As the deadline approaches and actual trades replace trade rumors, the contenders for the stretch run will become clear. The Cardinals have struggled in the first half, but have kept their heads above water ready to better the team through trade if front office finds a willing partner. Earlier this week, Jake Peavy rumors came out in full force. Ben discussed those rumors and much of the comments centered on Allen Craig moving if a deal were reached.
Trading a player from the active roster can be difficult, but the Cardinals have not hesitated to do so in the past. The Cardinals have traded away Colby Rasmus and Ryan Ludwick in prior years to receive the upgrade they needed to contend in a pennant race. This year could provide the same opportunity with five outfielders who have been everyday starters in the majors. John Mozeliak did indicate that at some point, a player may need "a change of scenery". Given the possibility of a trade, tiering the Cardinals in terms of their potential to be traded is an exercise that should provide perspective on what the Cardinals might consider. All opinions are my own.
Mike Trout Tier
These players should not be traded under any realistic scenario. There is always a point where a deal could be made, but the present and near future value of these four players make a trade impossible. It is the Mike Trout tier because indicating you would trade a player for Mike Trout is the same as saying they will not be traded. Wainwright and Molina are the team's present. Oscar Taveras and Carlos Martinez are the team's future. Giving up the former two is giving up on the present. Giving up on the latter two, who may supplant their elders as the best pitcher and position on the team, as well as the six-plus cost controlled seasons for any player would be a mistake.
Matt Holliday Tier
The Matt Holliday tier consists of players who have value, but will not be traded because the value to the team is too high, and, in Holliday's case, he has a no trade clause that he is not going to waive. Carpenter signed an extension at the beginning of the year and is one of the Cardinals' very best players. Peralta was the Cardinals' big free-agent signing. As a general rule, free agent contracts are generally not tradeable the moment they are signed given the team that signed him likely just won with the highest bid. Peralta has performed better than expectations. Given that his 4-year $53 million deal becomes three years and $37.5 million after this season and two years and $22.5 after 2015, his contract could be traded, but given Peralta's importance to this team, he is here to stay.
David Price Tier
These are players only moved in a blockbuster-type deal i.e. David Price, and only one of them likely goes in that type of deal. Miller might have been in the Mike Trout tier a year ago, but inconsistent performance has lessened his value slightly. Joe discussed Kolten Wong yesterday. All these players come with multiple cost-controlled years and would require a significant upgrade at their position if they were moved. While proven closers do not have as much value as starters, Rosenthal's potential as a starter in this, or another, organization keeps his trade potential high.
The Decaf Tier
The above guys are mostly necessary parts of the bullpen. As they are not closers, they receive no coffee and are stuck with decaf, hence the name of the tier. In Greenwood's case, he has little trade value and unlikely to be included in any deal. While deals are conceivable for Maness, Choate, or Freeman, they are not likely to be moved given their current roles on the team.
These backups do not have a lot of trade value, but serve their purpose for the Cardinals well.
The Candidates Tier
Although he has under-performed this season, he is still coming off two seasons of solid production and owed roughly $27 million over the next three seasons. He has found his playing time compromised with the strong play of Matt Adams and the arrival of Oscar Taveras. While defense is not his strong suit, he has the ability to play first base and corner outfield in addition to designated hitter if he is moved to the American League. Despite these factors, he is likely better served in a part-time role for the Cardinals as he continues to look for his hitting stroke. He can be an impact hitter and for a team hoping to play for a Championship, he can still play a major role
Jay has fought and earned playing time this season in becoming the regular center fielder. He is more likely, as David Freese was, to be traded in the offseason as his salary in arbitration rises. He is an average hitter and an average center fielder defensively, which has value as Jay is still under team control for two more years after this one. Like Craig, he is likely more valuable to the Cardinals this season than any return a trade could provide. He may come up in discussions, but a trade during the season is not likely.
The speedy defensive whiz was expected to take the center field job and run with it this season, but a slow start offensively found him on the bench very early in the season in favor of Jay. With Oscar Taveras taking the occasional start in center and Jon Jay receiving a bulk of the playing time, there has been little room for Bourjos. He still has two more years of team control, he is incredibly good defensively and he does not have a big role on the current team. A great defensive outfielder and a baserunner with speed can be very valuable down the stretch and I would hate to see him moved.
With the recent injuries to Jaime Garcia and Michael Wacha, Kelly's importance to the team has grown. In a move for an upgrade to the rotation, Kelly could be lost in the shuffle. His versatility is an asset, and absent a major shakeup, he is likely to stay put.
Tyler Lyons does not have great trade value, but he could be included at the tail end of a blockbuster or as the main piece in a minor move. Lyons is insurance right now if the rotation is hit even worse by injuries.
Absent a major move or a desperation move for help in the rotation a move is not likely to include a player on the current 25-man roster. While the team has struggled, the pieces are there and even the trade candidates have played an important role or could play an important role as the Cardinals try to catch the Brewers. The Cardinals' best move is probably to stand pat and let the season play out.
Of course there is one more player not featured and he receives his own tier.
Mike Matheny seems to like Descalso, but at this point in his career that is about all he offers. He is not plus at any defensive position and he is not a very good hitter. He will not be traded because there is not a trade to be made.
One more thing: