With the trade deadline gaining some teeth this season, the hot stove league is in full swing and the St. Louis Cardinals are going to have to be bold if they’re going to get something done.
Doing nothing is simply not an option if the front office is serious about trying to compete for a championship in 2019. And it better be. If this club misses the playoffs for the fourth year in a row, I’d be shocked if we didn’t see some big changes to the organization. While the offense is inconsistent, it’s the rotation that has the most obvious needs. Michael Wacha lost his job as a starter because of poor performance and substitute Daniel Ponce de Leon hasn’t gotten the job done, either.
It was a wake-up call after watching the Houston Astros beat the tar out of the Cardinals pitching staff. It’s obvious that St. Louis doesn’t have the pitching right now to go toe-to-toe with playoff quality teams.
Some options seem to have disappeared from the table as the San Francisco Giants have ridden a winning streak back into the playoff picture. I don’t imagine they’re still entertaining offers for ace Madison Bumgarner or closer Will Smith. And that’s a shame because that package would have been the perfect boost for the Cardinals, giving the team the top of the rotation starter it so desperately needs while shoring up the ninth inning at the same time.
With Bumgarner off the market, the best potential move for the St. Louis rotation I can see is a trade for Mets starter Noah Syndergaard. He’s definitely a guy who is capable of being the ace the Cardinals lack — if he is healthy. He’ll be 27 in a few days and he’s under control for two more season after this one, so he could be a long-term answer to a glaring need. The question is whether the home team has the pieces the Mets would require to move their young pitching star. New York seems to be committed to the idea of trading Syndergaard and rotation mate Zack Wheeler. On Sunday, the Mets traded for Marcus Stroman of the Toronto Blue Jays, a replacement for at least one of the seemingly soon to be departed hurlers.
Syndergaard is having a down year by his standards with a 4.33 earned run average. But he’s still got dominating stuff, averaging a strikeout per inning through 126 frames this season. The only worrisome thing is that his walks are at a career high, 2.3 per nine innings. His walks and hits per inning pitched and strikeout to bases on balls ratio are solid. What excites me about Syndergaard is that he has post-season pitching experience that no one in the St. Louis starting rotation besides Adam Wainwright can offer. And it’s unfair at this stage of his career to count on Wainwright to put the team on his shoulders and pitch every third game like he was Chris Carpenter in 2011.
The young pitcher is 2-1 with a 2.42 earned run average in the playoffs including a win in the 2015 World Series against the Kansas City Royals. He pitched an epic wild card game performance in 2016, working seven innings, struck out 10 and allowed only two hits.
I’m not a fan of making a move in which a team subtracts valuable prospects in exchange for a rental player. But the Cardinals could really use a talent infusion in their starting rotation. It would be worth it to make a move to land a pitcher who could take the team to another level for two or more years. With the uncertainty in baseball because the collective bargaining agreement will expire next year and the threat that their could be major changes to the way contracts are passed out, it might be a great time to try to acquire and extend a player — or several players — who could be locked up for years to come.