Monday, September 04, 2017

A Trade Is Worth Discussing

The Cardinals traded Mike Leake to the Mariners last week. The team is going to cover $17 million of Leake's remaining contract, leaving the Mariners paying $38 million over 3 years.

The Cardinals also sent some money towards international signings, and received minor league shortstop Rayder Asciano, who is a 21-year old in A ball. Allegedly a defensive whiz, he can't hit, at all. I saw him described elsewhere as, if he could learn to hit even a little, he might be able to be Brendan Ryan. Which has value, but is hardly encouraging that he he'll have to improve as a hitter just reach Boog's level.

There are some rumblings the team wanted Leake more on-board with their training programs or something, that they weren't pleased with how he was handling his conditioning or, his recovery from that bout of shingles last year, something. I wouldn't think that would be why they traded him, but who knows.

I was never that enthused about the Leake signing. It made a certain amount of sense as a hedge against injuries, in that you can pretty much count on Leake to make 30 starts and throw around 180 innings, and be at least an average pitcher in doing so. And there really aren't that many guys who can put up that level of performance for that many innings these days. Still, if things had gone well with the 2016 rotation, Leake is your #5 starter. Allocating $15 million dollars to that seems excessive. In the likely event that things don't go well - like Jaime Garcia, Michael Wacha, and Adam Wainwright all struggle - and Leake becomes your 2nd best starter, well, how good are you then, really?

The Cardinals have done a decent job of constructing a team with a solid floor, but limited upside. This bunch would be hard pressed to ever truly crater, they have too many solid players - like Mike Leake - for that. But they weren't likely leap to the top of the standings, either. The difference makers were lacking. What seems to be happening now is the front office decided it's time to see if any of their young pitching prospects can be those difference makers. Wainwright's on the DL, give Luke Weaver another chance to shine. Mike Leake is out the door, call up Jack Flaherty.

And it isn't as though Leake has been pitching well recently. His ERA with the Cards this year is 4.21. His Fielding Independent ERA is 4.22. In his first 10 starts, he had 3 with a Game Score better than 70, and none worse than a 54, which was a 7 inning, 4 run start against the Dodgers. He went at least 6 innings in every start, and 7 or more in 6 of the 10. In the 16 starts he made for StL after that, he has one with a Game Score better than 70, and only two others above 60. He made it 7 or more innings 3 times, versus 4 starts where he didn't make it through the 5th. He wasn't ever going to maintain that sub-2.00 ERA he had for the first 6 weeks, but he's cratered worse than the team could really afford, given Wainwright's problems and the bullpen's inconsistency.

Supposedly the guys in the clubhouse weren't happy about the trade, which is understandable, but I can't say I really care. If they'd played better, not blown so many games through defensive incompetence, baserunning nicompoopery, or bullpen meltdowns, maybe Leake wouldn't have been traded. Hell, the day of the trade, they lost a game to Milwaukee in large because they made three errprs and gifted the Brewers with several runs. Carlos Martinez fielded a ball then airmailed the throw for the second start in a row. Matt Carpenter let a ball go through his legs like a damn 5-year old in t-ball. They've been making fuckups like that all year, for the last two years, really. At a certain point, when you keep repeating the same mistakes, you can't blame anyone but yourself when they keep biting you in the ass.

Anyway, it's been a weird year with this team. It feels as though there's been a lot of roster upheaval, but not in the traditional sense of trading guys to get guys. They have done that, first with Matt Adams, now with Mike Leake, but neither of the players they added are anywhere near the majors. Nor are either of them likely to ever get here, frankly. Tyler O'Neill, who was received in exchange for Marco Gonzales, is the trade return most likely to actually reach the majors. But they DFA'ed Socolovich, Siegrist, and Fryer. They released Broxton and Peralta. That's 7 of the 25 guys from the Opening Day roster. None of them what I'd call critical pieces, to be sure, but it feels like a lot of turnover. An attempt to clear out redundant pieces, I guess, figure out what's worth keeping as foundational pieces.