Major League Baseball’s trade deadline is on July 31st, and if there’s one thing we re-learned in the recent series versus the Mets, it’s that the Cardinals need one more bat to reinforce themselves for the stretch run.
St. Louis’ starting pitching should be fine, especially with the impending return of Jaime Garcia later this week and Marco Gonzales at the end of the month. The bullpen, with the blossoming of Sam Tuivalala and the return of Jordan Walden, is certainly good enough to get the Redbirds through a successful post season, provided Trevor Rosenthal is healthy.
But a middle-of-the-pack offense, missing Matt Adams, and an ineffective Matt Carpenter, needs reinforcement. Since June 5, the Cardinals have scored three or fewer runs in 22-of-38 games. Certainly the return of Matt Holliday will help, and hopefully Carpenter will return to form.
However, with Adams hurt and Mark Reynolds, Xavier Scruggs, and Dan Johnson failing to distinguish themselves as starters, the Cardinals have two options…and they’ve already exercised one of those with the promotion of Steven Piscotty from Memphis to take his shot at first base.
Either way, the club should make a deal for an established major league first baseman.
General Manager John Mozeliak told Fox Sports Midwest on Sunday that he doesn’t want to do something that would block Adams at first base next year, so if the Cardinals make a deal, it’ll have to be for an upcoming free agent or a versatile player that can play another position.
Fortunately for the Cardinals, there are players that appear available that fit the bill.
Here are my top five:
1) Mike Napoli, Red Sox. Napoli is in the final year of a contract that pays him $16 million this season, and he’s having a terrible year in Boston. But for the Cardinals’ purposes, he may be perfect.
The 33 year old’s history is great. For every 162 games played he averages 28 doubles, 30 homers and 85 RBI, with an .834 OPS. In six different years in the post-season, including two World Series against the Cardinals, Napoli has seven homers, 26 RBI and an .801 OPS in 162 plate appearances.
Like Cesar Cedeno in 1985 and Will Clark in 2000, Napoli might just need the energy of St. Louis to get him going for one more great stretch run. With the fact that he is in the final year of his deal, the price for Napoli could be right.
2) Mark Trumbo, Mariners. Like Napoli, Trumbo’s history is as a thumper, averaging 31 homers and 98 RBI for each 162 games played. He’s already been traded once this season, and he only has eleven homers and 32 RBI between Arizona and Seattle.
Trumbo plays an adequate first base and adds great versatility, being able to handle both corner outfield spots. The negatives on Trumbo are that he’s never played in the post-season, and the potential price to get him. He’s under club control for another year, so the Mariners might be unwilling to move Trumbo unless they get a strong package in return.
3) Adam Lind, Brewers. Player A vs. Player B games are always fun. Player A is hitting .292 with 20 homers, 58 RBI and a .911 OPS. Player B is hitting .289 with 15 homers, 52 RBI and an .881 OPS.
Player A is Adrian Gonzalez of the first place, extremely talented Dodgers, and player B is Lind of the last place Brewers.
Lind is probably the best player on this list from a production standpoint in 2015, but he has some drawbacks. Number one, like Trumbo, he’s never played in the post-season. The Cardinals would like to see a track record, because a big reason they’re getting this player is for the playoffs. Secondly, Lind has a club option for $8 million next year that includes a $500,000 buyout, and at this stage he only plays first base.
Whoever gets Lind is going to give up a haul, and with the lack of desire to block Adams, it’ seems a move like that would be prohibitive.
4) Mike Morse, Marlins. Morse is versatile and powerful. And he might be cheap, because he’s hitting only .209 with three homers and eleven RBI with a .566 OPS in the first year of a two year, $16 million deal he signed with Miami.
Morse started his career with the Mariners as a shortstop, and has also played first, third, left and right. In eleven years, his 162 game averages are 22 homers, 74 RBI and a .794 OPS. Morse has two years in the post-season, earning a World Series ring with last year’s Giants, and has hit .282 with two homers and seven RBI in fifteen career playoff games.
Morse is due a manageable $8 million next year, and would be a nice plug-and-play guy in right if Heyward would depart. This year, he’s a better version of Reynolds at the plate for the rest of the season.
5) Adam LaRoche, White Sox. LaRoche has been around the block, playing for six different teams, and in the playoffs in four years. In his post-seasons he’s hit only .200, but with four homers and twelve RBI to go with a .748 OPS.
He’s another player having an awful year, hitting just .219 with nine homers and 33 RBI for the ChiSox. However, as one of the last options on my list, he would complement Reynolds at first base. LaRoche is due $13 million from the White Sox next season, and they’d have to eat a ton of that salary to make him palatable as a bench player for next year’s Cardinals.
Special mention must go to Prince Fielder of the Rangers and Aramis Ramirez of Milwaukee.
Fielder is ultra-expensive, making $24 million a year through 2020. The Tigers are paying $30 million of that $120 million between next year and the end of the deal, and one could only hope that the Rangers would pay another $20 million of it to make his take a more manageable $70 million over five years from the Cards. Unless the Cardinals can get him into that $14 million a year range, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
If they could, Fielder’s production would certainly be greater than Adams, but he’d also force the Cardinals to let go of Heyward, in whom they have the Shelby Miller investment. That one doesn’t make much sense to me.
Ramirez has already announced his retirement effective at the end of the season, so the remainder of his $14 million salary isn’t an issue. The eighteen year veteran is hitting .248 with eleven homers and a respectable .748 OPS.
Like Napoli, Ramirez would be a “lightning in a bottle” acquisition, with the hope that he could regain his prime form in a Cardinal uniform. Unfortunately, Ramirez is only a .194 career post-season hitter with four homers in 77 plate appearances, so he doesn’t match Napoli’s profile in that regard.
Ultimately, Mozeliak is going to have to make a move. Whether it’s for one of these guys or someone else, the Cardinals are going to have to improve their offense to succeed in the 2015 playoffs.
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