Cheap Seats

Buyers or sellers? The St. Louis Cardinals have tough trade deadline decisions looming

I watch the St. Louis Cardinals play and think to myself that if they could just string a few more wins together that maybe they’d inspire the front office to go out and get a couple of players who could really make this club a contender.

But it doesn’t appear that ownership or the decision makers have much faith in this club that seems to be a whole worth less than the sum of its parts. Inches away from contention in the National League Central Division, unfortunately, it seems this club is more likely to tear down and start over than it is to go out and pluck the menacing middle of the order hitter it needs off the trade market.

If the Cardinals decide to be sellers at the trade deadline, there are opportunities for them to make swaps with several teams in contention. But it will likely be a painful process that will force fiercely loyal Redbirds rooters to say goodbye to old friends.

The New York Yankees have received the second-worst production in the major leagues from the first base position. New York first sackers have managed only a .175 batting average through the first half of the 2017 season with 10 home runs and 31 runs batted in. St. Louis first baseman Matt Carpenter has hit only .231 so far this season, his worst year in the majors so far in terms of batting average. But his 14 homers and 41 runs batted in are far better than what the Yankees have received from the position so far this year and the lefty swinger, who refuses to take advantage of the opposite field openings other teams create by using defensive shifts against him, would likely benefit from fact that new Yankee Stadium is a home run haven, especially to right field.

Odds of Carpenter being traded are probably less than 30 percent, although he has struggled to find a position he can stick at in the field and he, mysteriously, can’t seem to hit any other place than first in the batting order. He’s not getting any younger or faster — or any better with the glove — but he’s one of St. Louis’ more consistent hitters, so the club probably isn’t looking to deal him without getting an RBI bat in return. Prospect Luke Voit has hit the ball well in his brief time in the majors. But I’m not convinced the Cardinals are ready to hand first base to him just yet.

If first base is a black hole for the Yankees offense, third base is the Boston Red Sox equivalent. BoSox third sackers are hitting .230 this season with seven homers. That’s 28th among the 30 MLB teams in production from the position. The Cardinals are getting a .301 batting average with 12 homers and 41 RBI from their third baseman, Jedd Gyorko.

Those numbers are well over Gyorko’s career marks. He as a .238 hitter prior to the beginning of the 2017 season which suggests that it might be time to sell high. Gyorko, with a large chunk of his salary being paid by the San Diego Padres, would make an attractive target for a team that wanted to increase its firepower without increasing its budget too much.

The odds of the Birds trading Gyorko are probably slim because he’s such a bargain. But St. Louis could move deposed shortstop Aledmys Diaz to third base, which would likely be better suited to his (lack of) range or else Matt Carpenter could move back to third to make room for Voit at first. If the Cardinals are serious about improving this team, the infield corners seem like the most likely spot to place a middle of the order power bat.

Lance Lynn might have upped his stock Tuesday to teams looking to rent a power starting pitcher for a pennant drive. But, while he was very strong through five innings, the five-run sixth he allowed put a dent in his statistics and will likely give other clubs pause when considering parting with top prospects for the big right-hander.

Trevor Rosenthal a year ago at this time might have made a pretty attractive trade chip. But he struggled through the second half of 2016 and has been somewhat uneven this year. After waiting almost an entire season to win back his job as closer, he’s been terrible since the position was handed back to him. I get the impression from the way he pitches that Rosenthal isn’t confident in his stuff — which is odd for a guy who has thrown more 100-mph pitches than anyone else in baseball so far this year.

If the Cardinals dealt Rosenthal, and he’s the most likely person on this list to go with one year of control left and an uncertain future with the club, he’s probably not going to fetch anything close to what he would have got if the Cardinals dealt him earlier.

If the Birds decide to trade off some of their veterans, I hope it’s not a total rebuild situation. The Cardinals have a solid core of pitching and some nice supporting cast members on the offense. But this team needs the pillar-type players in the middle of the order to become a force. They need their Jack Clark, their Mark McGwire or their Albert Pujols.