I've been decidedly undecided about whether I believe the St. Louis Cardinals should trade top prospects to try to land a high quality starting pitcher for the final leg of the 2014 season.
The only thing I'm sure of is that the Redbirds shouldn't give away big pieces for a short-term rental.
Should they trade a package including Oscar Taveras for Boston Red Sox hurler Jon Lester who can be a free agent at the end of the season? No way. Should they trade Taveras for David Price? Maybe, and my enthusiasm goes up if the Birds could hammer out a long term contract extension before the deal is completed. I'd be more excited about a trade for Cole Hamels who is under contract for a reasonable four seasons. But, in terms of talent, he might be the most expensive to get.
It's obvious the Redbirds are going to have to get rid of some of their prospects at some point because there just isn't room to play them all. Look at the Matt Adams/Allen Craig/Oscar Taveras situation as one example. Another is the fact that Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez want to be starting pitchers and the Cardinals already have Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller filling those five slots.
Any one of the pitchers previously listed as potential trade targets is a step above four of the five current St. Louis starters. They would be a great compliment to the ace, Wainwright, especially in a short series. But if the Cardinals spend all their prospect bullets on a great pitcher, what are they going to do to try to address the weak offense?
Maybe the best way to proceed would be to follow the model general manager John Mozeliak created over the winter when he refused to bow to the demands of his counterparts who tried to hold him up as St. Louis attempted to upgrade at shortstop: Hold on to your pieces now and try to add to the team over the off-season when you can spend money instead of talent to get what you need.
Why not try to sign Lester as a free agent instead of trading for him? Then, if the Cardinals decide they want to try to make a deal later for Troy Tulowitzki and Giancarlo Stanton, they still have the pieces to do so.
It used to be that teams would save money by just building a club good enough to compete over the long haul. Then at the trade deadline they would ship off a couple of prospects to try to build a playoff powerhouse. I'm not sure that works anymore. Too many teams, including Price's Tampa Bay Rays, think they're still in the mix because of the two wildcard system. And the draft pick compensation tied to losing free agents makes refusing to trade players and instead letting them walk as free agents more appealing.
Teams value their prospects more than ever. And with revenue increasing thanks to a new national television contracts, the pendulum is swinging back toward buying players instead of trading for them.