rotation options, and B) the depth behind Miller in Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, and John Gast (among others). Trading Miller is not a must—the Cardinals could do a lot worse than holding on to him—but in terms of upside and ceiling equating to trade value, Miller may be the best chip the Cardinals currently hold.
Again, this list is far from complete. If they go after a second baseman, for instance, maybe Daniel Descalso becomes expendable. But aside from the unlikely hypotheticals, the Cards have pieces to move and they have the motivation to once again win now. That should equal an intriguing trade season for the defending World Champs.