It’s not surprising that the cost in talent for difference makers was prohibitive in a seller’s market. But there is a lesson to be learned (and which should have been learned years ago) that the Cardinals need to make smarter decisions during the offseason.
Teams that think they’re in the mix for a wild card spot don’t trade difference makers. And teams that do trade difference makers don’t give them away for pennies on the dollar.
The Cardinals don’t need just another body in the starting rotation. They need an ace. And they’re not going to find one of them in exchange for a third-rate minor leaguer. They’re going to have to swallow hard and write the check to sign one if they want to compete for division titles and make deep runs into the postseason.
In fairness, Zack Wheeler wasn’t necessarily that guy. (Although, if St. Louis is so in love with its outfield prospects, I can’t believe it wouldn’t part with Harrison Bader to get Wheeler.) But David Price, Max Scherzer and others they have passed on in winters past could have been. The disappointment isn’t that the Cardinals didn’t get a guy like that at the trade deadline. It’s that they put themselves in a position where they were counting on it.
The front office now has to be accountable for the fact that it’s leadership was tasked with building a division winner and spent more than $160 million to do so. The result is a mediocre pitching staff a disappointing offense and all that could be done to “fix” the problems was a thinly-veiled salary dump involving Jedd Gyorko.
The eternal optimists will say that the Cardinals are fighting it out for first place, that they didn’t need help. But this team isn’t particularly good against likely playoff teams. Even with the timely win Thursday against the Cubs that allowed St. Louis to regain sole position of first place, the Birds are only 5-7 against their chief rivals this season. Why would it fare better against playoff quality teams in October when the benches get shorter? St. Louis won’t see the other team’s fourth and fifth starter in a short playoff series — but all the Cardinals have is a bunch of fourth and fifth starters to offer.
When John Mozeliak states publicly that his team needed pitching at the deadline but couldn’t get it, that doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence. Call the fan base spoiled but sneaking into the wild card game and losing isn’t going to soothe the disappointment.
The Cardinals are still in the race because the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers have been disappointing. With some better pitching or another bat, it could make 5-7 games difference over the course of a long season. And that might be the factor decides if Yadier Molina and the boys are playing baseball — or golf — in October.