Could the loss of Matt Adams to injury be the instigator that would propel the St. Louis Cardinals to make a blockbuster deal?
Sure, the Redbirds have the best record in the major leagues. But it’s not as if this team doesn’t have any flaws. The offense comes and goes in spurts and it’s a broadly accepted conclusion that the team is going to need to add a starting pitcher at some point.
So why wait until the trade deadline to make a deal when an opportunity to fix the offense dearth AND add a starting pitcher at the same time is possible now?
The Philiadelphia Phillies not only are desperate to get rid of native St. Louisan Ryan Howard -- who kills the ball at Busch Stadium, by the way. But they’re also the holder of two of the most attractive pitchers on the trade market, ace Cole Hamels and durable veteran Aaron Harang.
Typically, the worst time to make a deal is when you appear to be desperate. But the Cardinals aren’t desperate because of the loss of Adams. I mean the guy was struggling to hit .240 and his power has been missing in action since for more than a year.
Besides, the Redbirds have Mark Reynolds in the fold to take over at first base on a daily basis, worst case scenario.
It’s the Phillies who have been desperate to get rid of Howard to start their rebuilding process. So much so that they club has made it known it is willing to eat the majority of Howard’s salary to get him down the road.
It complicates things that Howard has no-trade protection because of his service time. He’s not going to accept a deal to go just anywhere. But he likely would jump at the chance to wear a Cardinals uniform before the end of his celebrated career. So the Phillies would likely be motivated to make a deal with St. Louis to get rid of their pricey slugger.
Howard has been unattractive because he’s struggled to come back from an Achilles injury three years ago. But he’s having a pretty good season so far in 2015 with 10 doubles, 10 homers and 24 batted in to go along with a respectable batting average.
Howard is owed the balance of $25 million this year, $25 million next year and a $10 million buyout for 2017. What if the Phillies would pay 75 percent of that amount in a mega deal that included a pitcher?
Howard has roughly $50 million coming. So the Cardinals would presumably pay $12.5 million for two years of Howard.
I’d like to have Hamels to go along with him. And I think the Birds need an ace type pitcher to replace Adam Wainwright if they’re going to go far in the playoffs. But I’d certainly take Harang in the deal to give the rotation some depth for if (when) Jaime Garcia blows up.
If Hamels or Harang was in the deal would determine the what the Cardinals would have to pay in return. I’m not proposing a specific package. But guys like Alex Reyes, Sam Tuivailala, Stephen Piscotty and others might be on the table for a Hamels deal. Philadelphia is also said to be enamored with St. Louis centerfielder Peter Bourjos. Unfortunately, the Birds are a little tied up in the pitching prospect department with Marco Gonzales shelved due to shoulder problems. Meanwhile, Carlos Martinez, Kolten Wong and Randal Grichuk are untouchable. Or at least they should be.
The finances of the deal could be swallowed. Paying $6 million a year to have Howard provide St. Louis with its missing power element is a reasonable price. Especially since it’s a short-term commitment. If the Cardinals got Hamels, they could finance the deal by offering Jason Heyward a one-year tender as opposed to a long-term contract. If he declines, the Cardinals get a draft pick and pencil in Grichuk in right field next year for the MLB minimum.
It’s a move that makes sense if Heyward doesn’t pick things up and prove he deserves a mega contract. Even if he does, the Birds could structure a Heyward deal around the three guaranteed years left on Hamels’ contract -- or Heyward could chose to leave and the Cardinals would have a pile of cash to spend regardless of their original intentions.
If the Birds were able to make a move now, they could avoid the trade deadline fray and be set to make a run as they are.
I’d consider taking a fourth of Howard’s salary a worthy investment for landing a much-needed starting pitcher. And the deal would likely make the Cardinals the team to beat in the National League.