Cheap Seats

Is the benching to Oscar Tavares and Shelby Miller a hint at Cardinals trade plans?

This is 100 percent speculation, I readily admit.

But I have become very curious about the St. Louis Cardinals sudden decision to almost completely shut down two players who have been centerpieces of prospective trades: Oscar Taveras and Shelby Miller.

Various excuses have been given about the decision to bury Taveras at the end of the bench while stashing Miller in the bullpen. But I wonder if the Redbirds haven't agreed in principle to a trade while waiting for their potential partner to decide whether it wants to compete the transaction.

The hottest rumor over the last couple of weeks has been about a potential swap for Tampa Bay Rays Starter David Price who, coincidentally, hasn't seen his turn in the rotation come around since Saturday.

Tampa was thought to be dead in the water a couple of weeks ago. But. suddenly, the Rays have won 24 out of their last 35 games to climb to five games under .500, eight games out in the American League East race and 5 1/2 games out of a wild card berth.

Could the Rays be holding off on pulling the trigger as they wait to see if they can draw closer -- or if they will completely fall out of the running -- during the eight days before the non-waiver trade deadline?

Since Price's last start, Taveras hasn't started a single time as has logged but one plate appearance, a pinch hitting assignment Tuesday during which he collected a base hit. From July 1-12 he started nine times. Manager Mike Matheny made an odd comment Monday about being in the winning games business, not the player development business when I sort of thought those things were one in the same. 

But, even taken at his word, are we to believe that Taveras is so bad that he can't find his way onto the field for one start in the last five games? It's not as if all the other guys on the roster are on fire. Allen Craig, who plays the same position as Taveras, is batting .148 over the last month. During that span he has one homer and four runs batted in. Those hardly seem like the sort of numbers that would dictate Craig play over Taveras who is batting .209 with three runs batted in over the same span.

Miller has admittedly been rough around the edges lately. But does the Cardinals' explanation that he needs rest wash? He's thrown 32 2/3 fewer innings than Adam Wainwright and 10 2/3 less than Lance Lynn, a guy who has been known to fade in the second half of the season. He's only thrown 19 2/3 innings more than Micahel Wacha who hasn't pitched since June 17. Of course, a mitigating factor is that Miller is notoriously inefficient with his pitches, so he has packed a lot more pitches into his frames.

This may all be a big coincidence. I just find it oddly coincidental that the two guys whose names come up most often in trade rumors suddenly can't find their way off the bench.