The 2017 season has been a real head scratcher for St. Louis Cardinals fans and team leadership alike.
This team looks so good some nights — and so hopelessly lost on others — that it makes it impossible to figure out if this is a bad club that occasionally gets lucky or a good team that continually suffers from bad breaks.
So, here we sit just days before the non-waiver trade deadline and no one seems to know if the Redbirds are buyers or sellers.
It was suggested a few weeks ago that maybe they’d be both. That the Cardinals might trade some guys on expiring contracts like starting pitcher Lance Lynn, for example, and meanwhile they’d trade some youngsters from the farm system for major league players that have two or three years of control remaining before they hit free agency.
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But the all-star break came and went. Looking for a clear message from the team, the front office instead saw a lousy road trip followed up by an impressive sweep of the high-octane Colorado Rockies. Clear as mud.
So, might I suggest that the only reasonable answer to the question of how this team should proceed at the trade deadline is to do — nothing. At least nothing major.
It doesn’t seem a worthy gamble to give away prospects to try to shore up a deeply flawed team that has lost more than half of the games on its schedule. But, on the other hand, it’s hard to have a fire sale and gut a team that is one good week or week and a half away from first place.
A portion of the fan base is clamoring for St. Louis to get something — anything — for Lynn. It’s true that the new Major League collective bargaining agreement no longer has a provision which calls for teams that lose top free agents to receive a high compensatory draft pick. Still, with the likes of Sonny Gray and Yu Darvish lingering on the starting pitcher market, what are the Redbirds going to get in exchange for a couple of months of Lynn?
Is it worth it to throw away a chance at a post-season berth for a middling prospect who is never going to see the light of day in the big leagues?
By all means, if some team wants to give away its top prospects and makes an offer the Cardinals can’t refuse, then don’t refuse it. But I would be shocked.
Maybe this team doesn’t get hot and needs a retooling. The winter is a better time to do that. Clubs just don’t make big deadline deals as often as they used to because, thanks to the wildcard playoff system, too many teams feel as if they’re still in the race at the end of July. Plus, there is the fact that the sale of the Miami Marlins is holding up the trade market.
Miami has a trio of star outfielders which all could be made available in a cost-cutting move to facilitate a sale. But, with three bidders still in the picture, no one seems to know if the new owner wants to start with a clean slate — or to keep the building blocks in place to start on the fly.
The Cardinals’ big advantage down the stretch is their depth. The Memphis shuttle has been wearing out Interstate 55 with budding young players coming and going. Once rosters expand, that Birds could add power-hitting third baseman Patrick Wisdom to the mix and make a shaky bullpen better with the addition of more arms including Sam Tuivailala.
I complained until I was blue in the face last winter that the off-season was the time to add a much-needed power hitter and bullpen help. So let’s live with the hand we have been dealt right now — and not whiff again next winter.