Tuesday, July 31, 2018

That Was Certainly A Trade Deadline

Not much of one from my perspective, but hell, let's see what deck chairs the Cardinals opted to re-arrange.

1) DFA Greg Holland and Tyler Lyons - Holland is about two months overdue on being kicked to the curb. If the Cardinals feel as though they aren't in contention, he's a major reason why. Probably cost them 4-5 games all by himself. Supposedly he thinks he'll get picked up by a contender, but what contending team is willing to risk torpedoing their season letting him pitch? You want someone to pitch in blowouts, just pick random drunks from the stands.

As for Lyons, he's been hurt a lot this year, and when he has pitched, all the batted balls are either finding holes in the defense or leaving the yard. It was a small sample size, and maybe it was just bad luck, but the Cardinals have plenty of other guys to try. No reason to keep using guys that can't get anything done.

2) Traded Sam Tuivailala - Tui went to Seattle for a minor league reliever named Seth Elledge. Tui had been one of the Cards' more frequently used relievers this year, but that owed more to how many other guys have been hurt or lousy this year. His ERA was about 3.70, his FIP barely under 4.00. He didn't strike many out, and probably walked too many considering that. He wasn't a bad reliever, but no one the team is likely to sorely miss.

Elledge was in High-A for the Mariners this year, ERA of 1.17 in 38.1 innings out of the 'pen. Allowing 3.5 BB/9, but only about 4 hits/9. That seems good. He's already thrown a scoreless innings for the Cards' AA team. If things go well, maybe he'll be in the big league bullpen by the end of next year. Hard to get excited about relief pitchers, though.

3) Traded Luke Voit - Voit went to the Yankees along with some international signing money the Cards couldn't use, and the Yanks sent back relievers Giovanny Gallegos and Chasen Shreve. I assume Voit might operate in a platoon with Greg Bird at first. Luke was kind of blocked here, with both Matt Carpenter and Jose Martinez playing first and being superior hitters (although Martinez gives most of that back on defense and baserunning). They have a couple of guys in AAA and AA that can also play first and were hitting about as well. So at least this should get Voit some more time in the majors. Good for him.

Shreve is in his 5th year in the majors, and has been worth a grand total of 2.1 WAR in five years. Not exactly a world-beater. He strikes out almost 11/9 IP, but walks 4.5. And those are basically his career averages, and his averages this season. He's allowed 8 HRs in 38 innings, which isn't that far above his career norm (1.9/9 vs. 1/6). His ERA is 4.26 this year, 3.71 career, but his FIPs are 4.98 and 4.76 respectively. Another underwhelming lefty reliever to throw on the pile.

Gallegos has thrown 10 innings in the majors this year, plus 20 last year. He's allowed 17 runs, and 5 HRs, in that span. On the plus side, he's struck out 32 and only walked 8, so he at least appears to have better control than Shreve. Or maybe he leaves too many pitches over the fat part of the plate. He's thrown 119 innings in AAA over the last 4 years, ERA in the low 2s. 166 Ks to 28 walks. So the control seems legit.

4) Traded Oscar Mercado - Mercado goes to Cleveland. Mercado was hitting .285/351/408 in AAA this year, playing at least an average CF, and had stolen 31 bases in 39 attempts. He was traded for a pair of minor league outfielders, Conner Capel and Jhon Torres. Capel seems a lot like Mercado, just younger and further from the majors. Torres might have big power, if he can actually make contact. Yay, more guys who strike out a lot!

The consensus seems to be the Cards just wanted to clear a 40-man roster spot, and with all the other outfielders on the major league and high minors rosters, Mercado was extraneous. That seems stupid to me. It's not as if Adolis Garcia or Arozarena have performed particularly well this year, while at the same level as Mercado. There's no certainty Tyler O'Neill will actually not swing at everything in the majors. And if you wanted to clear space, there are plenty of other guys taking up space.

I suppose I liked Mercado's all-around game. I like guys who at least approach having all five tools. Bulky sluggers don't interest me. Mark McGwire was the ur-example of those types and I didn't give a rat's ass about him. Because he was terrible at defense, and slower than a dead chicken being dragged across a yard by a weasel. One-trick ponys, fooey.

5) Traded Tommy Pham - Pham goes to Tampa for three minor leaguers. I can't recall their names at the moment, and don't particularly care.

I understand the move from a business aspect. The Cardinals have a lot of outfielders. One of the guys they got back in a minor leaguer, albeit only in AA. They want more playing time for guys like Bader and O'Neill. Sure, Pham has been the most productive of the disappointing Pham/Ozuna/Fowler trio. But no team is dumb enough to trade for Fowler's garbage ass, and they'd be selling low on Ozuna. Plus, it would probably look bad to trade away their big offseason acquisition after just half a season. Pham's still three years away from free agency, he's cheap (good for a broke-ass franchise like Tampa), and he was really good a year ago. Might turn out to be a bargain. And from the Cardinals' perspective, he's already 30, has a long injury history, the eyesight issue, and has beefed a bit with management in the offseason over his contract. I get all that.

I just don't care. I have no emotional investment in Fowler or Ozuna, except perhaps annoyance that they've played so badly this year. Pham was my favorite player on this team. I mentioned I like those players that can do it all, and when it was clicking for Tommy, he was a player like that. He seemed to always have the capacity to do something exciting. With his glove, his bat, his arm, on the bases. His recent struggles had really sapped a lot of my interest in watching, because I don't find a lot of the other players on the team potentially exciting. But I was hopeful he was turning around, and ready to get excited when he did. Plus, you never knew if he was going to hold up, so there was always a fear it was going to fall apart. And after all the setbacks, I wanted to see him succeed. Well, he's in Tampa now. Hopefully that works out for him. He'll join the list of former Cardinals whose numbers I'll try to follow as they go forward.

Coming into the deadline, I had a couple of lists of players I thought the Cards could move. First were the ones I thought they absolutely should trade:

Bud Norris (shithead, on an expiring contract, useless to a team not in contention)
Jose Martinez (disaster in the field, better off as some team's DH)
Jedd Gyorko (not bad, but not vital. Cheap contract, useful in a limited role)
Michael Wacha (not a bad starter at all, but the Cards could look to try the new wave of arms while he helps some playoff team)
Marcell Ozuna (they took a chance, it didn't work, shit happens)
Jordan Hicks (he's good, but he's a reliever, ultimately replaceable and highly variable, and he'll probably break down in the next two years)

Obviously several of these were pipe dreams. Wacha's injured, we already discussed why they wouldn't trade Ozuna, Gyorko hasn't played well enough to get much of anything in return. Beyond that was the guys I was OK with them trading if they got a good haul, that might be on the block:

Mile Mikolas (contract expires next year, again there's a lot of potential pitchers in the system)
Matt Carpenter (there must be a team that needs a guy who can lead off and play either corner)
Kolten Wong (I like his defense, but I'm not sure it's ever going to all come together here)

Mikolas and Carp might have brought something good back. But, they traded exactly none of those guys. They traded a reliever, a minor league first baseman, a minor league outfielder, and one of their starting outfielders. The most productive one, actually. In exchange, they got four relief pitchers, three minor league outfielders, and one minor league starting pitcher.

All of which suggests a team not trying to contend. But if you aren't trying to contend, and any team trotting the rotting carcass of Dexter Fowler out there every single fucking night is not trying to win, why the fuck is Bud Norris still here? You are not trying to make the playoffs, ergo you do not need a closer. Trade him.

Overall, a thoroughly underwhelming trade deadline.


Sunday, July 01, 2018

Stumbling To The Midpoint

81 games into the season, the St. Louis Cardinals might be garbage. They're 42-39, 5.5 games behind the Brewers in the Central. There are 7 teams with better records, and the Nationals are also 42-39. The Cardinals have been mostly lousy for the last month. They lost four series in a row to, respectively, the Marlins, Padres, Cubs, and Phillies. Managed a split with the Brewers and won 2 of 3 from Cleveland. The Braves have dominated them the last two nights. Even John Mozeliak seems to be out of patience. I'd be a lot more excited about that if I thought Matheny would actually get fired.

Wainwright and Michael Wacha are both on the DL. Carlos Martinez hasn't really pitched well since he came back off the DL. Luke Weaver is scuffling, with an ERA over 5 and a FIP over 4. Alex Reyes came back and made one start, then left because he tore a tendon nearly off the bone. And he had reported pain or discomfort after his last rehab start, which the team apparently ignored. Fantastic!  Miles Mikolas has continued to pitch mostly well, and Jack Flaherty is doing OK, aside from some issues with home runs.

Bud Norris has been mostly good, and Jordan Hicks has stopped walking people and started striking them out instead. Brebbia and Tuivailala have been OK. Greg Holland unfortunately came back from his injury stint, but hasn't been awful. Mike Mayers has been effective in largely a mop-up role. Brett Cecil is back, and not pitching horribly, but not pitching well, either. Austin Gomber, despite having been a starter his entire minor league career, has somehow become Matheny's favorite lefty reliever. Lack of other options I guess. Cecil's been questionable, Lyons is hurt, so is Ryan Sherriff. But Matheny has pitched him either three games in a row, or three in four days on multiple occasions. That doesn't seem like a smart move to make with someone used to a reliever's life, let alone someone used to pitching every five games.

Molina came back from the DL and is hitting pretty well. Which is good, because neither Francisco Pena or Carson Kelly were doing shit with the bat while Yadi was out. Jose Martinez is hitting well while still butchering first base. Kolten Wong, in contrast, is playing spectacular defense, somehow, but not hitting for shit. Matt Carpenter's bat has come alive, or the hits are falling now, and he's holding his own at third.

Paul DeJong was hitting until he was injured. He may not be back for a while yet. In his place, they've been starting Yairo Munoz a lot, rather than Greg Garcia, which seems stupid. Their OPSes are close, Munoz at .704 and Garcia at .696, but I'd trust Garcia's more OBP-driven approach over Munoz' hackfest. Also, I'd trust Garcia's below-average defense over Munoz', but I don't believe defense factors into Matheny's thinking often. Jedd Gyorko has slumped badly after a hot start to the season.

In the outfield, Dexter Fowler has continued to look useless. His OPS is almost as bad as Pena's, and he's playing abysmal defense. Which has meant more playing time for Harrison Bader, who has responded by playing excellent defense, running the bases pretty well, doing just enough with the bat. If you restrict him to facing mostly LHP, he'll probably be OK. In the good news front, Marcell Ozuna's bat, like Carpenter's, has come alive. He's still only slightly above leauge-average by OPS, but that's better than where he was 40 games ago. Unfortunately, Tommy Pham has been mired in a horrendous slump for six weeks and counting. His OPS+ is down to 99, his defense seems to be slipping. He isn't striking much more than before, but he's not drawing walks, and he keeps chopping everything into the ground.

And apparently I put a lot of my emotional investment with regards to this team into Pham. As he's gone into the tank, my interest has nosedived. I turned on a game this week, watched Carp get a leadoff double, only to see Tommy fail to even advance the runner by grounding out to third, got depressed, and turned the game off.

There just aren't a lot of guys I considered exciting on this team. Flaherty and Mikolas are good starters, but not in a spectacular way so far. Weaver and Carlos are struggling, and I haven't bought into Wacha since his arm problems first cropped up. Relief pitchers are whatever; I'm not getting excited about some guy that comes in and throws hard for one inning. Whoop-de-do. Yadi's resilience is impressive, but not spectacular. Carp's a nice player, but walking isn't exciting. I was hoping for a repeat of last season from Pham, where he did everything. That was a lot of fun.

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