While I can’t predict whether the St. Louis Cardinals will come through in their efforts to land reigning National League Most Valuable Player Giancarlo Stanton in trade, it’s sadly predictable that a small portion of so-called fans seem to be more interested in seeing the team fail so they can say, “I told you so,” than in adding one of the biggest bats in baseball.
Social media is full of trolls these days who loudly naysay over every report linking the Redbirds. “Ain’t no way Stanton is coming to St. Louis,” they say. “The Cardinals are just a patsy while the Marlins drive up the price for the Giants and the Dodgers.” It’s nauseating.
I have been been disappointed by the team’s unwillingness to go the extra mile in recent years to land key players. Max Scherzer comes to mind. He’s a St. Louis guy who reportedly was very enthusiastic about the possibility of pitching for his favorite team. But he ended up going to the Washington Nationals where he continues to be the best pitcher in baseball. So it’s not like I’m going to give the Cardinals a free pass every time they come up short in their efforts to restock the roster.
But the team has made a legitimate effort to capitalize on the rare opportunity to add an MVP to its lineup, offering an undisclosed trade package to the Miami Marlins. Maybe they’ll be successful and add the most imposing player to the batting order since Albert Pujols wore the Birds on the Bat. Maybe Stanton will decide that he wants to stay in Miami or that he would rather play for a West Coast team like the San Francisco Giants or Los Angeles Dodgers. All St. Louis can do is make an honest effort and see how things work out.
While I have been maddened by the Cardinals’ willingness to pass on helpful players in seasons past — refusing to even bid on powerful third baseman Justin Turner last year, letting David Price fall through to the Red Sox at the last minute two years ago and the aforementioned Scherzer — I get the sense that they realize the rare opportunity in front of them this time.
Stanton’s contract may seem colossal to us workaday folks. But in Major League Baseball context, it’s better than anything the Cardinals could hoped to complete on the open market if the slugging right fielder was a free agent. I would cut the haggling and tell the Marlins the Cardinals will pay the whole salary and give Miami two top prospects to be done with things. But maybe a better deal can be had. I do know that MVP players in their prime are rarely available and this singular move could transform the franchise from an also run to a contender.
Believe me, if Stanton goes elsewhere and the word gets out that the Birds offered a bag of batting-practice balls for Stanton — if Miami picked up half of his contract to make him go away — I’m going to be steamed. But what is the point in not giving the Cardinals the benefit of the doubt? And why would someone who claims to be a fan of a team not use their energy toward hoping for the best instead of investing it in cutting the team down? If you think Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. and President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak are that inept or downright deceitful to the ticket-buying supporters, then why don’t you move along and find a different team to root for?
Even if the Cardinals fall short, they can’t shrug their shoulders and wait for spring. They’re going to have to make an effort to find a significant bat, a starting pitcher and a closer either through a different trade, on the free-agent market or a combination of both.
I was hopeful that St. Louis could quickly reach an agreement with Miami. But now it seems, for reasons that Mozeliak and DeWitt can’t control, that things have bogged down and it’s going to take a while to figure out what the 2018 Redbirds will look like. But this ownership group has a pair of World Series rings and four National League pennants during their stewardship of the club. So let’s not pretend that they don’t know what they’re doing. At least until the end of the winter when the rosters are set.