It seems that the St. Louis Cardinals are focused on selling this season at the Major League Baseball trade deadline. But could veteran starting pitcher Chris Archer fit someplace on the shopping list of President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak?
The Cardinals have a lot of starting pitching depth and would seem more likely to be shopping for bullpen help or a slugging position player. But world filtered out Sunday that the Tampa Bay Rays are asking for a young catcher and a slugging outfield prospect in return for their ace. What a coincidence — those are a couple of pieces that St. Louis has to offer.
The Birds have a pair of catching prospects. In Class AAA Memphis, there is Yadier Molina’s heir-apparent Carson Kelly. Then there is rising star Andew Knizner, who has been tearing the cover off the ball for Class AA Springfield. Meanwhile, speaking of tearing the cover off the ball, there is no outfield prospect more powerful that Tyler O’Neill who is hitting .311 with 26 homers in Class AAA — plus he has three more big flies in the majors so far this year.
I’d hate to give up O’Neill because he is all upside. He’s a guy who is just starting to break though to the big leagues with plenty of control. But that would make him very appealing to the likes of a team like Tampa Bay. If I was the St. Louis GM, I’d be perfectly willing to give up Kelly because I believe that Knizner has passed him on the prospect list. Because of that, I think the Rays would likely push for Knizner and I’m not sure I’d make that deal.
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Why would the Birds be interested in Archer when they have so much starting pitching now? Well, because they have a lot of talent but they don’t have a lot of experience. Archer wouldn’t just be another pitcher in the St. Louis rotation. He would be the best pitcher in the St. Louis rotation, so he’d make the whole group better and give the younger guys a chance to grow into their roles. Of course, the other factor that comes into play if the Cardinals were able to land Archer is that they would be able to move some of their surplus of starting pitching to help the team in other areas.
That could mean that the team would make a trade to land a middle of the order bat. Or it could mean that one or two of the starting pitching prospects would be — at least temporarily — placed in a bullpen role to help the team in a different way that originally imagined. I could see John Gant as middle reliever and Austin Gomber could fill a role as a much-needed dominant lefty reliever.
Another less obvious but important benefit the Cardinals would realize if they traded for Archer is that it would be an olive branch of sorts to the fans. I realize you can’t build your roster thinking of public relations as your primary concern — and I don’t think Archer would only be a PR move. But, fans are beaten down by the fact that this team has shifted toward rebuilding mode. Archer is a star who would give fans a reason to be excited about the near future.
As far as the other deadline moves St. Louis has made so far:
The purge of Greg Holland had to happen. While that experience didn’t go as the front office hoped, it was good that the team took the opportunity to bring up a couple of youngsters who deserve a chance in the form of Dakota Hudson and Daniel Poncedeleon. The Cardinals continued the bullpen makeover by sending Luke Voit to the New York Yankees in exchange for a couple of hurlers. It’s hard to complain about that move because Voit wasn’t getting a chance to stick in the big leagues with St. Louis. So, the Birds got something for an asset that they didn’t seem to want and Voit gets a chance to try to make the big leagues in pinstripes.
Of course, the surprise about Voit going to New York is that the rumor was the Yankees were interested in St. Louis slugger Jose Martinez to replace their injured designated hitter Aaron Judge. While Martinez can really hit, he just can’t play any position in the field well enough to justify a role as a starter. As long as the National League can resist the DH , and I hope that’s forever, he has no place to play here and the Birds need to try to get something for him.