Names to Watch at the Trade Deadline

Oh trade speculation, how I’ve missed thee. While constant rumors and speculation drive some people crazy, I’m one of the fans that crave it. Perhaps because I have nothing better to do than sit on twitter and wait for the latest update, but let’s ignore that point.

The Cardinals are in a position this year where no one really has any clue what they’ll be doing. According to John Mozeliak, there isn’t a lot available in regards to offense, the Cardinals biggest need. Pitching seems to be a little more plentiful on the trade market, but isn’t necessarily a need for the Redbirds. Although if Michael Wacha is going to miss the rest of the year, which I’m fully prepared for, adding another starter isn’t a terrible idea.

Pitchers
The Long Shot: David Price

David Price rumors have swirled for over a year now. The Rays can’t resign Price when his contract expires, they know it, and so do the other 29 teams. Like any wise team would do, the Rays need to sell Price high while they can. However, the Tampa Bay ace won’t come cheap, and the Cardinals have shown a reluctance to part with young talent. If the Cardinals do add pitching, I believe it should of the top end variety, just not sure this will work. Perhaps something falls into place as the deadline approaches, but Price ending up in St. Louis is a long shot.

The Likely Candidate: Jake Peavy
For the second year, the Cardinals have been attached to rumors involving Jake Peavy. Last year they lost out on the Peavy sweepstakes to the Red Sox, this year, it remains to be seen. I stated already that I believe if the Cardinals add pitching, it should be of the top end variety. Peavy hasn’t fit that description since 2007. I simply don’t see how Peavy is an upgrade over guys like Carlos Martinez or Joe Kelly. The fit makes sense though. The veteran right hander has stated his interest in playing for the Cardinals in the past. Not to mention, the Red Sox are seeking outfield help, something the Cardinals have a surplus of. I suppose that Peavy isn’t a horrible idea, but dealing Allen Craig, as rumored, for a guy like Peavy would be a mistake.

Hitters: Adrian Beltre and Ben Zobrist
In the case of hitters, I’m not sure there is a “likely candidate” for the Cardinals to acquire. Zobrist and Beltre are two names that have been connected to St. Louis, and could be on the market. Of the two, I think Ben Zobrist makes the most sense. Most importantly, it would rid the major league roster of Daniel Descalso. Zobrist is a starter quality utility man capable of playing almost any position. Zobrist is an on base machine that I think could slot in nicely wherever, whenever.

Beltre would obviously be a welcome addition. The Cardinals have no bigger need than a middle of the order bat to drive in runs. This deal would move Matt Carpenter back to 2nd, and slot a gold glove caliber player in at 3rd. The hindrances here are that Kolten Wong’s playing time would see a significant drop (something I don’t see the Cardinals wanting). Also, Beltre is 35 years old, the Cardinals wouldn’t be looking to negotiate anything long term with him, and wouldn’t want to give up cost controlled players for a rental.

My pick: Charlie Blackmon or Corey Dickerson.
I like both Jon Jay and Peter Bourjos, but centerfield remains the obvious upgradable position for the Cardinals in my opinion. The Rockies would love to get their hands on some of the Cardinals young pitching, and would have to part

Credit: Denver Post

Credit: Denver Post

with a bat like Blackmon or Dickerson to do so. Blackmon is a career .291 hitter with 15 HR/162 games.

Dickerson holds a monstrous .881 career OPS, but doesn’t have a lot of experience in centerfield. I think either Rockies’ outfielder would slot in nicely right behind Matt Carpenter in the Cardinals’ lineup. The only concern with these two is the Coors Field effect. Blackmon’s home OPS is .257 points higher than on the road. Similarly, Dickerson’s OPS is .308 points lower away from Coors. If I’m the Cardinals though, I’m taking the risk assuming the price is right.

It’s not crazy, it’s sports

AJ

Credit: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Matt Carpenter’s Value at 2nd vs. 3rd

Twitter GM’s across the land have been devising ways for John Mozeliak to improve this Cardinal team as the trade deadline approaches next month. Giancarlo Stanton and David Price have been the darlings of Cardinal fans in trade rumors thus far, but many have suggested the idea of moving Matt Carpenter back to 2nd base, and acquiring a big bat at the hot corner such as David Wright or Evan Longoria (both are having down years on non-contenders). Admittedly, I was a fan of this idea, under the impression that Carpenter’s bat provides significantly more value at the 2nd base position than at 3rd. Upon further review, this may not be the case.

Last year Carpenter was not only an elite 2nd baseman, but one of the elite players in the entire league. Posting a .873 OPS and breaking Stan Musial’s record for doubles by a Cardinal left hander. Carpenter finished fourth in the NL MVP race while hitting lead-off for the National League Champions. It is no secret in baseball that big things are expected offensively from the third base position, while this isn’t necessarily the case at second. Just ask the Cardinals who have made sure to fill third base with big bats such as Rolen, Glaus, and Freese while letting second base be occupied by the likes of Schumaker, Miles, and Theriot. Thus it seemed that moving Carpenter’s bat to 3rd would hurt the value of what ranked amongst the elite at 2nd.

However, when taking a closer look, the value of Matt Carpenter’s bat is practically even at both positions given an evolution of the game. That .873 OPS last year was the second highest among qualifying 2nd baseman, trailing only Robinson Cano. Shift Carpenter to 3rd and his OPS still ranks third at the position. In 2014, Carpenter has seen a significant drop in production, his OPS all the way down to .760. As for how it compares, Carpenter is currently tied for seventh in OPS at the 3rd base position, whereas he would be ninth if still playing 2nd base. Given this, it is hard to make any case for a difference in value from 2nd to 3rd.

Credit: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Credit: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The counterpoint that is sure to be made is power. Even though 2nd base has become more of an offensive position, 3rd base is still expected to be a “power bat.” Carpenter’s value is as a leadoff hitter, not as a home run hitter. The Cardinal lead-off man is 16th among qualifying 3rd baseman in slugging percentage this year with a .386, which would be tied for 11th among 2nd baseman. In 2013 his .481 slugging was second at 2nd base, and fourth at third. There is something to be said about Carpenter’s lack of pop decreasing his value as a 3rd baseman, but with a progression to his career .450 slugging, that wouldn’t be the case.

None of this even takes into consideration that Carpenter’s value as a defender is actually higher at 3rd base, given that it is his natural position. Based on almost any metric, Carpenter has ranked around the top five defensively at 3rd base in 2014. In contrast, Carpenter was very average at 2nd base in 2013, ranking 10th in DRS (defensive runs saved) and 15th in UZR (ultimate zone rating). For a team as poor as the Cardinals were defensively in 2013, this improvement is much needed.

There is a case for the Cardinals needing more power, and 3rd base is an easy target. In fact, I still don’t think acquiring a powerful 3rd baseman is a terrible idea. Kolten Wong is very young, and at some point going to be a hell of a player, but right now he would have the 2nd lowest OPS at 2nd base if he had enough AB’s to qualify. I’m not willing to give up an arm and a leg for to improve that position though, Carpenter is above average no matter what base he is manning.

It’s not crazy, it’s sports

Follow me on twitter @GSC_AJ

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