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Fixing The Cardinals’ Disjointed Nature Post-Matheny

When Mike Matheny, John Mabry, and Bill Mueller were fired and replaced earlier this week, I wrote this in my summary of that situation:

The remainder of this season is not the time to look and see if the Cardinals are worse off without Matheny or better off without Matheny - unless something turns absolutely drastically. The remainder of this season is watching carefully to see if Shildt is the guy they should stick with.

One reason I believe that is because I don’t believe Shildt can fix everything in less than 70 games and less than 3 months of (non-playoff) baseball. Side note: I believe he made a good first impression no matter the score in Sunday’s win.

Another reason is that earlier this season, I wrote about how disjointed I believe the Cardinals organization was at that time - and I still do. In that series of articles (I, II, III, IV, V, VI) one thing that I wrote about how the front office has tried to cater to Matheny’s managing style as opposed to making the team cohesive with everything and everyone else around it. Simply removing Matheny will not fix everything. It will take time to reconstruct this roster in a manner that the front office and a more analytical manager would like it constructed. Notice who started and who did not in Shildt’s first game and look where in the lineup certain players were hitting.

With Matheny’s departure, the impetus now falls on the front office to ensure that the organization gets back to where it needs to be. The team needs to move towards a team that will play to their ball park with more athleticism and hitting for the gaps not for home runs; and a team that will get their defense shored up and matched up with the type of pitchers they want on the roster.

Many people in the media and on fan blogs and forums and podcasts are calling for drastic re-tools. I don’t know that this needs to be completely drastic. A lot of people I hold in high regard believe in a complete rebuild, thinking it’s okay to trade away anything and everything and go complete Astros/Cubs with a rebuild. That’s not the only way to do so, especially when you already have a good-but-not-great farm system. Look at the Yankees rebuild. Yes, the Cardinals do not have a Chapman to get Gleyber Torres. They have a Carlos Martinez to get a Dylan Cease and Eloy Jimenez and others; however, Carlos is signed for several more years on a team friendly deal. Why trade him if you’re not going full rebuild like the White Sox? You don’t.

So how would I retool?

I love Jose Martinez’s bat. He simply can’t play defense on this roster. I hate the thought of trading that bat. I really do. If you’re not giving up on this season, then you don’t trade him. If the Cardinals decide to retool for the future at the trade deadline and not worry about the playoffs this year, then the position player Martinez must be the first to go - and go for a bit. Tyler Kinzy wrote a great article at exploring a trade for Jose Martinez. He came to the conclusion that the Cardinals would basically be able to get “approximately equivalent to the 26th most valuable prospect in baseball, or both the 67th and 68th prospects in the aggregate rankings I complied last month.”

Now, I don’t know which AL team might want Martinez’s bat for the next few years, but on MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospects, the only AL potential playoff team prospect sitting between 24-30 or so was LHP AJ Puk of the Athletics (at 26th exactly). Puk just underwent TJ surgery, though, so I don’t know that would work.

In the 60-75 range, the following AL potential playoff teams teams had multiple prospects on that list:

  • Boston - 3B Michael Chavis (63rd) and LHP Jay Groome (76th - so I fudged a little)

  • Twins (not necessarily playoff bound...) - MI Nick Gordon (64th) and OF Alex Kirilloff (66th) and LHP Stephen Gonsalves (72nd) - Cardinals would pick 2 out of the 3

That’s it. Other than that, it might take a haul of 3-4 prospects lower valued than that to get him. Think a slightly smaller Ozuna deal or a quite a bit smaller Yelich deal. Something like this from the Mariners (if they were to use either Martinez or Cruz not at DH): OF Kyle Lewis (57th overall prospect) + RHP Sam Carlson + RHP Wyatt Mills + maybe something else?

You could also look at the Yankees for a deal surrounding either LHP Justus Sheffield (39th overall) + one RHP out of the group with Chance Adams, Luis Medina, Freicer Perez, and Domingo Acevedo + something lower OR RHP Albert Abreu (60th overall) + two of that group of 4 + something lower.

Another guy you can look at moving would be Jedd Gyorko. He might not be worth quite as much as Martinez with the bat, but is much better defensively - possibly enough to make up that value, but probably not as he seems to be more of a bench bat. I’d say he’s likely worth 2/3 - 3/4 the value of Martinez due to that. I would probably lean closer to 2/3 due to Gyorko being paid $13M next year with a $1M buyout or $13M club option the following season and then his contract being over - unlike Martinez’s longer deal and current league minimum salary.

Bud Norris is the other obvious trade piece. If you decide you’re not going to contend, you have to trade back end of the bullpen guys at the trade deadline. I’ve been clamoring for that since at least 2014 or 2013. Last year alone:

  1. Brandon Kintzler netted the Twins a pitching prospect in their top 20 prospects

  2. Addison Reed netted the Mets three pitching prospects (all three in the bottom half of their top 30 prospects)

  3. AJ Ramos netted the Marlins their 13th best prospect plus another arm

  4. Pat Neshek netted the Phillies their 16th and 24th best prospects + another piece

  5. Sean Doolittle AND Ryan Madson netted the Athletics Blake Treinen (in this year’s All-Star Game) + their top prospect Jesus Luzardo + their 9th prospect Sheldon Neuse

  6. Lastly, the Yankees made a complicated deal with the White Sox to obtain 3B Todd Frazier and two relievers. The White Sox have a loaded system and still got a major league reliever (to offset costs) + their 7th and 15th best prospects + another piece.

As I said, trading Bud Norris (and Greg Holland if he becomes a viable option* in 2 weeks’ time) becomes a must if you are giving up on contending in 2018. Already this season, the Nationals grabbed Kelvin Herrera from the Royals and the Royals got their 7th and 14th best prospects (still according to MLB Pipeline) + another pitcher.

* now look back at the return of the Oakland Athletics trade of Doolittle and Madson above and really wish hard that both Norris and Holland were having good years. *sigh*

If the Cardinals can land one player who joins their top 10 and one player that joins their top 20 for Norris, they’d be getting someone on par with or with more value than Austin Gomber or a couple of someones on par with or with more value than Delvin Perez. That’d be a coup.

That would be a retool for sure. If you were able to trade Gyorko, Martinez, and Norris and get someone to slot in the top 2 prospects in your system for Martinez (or two in the top 4), you’re able to get another guy or two to slot in the top 10 for Gyorko, and possibly one more in the top ten or two more in the top 20 of your system for Norris it could be a quick turnaround for the club.

Lastly, if there are any prospects that you believe are unable to help you accomplish the goals of:

  1. Playing to your ball park with more athleticism and hitting for the gaps not just for home runs and

  2. Getting your defense shored up and matched up with the type of pitchers they want on the roster.

then you need to trade them for MLB talent that does meet those goals and that takes the place of any players that you decide to trade because they don’t help you accomplish them. That could be (just my thinking, not the club’s necessarily):

  • Max Schrock (listed at #6 on Cardinals’ list and #8 on the top 2B in the minors)

  • One of your top OF prospects (Randy Arozarena at #7, Oscar Mercado at #8, Jonatan Machado at #12) who are fairly redundant and there will never be room for all of them)

  • Connor Jones (#18 prospect)

  • Casey Meisner (#24 prospect)

If you can move two of those each in two separate deals to get key pieces to help you in the future, I see no harm in it at all because I don’t see them helping you accomplish your goals for the future of the St. Louis Cardinals. Note: I hope that those are four future MVPs or CYA winners that prove me terribly wrong.)

I also think you try to move Dexter Fowler, but I don’t think you can get what you’d want for him right now. Same with a few others. I always have anyone - and I mean anyone - available for the right price. It just takes a LOT for me to move certain people, which means there’s no way that they’d actually get moved, despite them being on the table for the right price.

What about you?

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