The Big Picture
The defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals are currently 47-45, 4.5 games behind both the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates. They are also 4.5 games behind those two teams in the Wild Card race, but just three games back of the Atlanta Braves and 1.5 games behind the Dodgers for the second Wild Card. The team traditionally is not afraid to make a splash at the trade deadline. Last year, it was a deadline deal that is often credited for propelling the team to the playoffs late in the season. They wonít be afraid to pull the trigger on another deal this July.
Carlos Beltran is playing like an MVP. Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman continue to rake. David Freese became a household name in the playoffs last year and has broken out for real this season. This is a good, deep team that frankly, should not be outside of the current playoff picture looking in.
Why They Will Trade With the Twins
The Cardinals are blessed with one of baseballís best offenses. Their pitching is pretty middle-of-the-pack, and their bullpen could use some proven, quality arms. The Red Birds are 12th
in baseball with a 3.89 ERA, 15th
in WHIP at 1.31, and 22nd
in opponent batting average, at .260. Their starters have generally been just find, providing the team with 55 Quality Starts, which ranks sixth in the game.
Adam Wainright (7-10, 4.42, 1.29), Kyle Lohse (9-2, 2.80, 1.10), Lance Lynn (11-4, 3.27, 1.21), and Jake Westbrook (7-8, 3.82, 1.33) make up four-fifths of the starting rotation. Jaime Garcia is most likely out until at least mid-August. He had an elbow injury in May and is now out with a shoulder injury. Just last week, ace Chris Carpenter had shoulder surgery and is out for the year. Joe Kelly has stepped in and is 1-2 with a 2.75 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP, but I am certain that the Cardinals would be on the lookout for an impact starter. In fact, they are rumored to be kicking the tires on Mariners LHP Jason Vargas.
Considering that several of the other big name pitchers who are likely on the trade block are from the NL Central (Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza of the Cubs, and Zach Greinke and Shawn Marcum of the Brewers), it certainly helps make a case for the Cardinals and Twins having some in-depth conversations surrounding lefty Francisco Liriano. Liriano has been pitching as well as anyone in baseball of late. He could also balance out their rotation a little bit by giving them a left-handed starting pitcher.
The Cardinals bullpen after Jason Motte and righty Mitchell Boggs is kind of a mess. If the Twins are willing to deal the likes of Glen Perkins or Jared Burton, they could get back quite a haul at this time. That said, someone like Casey Fien, who has come up recently as a minor league veteran and pitched very well and shown a lot of life on his pitches, might be someone of interest in a much more minor deal.
Why They Won't Trade With the Twins
Tom Brunansky for Tommy Herr.
OK, that deal was horrible, but it was made 24 years ago, so I think we should be able to move past it by now.
The Cardinals offense is very strong. They rank 2nd
in MLB in batting average (.274), 2nd
in on-base percentage (.340), 7th
in slugging percentage (.478) and 5th
in runs scored. With Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran playing the corner outfield spots, and John Joy posting an OBP around .360, they are one team that doesnít need to go after an outfielder. The only players among their regulars that are currently posting sub-.700 OPS are 2B Daniel Descalso and All Star SS Rafael Furcal (.699). Frankly, the Twins donít have a better option for them at that position.
The Cardinals are used to being in the playoffs and the teams they are chasing may not have better teams on paper. This team may just need to infuse one piece to go on a run. They may also see the Joey Votto injury and think that now is the time to go for it. They will never say it, but Iím sure that Mike Matheny and his ball players would love to get back to the playoffs and show that they can do it without manager Tony LaRussa or all-time great Albert Pujols.
Possible Trade Targets
Shelby Miller - RHP
The assumption would be (and probably still should be) that Miller is not available in pretty much any trade. The 21-year-old right-hander has a fastball that sits in the mid-to-high 90s with good movement. He also throws a curveball and a changeup. He entered the season as Baseball Americaís #8 prospect in baseball. He is now pitching in AAA (in the Pacific Coast League). For the first time, he is struggling. He is 4-8 with a 5.79 ERA and a 1.66 WHIP. Heís given up 91 hits and walked 46 in 82.1 innings. However, he has still struck out 94 batters.
Carlos Martinez - RHP
Martinez is on the upward moving track. He is a right-hander with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and frequently hits 100 on the gun. His curveball and his changeup are works-in-progress and their development will determine whether he is a high-end starter or a high-leverage late-inning reliever. He began the year at Hi-A where he made seven starts, and now he is at AA where he is 2-2 after six starts.
Tyrell Jenkins - RHP
Jenkins was the 50th
overall pick in the 2010 draft out of high school. He throws in the low 90s and touches 95-96 mph despite being just 20 and very skinny. In other words, there is room for growth and velocity. He throws a breaking ball and he is working on a changeup. At Quad Cities this year, he is 2-3 with a 5.12 ERA in 13 starts. He has 54 strikeouts (and 28 walks) in 58 innings.
(Note Ė These top three prospects would not have been in the discussion had Francisco Liriano not been so incredible over the past two-and-a-half months. Now, I think itís fair to at least start negotiations with some of these names. Jenkinsí name has been rumored in the Jason Vargas talks, so excuse me for being hopeful! At least I didnít bring up 20 year old OF Oscar Taveras who hit .386 in the MWL last year and jumped to AA this year where heís posting a .971 OPS.)
Trevor Rosenthal - RHP
Rosenthal was a 21st
round pick of the Cardinals in 2009 out of a small community college in Kansas. He throws 90-95 with a lot of sink and a strong slider. A changeup will be big for him as a change-of-pace pitch. At AA this year, he is 8-6 with a 2.78 ERA in 17 games. He is striking out 7.9 per nine innings. Last year in Low-A, he struck out 9.9 per nine.
Kolten Wong Ė 2B
The Twins drafted Wong in the mid-rounds out of high school, but he chose to go to the University of Hawaii. It panned out for him as, well, 1.) he got to hang out in Hawaii for 3 years playing baseball, and 2.) he played well enough that he jumped into the middle of the first round last year. The 21-year-old is currently hitting .298/.372/.419 (.791) in 84 games at AA.
Please add your thoughts and trade ideas (and other names the Twins could pursue) in the comments below!