Three years ago, the rumor mill had the White Sox rejecting a deal that would have sent Carlos Martinez to Chicago in exchange for shortstop Alexei Ramirez.
Could you imagine? Carlos Martinez for Alexei Ramirez? And the White Sox were the ones to put the kibosh on the deal? Please.
Fortunately, none of that was true.
Martinez stayed put and now represents half of a formidable tandem with Adam Wainwright atop the Cardinals’ rotation. Martinez also provides hope that once Wainwright’s production eventually tails off (presumably sometime in 2026), he’ll step in as the Cards’ ace.
Here’s hoping that Alex Reyes is still there beside him in the club’s rotation.
With their 10-2 win over the Padres on Monday night, the Cards are now 48-44 on the year and sit eight games back of the Cubs in the NL Central. They’re also only two games back of the Dodgers for the wild card lead, a mix that includes the Marlins, Mets and Pirates, all competing for two spots.
In a couple of weeks, John Mozeliak could make a move at the trade deadline in an effort to improve the roster, as he should.
There’s something off about the current makeup of this team, but as Mo showed in 2014 when he sent Allen Craig and Joe Kelly to Boston in exchange for John Lackey, he has a knack for re-aligning the clubhouse dynamics.
Mozeliak could start with the bullpen.
Trevor Rosenthal’s inability to find the strike zone has had a trickle down effect that needs to be resolved. Outside of Seung Hwan Oh and Kevin Siegrist, there isn’t another reliever trustworthy enough to put in high leverage situations. Thus, the Cards likely need multiple arms to fix the pen, one of which could come at the deadline.
Of course, Mozeliak could make a bigger move. He could grab Evan Longoria (assuming the Rays are even making him available), or another bat to help bridge the gap until Matt Carpenter comes back.
Longoria would cost, though. Rays GM Matthew Silverman would surely start with Reyes and then work from there when talking trade with Mozeliak. If Silverman is going to give up a franchise piece like Longoria, who’s having his best offensive season since 2012, and not ask for the Cards’ top prospect, then he’s out of his mind.
Here’s the thing though, for as good as Longoria is, he isn’t the Cardinals’ shortest path back to a pennant or World Series. That would be Reyes, or more specifically, the combination of Reyes and Martinez.
That’s your future. That’s how you shortcut the process of building a contender in baseball. If you don’t have pitching and quality run prevention, it’s going to be difficult to make a deep run in the postseason, regardless of how good your offense is.
Take the 2015 Cardinals, for example. They had elite run prevention – the best baseball had seen in quite some time. They won 100 games before running out of gas down the stretch and into the playoffs, when they clashed with the red-hot Cubs.
The 2016 Cardinals don’t resemble anything close to that ’15 club in terms of run prevention, mostly because the defense stinks.
Longoria is a solid defensive player, yes, but he’s not going to bring wholesale changes with him from Tampa Bay.
And Longoria is just an example. Substitute his name for Carlos Gonzalez if you’d like, but it doesn’t change my opinion on parting with Reyes.
Short of Angels GM Billy Eppler getting drunk and accidentally calling Mozeliak offering Mike Trout, Reyes shouldn’t be a part of the Cards’ plans at the deadline.
Given how the Cardinals won in 2006 and 2011, nobody should concede anything when it comes to winning this season.
But that doesn’t mean that Mozeliak shouldn’t also have one eye on the future while trying to improve his current club. Wainwright, Matt Holliday and Yadi Molina won’t play forever, and Jhonny Peralta and Jaime Garcia won’t be around in one to two years either.
What’s the future of this team outside of Martinez, Carpenter, Stephen Piscotty and Aledmys Diaz (who’s a work in progress as a defender)? Kolten Wong? Randal Grichuk? Matt Adams? Michael Wacha? Rosenthal? One would hope, but none of those players are the model of consistency at this point.
Granted, prospects don’t always pan out. Sometimes trading for the veteran that has proven he can succeed at the big league level is more prudent than assuming every prospect is going to turn out to be the next big thing. Reyes, as most are aware, has command issues that need to be ironed out long before he becomes a fixture in the Cards’ rotation. He isn’t a sure thing. No prospect is.
He’s also only 21. Martinez was 22 when Mozeliak decided not to part with him at the trade deadline in 2013. Now he’s the future ace.
Here’s hoping Mozeliak exercises the same caution with his top prospect this year.