Has Mozeliak Hit The Panic Button?

It is less than 48 hours before the non-waiver trade deadline is upon us, and so far the Cardinals have made two deals: 1) acquiring relief pitcher Steve Cishek from the Marlins for minor league relief pitcher Kyle Barraclough; and 2) acquiring OF/1B Brandon Moss from the Indians for lefty pitching prospect and 2013 first round draft choice Rob Kaminsky.  It is possible another deal could be made, but I find it highly unlikely.

I like the Cishek deal.  Chishek, though he struggled at the beginning of this year for the Marlins, has been pitching better since he returned from a stint at AAA.  He’s a reasonable risk and the pitcher we gave up for him, Barraclough, has had some control issues and was not likely headed to the majors anytime soon, if at all.  Cishek was a good reliever for the Marlins, and has a career FIP of 2.68 and xFIP of 3.22.  If Cishek can get back to that level of production, or something close to it, he would be a valuable reliever for the Cardinals, in the Pat Neshek mode.

The Brandon Moss for Rob Kaminsky deal, however, I do not like at all.  It is quite true that pitching prospects are highly volatile, more so than position player prospects.  Pitching prospects are more likely to flame out, are more likely to succumb to injury, and can break your heart.  There was no guarantee that Kaminsky would ever make it to the majors.  Having said that, Kaminsky was a highly touted prospect, unlike Barraclough, and was widely believed to be one of the top prospects in the Cardinals system.  Kaminsky was ranked as the Cardinals #5 prospect, and the #2 pitching prospect, behind Alex Reyes, by Baseball America.

Brandon Moss, on the other hand, was having a tough year with the Indians, batting .217/.288/.407 and had a wRC+ of 94.  Moss is striking out at a 28.3% rate and walking at a rate of 8.5%.  Compare these numbers to those of Mark Reynolds, .227/.309/.390, wRC+ of 96, K% 29.9, BB% 10.1, and it is difficult to see how Brandon Moss is an upgrade over Reynolds.  Moss has more home runs than Reynolds, 15 to Reynolds 9, but this is hardly enough of an advantage to justify giving up a top pitching prospect to get him.    Moss does have a .265 BABIP, which leaves room for some upward regression in his numbers, but even putting the most positive spin on Moss’s chances for improvement, the trade was a significant overpay in my opinion.

Even setting aside the questions about Moss’s bat, defensively Moss is a better OFer (much better) than he is a first baseman.  Will he be spending any significant time in the OF, a position the Cardinals don’t lack depth in?  Moss’s defense at 1B is pretty bad, much worse in fact than either Matt Adams or Mark Reynolds.  Worse even than the majority of first baseman in baseball.  If playing him the majority of the time at 1B is the plan, that plan brings his value down even more, even if he is platooned with Reynolds.

Perhaps this is a tough market, and even marginal players are pricier than usual.  If that is the case, then it seems to me no trade would have been better than this one.  With the addition of Stephen Piscotty into the mix, and with improvement in the performance of the Cardinals current starters, the offensive outlook for this team, in my opinion, is not as doomy as many Cardinals fans have made it out to be.  Offenses go through slumps, and there is no reason to believe that is not the case with this one.

The Matt Holliday injury does add another wrinkle, that is for sure, but it seems to me adding a marginal bat that may not add a lot of additional value to this offense is not the answer to this particular problem.  It smells of desperation, a trait that I don’t generally ascribe to John Mozeliak.  Mozeliak has typically been immune to the hues and cries of the fanbase (thankfully), so what made this move so needed?  More importantly, how does it affect Stephen Piscotty going forward?  Will the Piscotty to 1B experiment be terminated, or will Moss play more in the OF than 1B?  A lot of questions about an acquisition that doesn’t add much value to the mix.  Add in Mike Matheny’s often questionable use of his resources and this trade has the potential to make the situation worse instead of better.  It would seem to me a trade for a first base only player would have made more sense, and would have given Mike Matheny less rope with which to hang the team.

I don’t like this trade one bit.  I give it a grade of D.


Thank you for reading.


To Trade Or Not To Trade?

Now that the “unofficial” second half of the season has started, I want to talk about what is and should be ahead for the Cardinals.  When the last half of July rolls around, the most talked about topic in baseball is, of course, the upcoming trade deadline and who is or isn’t going to make a splash.  When we think big splashy trades, we think of teams like the Red Sox, or the Dodgers.  We also think of teams like the Marlins and the Blue Jays, who seem to think trading players is in itself a major sport.  We don’t think of the Cardinals, that bastion of conservatism when it comes to player turnover.  The Cardinals don’t make splashy trades; the Cardinals bring up young players from the farm system who fit in seamlessly and make other teams wonder what the Cardinals put in their minor league drinking water.

No, the only trade of recent memory that could possibly come close to being splashy, was the three team trade of Colby Rasmus in 2011.  That trade was made more out of the necessity of separating Rasmus and his manager Tony LaRussa before someone got hurt, though the return the Cardinals obtained did help them win a World Series.  That return didn’t “return” much of anything after that (though we did get a draft pick that returned us Patrick Wisdom, so there is something yet unrealized). There was also last season’s trade of Allen Craig and Joe Kelly; that trade was more surprising than splashy.  Surprising perhaps most of all to Craig, Kelly, and their teammates, who learned of the trade the same way the rest of us did, from the media.  Oops.

Most years the Cardinals do something low key, a minor player for another minor player.  There was Michael Blazek for John Axford in 2013, who remembers who Michael Blazek was?  We remember Axford, because he is kind of hard to forget, but do you know where he is now?  Then there was Zack Cox for Edward Mujica in 2012.  Mujica was a great deal for us until he wasn’t, but a gold star for anyone who knows what in the world happened to Zack Cox.

No, the Cardinals are anything but splashy.  I suspect if the Cardinals make any trades this season, it will be of the low key variety.  Perhaps a bullpen arm, or a first baseman that comes cheap. No Joey Vottos, Paul Goldschmidts or Freddie Freemans will occupy first base for the Cardinals in the second half.  More like an Adam Lind, or an Ike Davis or a Logan Morrison.  Someone who fans will say, “that guy?” over.  That is the Cardinal Way, amirite?

Don’t misunderstand me, I am not complaining.  Splashy deals that are expensive are for suckers.  Most of them turn out to be a big wet dud.  The San Diego Padres made a bunch of these splashy deals in the offseason and where did it get them? Have the Marlins or the Blue Jays set the world on fire in the last several years?

I think low key deals are just fine for the Cardinals.  They tend to work out more often than they don’t.  John Axford and Edward Mujica were good for us.  If you don’t count the Craig/Kelly deal as splashy (I don’t) then that one has worked out in spades.  The Red Sox will probably never trade with the Cardinals again.  John Mozeliak is a crafty dude.  Don’t underestimate him, he knows how to get value under the radar.

I don’t expect this trade season to put the Cardinals on the map, so to speak.  That is just fine with me.  The Cardinals get enough media attention as it is, and not in a good way.

Low key, yeah that’s the ticket.



Thank you for reading.

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