The trade deadline turned out much like the rest of the St. Louis Cardinals season so far — we all waited for things to finally come together, but they never did.
While fans and the media argued over whether the Redbirds would be buyers or sellers, it turned out they were neither. The front office chose to stand pat, not adding the bat or bullpen help the club desperately needs to be a serious threat, nor trading away starting pitcher Lance Lynn, whose contract will expire at the end of the season or any of the surplus outfielders that clog the depth chart from the major leagues down to Class AAA Memphis and Class AA Springfield.
I can’t say that I’m surprised.
As I wrote last week, holding the course was likely the team’s only choice. It stands 4 1/2 games out of the lead in the National League Central Division race — too close to run up the white flag and commence the fire sale. But it has too many holes to fill without sacrificing a major chunk of the franchise’s young talent for a short-term gamble.
The trade deadline used to be a time of major roster shuffles. But that doesn’t happen anymore because too many teams are in the same spot St. Louis is in now: They’re not willing to pull the plug on their season because, at least mathematically, they’re still in the picture for a playoff spot. Selling off your stars rarely plays well with the fans.
So, unless owners want the tattered remains of their team to play in front of three-quarters empty ballparks, you have to at least make a half-hearted effort to try to stick it out. So, the only way the Cardinals were going to land the major bat they (at least should have) coveted would be to overwhelm another team with their top three or four prospects.
That just wasn’t going to happen.
So, we’re all just going to have to wait until the off-season — again — to see whether the Redbirds will get involved in bidding for a third and/or fourth-place hitter to make their lineup more imposing.
I’ll be interested to see, since the team get a deal for Lynn done, if the team is close to re-signing the durable hurler to an extension. Lynn said repeatedly in the last two or three weeks that he “wasn’t going anywhere” in a way that was oddly confident. Maybe he knows something we don’t.
While a lot of us were hoping that something exciting would happen to turn this season around, the good news is that the Cardinals didn’t make a move for the sake of making a move.
It would have been a big mistake to give away slugging outfielder Randal Grichuk, fire-balling reliever Trevor Rosenthal or struggling shortstop Aledmys Diaz if the team couldn’t get a significant return.
While Grichuk has struggled to establish himself, Rosenthal has been inconsistent and Diaz is having The Mother of All Sophomore Slumps, they’re all players who have a ton of upside who are still under team control. It wouldn’t have been sensible to cut that talent loose. If St. Louis decides to part ways with any of them or all of them, they could be part of a bigger deal over the winter. And I would guess those particular players might be more appealing to a rebuilding club than they would to a contender looking to bolster its roster at the trade deadline.
The best thing the Birds can do at this point is to bring up even more of the youngsters, especially in September when the rosters expand, to see what they can do and get a better look at the club’s big picture.
I’d like to see what Patrick Wisdom, Jose Adolis Garcia, Sandy Alcantara and Dakota Hudson can do in the big leagues. And maybe the kids will bring a little bit of fun and a little bit of life to a season that doesn’t seem like it’s going to have a happy ending.