The St. Louis Cardinals tried to take a middle-of-the-road approach to the trade deadline this year and it almost paid off.
But while the Redbirds managed to briefly tie the Chicago Cubs for first place in the National League Central, the move has backfired big-time recently.
St. Louis didn’t entertain trade overtures for starting pitcher Lance Lynn or closer Trevor Rosenthal after a push to add former Oakland A’s hurler Sonny Gray was declined in favor of an offer from the New York Yankees. And it blew up in the team’s face.
Rosenthal’s season, and likely his Cardinals career, is over with nothing in return after he blew out his elbow, requiring Tommy John surgery.
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St. Louis maintains a year of control before Rosenthal can become a free agent following the 2018 season. But it seems likely that the Redbirds will pass on tendering their former fireballing closer a contract for next year since he’ll spend the vast majority — if not all of it — recovering.
So they’ll lose a guy who was recently one of the best closers in the history of a club that has previously featured Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith, Todd Worrell and Jason Isringhausen at the back of the bullpen for absolutely nothing.
Lynn has remained healthy. But as the Cardinals struggled last week, General Manager Mike Girsch irritated some fans by stating the obvious: The team is unlikely to make a serious effort to retain the services of the big right-hander who has been St. Louis’ most consistent starter this season.
So instead of getting prospects for the valuable hurler, the Redbirds will likely settle for a middle-of-the-road draft pick.
Lynn wasn’t in a position to make or break this team because ace Carlos Martinez, former ace Adam Wainwright and veteran starter Mike Leake have disappointed. It seems the only reason the club kept him was to temporarily appease fans with the illusion of trying to stay in the race.
In the meantime, successful reliever Matt Bowman has been run into the ground over a lost cause and Jedd Gyorko – who was pressed into service as the team’s starting third baseman and its cleanup hitter for most of the season when Jhonny Peralta flamed out and the team didn’t bother to sign a more qualified third or fourth hitter last winter – was injured with a pulled hamstring in a lost series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
It seems the bailing wire and duct tape could only hold things together for so long. But as the Birds have slipped, the team has refused to call up prospects like pitchers Dakota Hudson and Jack Flaherty and third baseman Patrick Wisdom while catching prospect Carson Kelly has disappeared on the bench. Outfielder Harrison Bader briefly appeared with the major-league club this season, but he was shipped back to Memphis as abruptly as he arrived.
I can’t help but feel that this overly conservative course is the reason the Cardinals have slipped from the NL Central perch to the second division, settling for a roster of mediocre players who keep the club on the fringe of contention instead of making a bold move through trade or free agency to get better now — or to punt and get ready for the future.
Without at least getting a look at the youngsters, the Cardinals don’t have any sort of an idea about what to expect from them in 2018. Will the club jettison Rosenthal and Lynn, as well as embattled outfielder Randal Grichuk, and start a youth movement? Or will the front office finally admit that it needs to spend a little bit of money on outside help to make a serious run at trying to win the division next year?