Cheap Seats

Regardless of Giancarlo Stanton’s decision, the St. Louis Cardinals are still a destination franchise

Because of Giancarlo Stanton’s indecision about whether he’ll accept a trade to the St. Louis Cardinals, it seems Redbirds rooters are developing a bit of a complex.

No one wants to play here anymore, they complain. The Cardinals used to be a destination team but not anymore. That’s a lot of bull. We all knew going into the Stanton derby that the slugging outfielder is a Los Angeles native who has an affinity for living on the West Coast. If he doesn’t come here, it isn’t because nobody likes us anymore. It’s because of geography.

It’s true the Birds have lost out on a few high-profile free agents over the past few years. But with the exception of Jason Heyward, those players signed elsewhere not because they didn’t want to play for St. Louis, but because the Cardinals refused to offer as much money as they got elsewhere.

David Price wanted to be with St. Louis, but the Red Sox threw a stupid amount of money at him. He took it and now both he and the team seem to be miserable. But Price hurt his elbow and is probably going to need Tommy John surgery in the near future. They’re stuck with each other.

The narrative could change quite quickly if things break in their favor this offseason. If Stanton decides he wants to play in front of a full house every night for a team that has a chance to make the playoffs every year, the Cardinals will win the offseason.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t — or won’t — run up the score a little bit. They’ve been talking with the Tampa Bay Rays about a potential trade that could include closer Alex Colome, Gold Glove third baseman Evan Longoria and a starting pitcher or two. Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi have both been rumored to be of interest to the Cardinals, although the signing Tuesday of Miles Mikolas seems to have decreased the need to land two starters even if Michael Wacha is included in a trade to the Marlins.

Even if the Birds don’t ultimately land Stanton, they could still do very well by making a deal with Miami for Christian Yelich and/or Marcell Ozuna.

If a combination of the above things happens, the Cardinals will be taken seriously as a contender and maybe people will get over their complex.

In the meantime, this Mikolas signing may turn out to be the steal of the offseason, so I am trying to reserve judgment. However, the timing of the deal couldn’t be worse from a public-relations standpoint, at least.

Cardinals fans are waiting for news about Stanton, the reigning National League Most Valuable Player, with bated breath. Meanwhile, the front office makes a trade that makes even the most knowledgeable of St. Louis fans respond to the news with one word: “Who?”

That’s the sort of a move you’d like to see as some icing on the cake at the end of the winter, not as the opening salvo. St. Louis fans have been complaining since Albert Pujols left about President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak’s fondness for saving “dry powder” that he never seems inclined to use. So a dumpster-dive move while we’re waiting for the blockbuster is bound to go over like a lead balloon.

For what it’s worth, Mikolas has some pretty interesting numbers. He had a 2.18 ERA in Japan and struck out about nine batters for every one he walked. It will be interesting to see whether those numbers hold up in the big leagues.

Mikolas last pitched in the majors with the Texas Rangers in 2014 and it wasn’t pretty. St. Louis pitching coach Mike Maddux held the same position with the Rangers at the time. Maybe he saw something in the 29-year-old Mikolas that made him suggest St. Louis sign the hurler. Time will tell.

But I doubt Stanton is sitting in his Southern California home saying, “The Cardinals got Mikolas? I’ve gotta be a part of that!”