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.

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