WILD, CARDS

WILD
 adj
 uncontrolled or unrestrained, especially in pursuit of pleasure.

“The Cardinals are 4.5 games out of the wild card” is a true statement, but it’s not nearly as telling as “the Cardinals are one of 8 teams chasing wild card spots, and only the Nationals (5 GB) are further from the top.”

Buy or sell is a question that is asked second to:

What is the value of a wild card spot?

Consider that to get one, they will have to:

* Win a bunch of games

* Hope 6 teams lose a bunch of games

Even If those seven things happen:

* It doesn’t get you any more than a ~50% chance of winning the wild card game

* It doesn’t guarantee you the revenue of a home playoff game

The Cardinals are closer the the Reds than they are the Cubs, yet St. Louis has the pitching to sell their veteran assets this July and still perform to the low bar they’ve set this year (50-49), or last year (83-79), or the year before (86-76).

Cardinals fans are conflating the ideas of ‘playing better’ and ‘making the playoffs’, as they are far from one in the same. It’s been a long time since you’ve truly seen what you think you might or should see soon.

***

The biggest chip isn’t Matt Carpenter.
He’s the best player, and he is affordable–making $14.5M and $18.5M over the next two seasons. But to want him is to need him at DH or perhaps 1B. (I’m not convinced he wouldn’t hurt you less in LF.)  He’s low-risk–even the 2020 salary comes with a club option for $2M in case Father Time zaps him in 2019.  It’s rare for a contender to have corner needs, but there’s one such team in Carp’s backyard:  Houston.  Carpenter would be a significant upgrade over Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez; and Yuli Gurriel is not a lefty, like Carp.

Matt Carpenter will be a free agent when he’s 35 years old, in 2021.
Do you think the Cubs will be good in 2021?

The biggest asset, thanks to a contract that pays him just $69.5M over the next *five* years–while he’s just ages 27 through 31–is Carlos Martinez.

You’re going to have an easier time getting premium prospects for that kind of affordable club control.  The Royals, for instance, aren’t going to be interested in Matt Carpenter, at the cost of people who could help the Royals be good in 2022.  But there is not a team who wouldn’t desire the asset that is Carlos Martinez’s contract, provided that they aren’t turned off by, well, Carlos Martinez.

Tommy Pham has value in that he’s cost-controlled via arbitration through 2021.  He’s 30 years old, and loses some value, relative to how other teams view him, if they would use him in a corner instead of CF.  His 254/339/411 line is no great shakes for a contender’s LF.  I could see a cost-conscious team like Tampa or Oakland, if they view him as a bargain, flipping a younger player to St. Louis.

A similar market may exist for Jose Martinez, who can hit (295/361/471), and can’t be a free agent till 2023.  Unfortunately for the Cardinals, he turns 30 this week and contending teams generally understand that run prevention is no less important than run production.  Jose giveth, and he taketh away.  Tampa Bay already has two DH/1B with .472 SLGs, and Oakland’s DH is at .515.

It would be wrong to assume everyone in the market wants these guys.
It’s worse to assume they’d give up high-end assets to replace their current production with these guys.

Take back teenage lottery tickets for Jedd Gyorko and Bud Norris.  One player I would listen on that some wouldn’t:  Luke Weaver.  If his numbers next July still read like his career numbers to date (203 IPs, 1.385 WHIP, 4.68 ERA), you’ll be trying to cash in on him a year too late.  If nothing else, I could be persuaded to attach him to Pham or Martinez if it landed a better prospect.

I would make any trade that decreased my chances at the 2018 wild card if increased my chances at the 2020 division title.

Is there a player above not named Matt Carpenter that you don’t think the Cardinals could go 50-49 without?

 

 

 

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