Cheap Seats

The St. Louis Cardinals need to trade for pitching, not Charlie Blackmon

In an annual rite of summer, the Colorado Rockies have let it be known that they’re “willing to listen to offers” on one of their aging, overpaid stars.

The St. Louis Cardinals snapped at the bait, trying to make deals for shortstop Toy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzales in years past. But the Rockies asking price was always prohibitively high and then General Manager John Mozeliak walked away empty handed. This time around, they shouldn’t even bother sniffing around Blackmon.

Blackmon is a player the Cardinals might have killed for two or three years ago. But, as much as they could use a center fielder who could produce with both average and power, he’s not what they need and paying the price to get him would be a waste of resources that could be used to help improve the team in ways that could make a real difference.

With Blackmon in the batting order this year, St. Louis could field a fearsome batting order if Matt Carpenter, Marcell Ozuna, Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna if they weren’t all underachieving. But the rub is that if all those guys hit like we’d expect them to, the Cardinals wouldn’t need Blackmon because they’d have enough firepower already.

But taking on Blackmon and the years left on his deal basically guarantees that Ozuna won’t be back next year. I’m not sure, when the dust settles, that Ozuna won’t be just productive as Blackmon in 2020, and for less money. So that makes it very expensive to spend talent on a short term gain that will leave you worse off next year. If the Birds gave Colorado Tyler O’Neill in a package for Blackmon, for example, who will fill Ozuna’s spot in left field next season?

As previously mentioned, the Rockies always seem to want an arm and a leg for their players, anyway. Unfortunately, there always seems to be a sucker out there to pay their exorbitant asking price (like the Toronto Blue Jays taking the shadow of Tulowitzki off Colorado’s payroll.) Personally, I like to watch teams that pass out those stupid contracts — like the one the Los Angeles Angels gave Albert Pujols — suffer with the consequences of their recklessness.

Carlos Martinez's struggles mean St. Louis needs to be on the look out for a starter and a closer before the July 31 trade deadline. Jeff Roberson AP

If St. Louis is going to spend talent on short term roster enhancements, it needs to prioritize pitching over another bat.

First, there is a smoking hole in the rotation where Michael Wacha used to reside. Second, Alex Reyes and Austin Gomber don’t seem as if they will be riding into town on a white horse to save the day. Neither has been healthy this year and they’ve been out for so long, I don’t think it’s likely they’ll be stretched out enough to be starters before the season comes to a conclusion. Third, this team doesn’t need depth, it needs a front of the rotation starter. A vintage Chris Carpenter to be the intimidating dude who takes the ball in must-win games and sets the tone for the rest of the starting rotation. Finally, the middle of the bullpen is fine, but Carlos Martinez has been pretty terrible over his last few appearances and the team really could use a reliable closer to nail down games.

It seemed as if the Cardinals were sizing up the San Francisco Giants for a trade that could include ace Madison Bumgarner and closer Will Smith. But don’t look now, San Francisco is the hottest team in the National League since the All-Star Game and the Giants are elbowing their way into the playoff picture. Instead of dealing those players, they could become the core of the team’s retooling effort.

I don’t know where St. Louis is going to find the first guy on the pitching staff and the last in one deal some place else. But those are the things they need, not yet another outfielder who they’re going to regret two years down the line. The Cardinals are still paying Mike Leake to get their fill of that sort of wasteful spending, and now they’re going to have the pleasure of paying Carpenter the next three years. They don’t need anymore dead space on the roster.

The nice thing about the new firm trade deadline is that we’ll soon know one way or another what the team is going to do. I found it to be anticlimactic for teams to pass on deals July 31 only to try to sneak a player through waivers sometime in August. That might have worked when there were two divisions in each league and only one team from each made the playoffs. But when five teams make it from each league, there are too many teams out there with a shot at October baseball to make that sort of deal interesting. If the player is worth having, he’s not going to go to the teams with the best shot at a ring.

If they’re going to take away the post-waiver wire trades, though, they ought to move the deadline back to Aug. 15 or even Aug. 31 so it’s closer to the end. It’s dramatic when teams make a big move at the last minute. When they can’t trade for the last two months of the season, it sort of takes the excitement out of the hot stove period.