Yesterday, for the VEB Daily slot, fourstick wrote a fine piece that looked at two potential position players the Cardinals could acquire in a trade by the end of the month. With the offense 28th in the league in runs scored with 335 (3.68 per game), it seems reasonable for the front office to want to add a proven player at plate, such as Adrian Beltre or Chase Utley. I am not completely against adding either player, especially since it appears neither transaction would involve Oscar Taveras or El Gallo. However, I am here to write why I think keeping Kolten Wong makes the most sense at this point.**
First and foremost, let's take a look at ages and contracts. Beltre is 35 years old and is owed $18 million next season, with a voidable $16 million option for 2016. Utley turns 36 in December and would cost the team $10 million in 2015, with various options through 2018. Considering a deal for either one of these players would be more for a short-term "win now" outlook, age is not all that important, as long as both are relatively healthy and producing. Both Beltre (2.7 fWAR) and Utley (2.8 fWAR) were named to their respective All-Star teams, so current production is not an issue here. Though I just said age does not matter given the likely nature of the deal (acquire a big bat to help the team win now), the fact that Wong is over a decade younger than both players is hard to ignore completely. Having Wong under team control until 2020 is quite appealing as well.
In terms of overall performance, especially at the plate, both Beltre (2.7 fWAR) and Utley (2.8 fWAR) have been far superior to Wong (0.4 fWAR), but this isn't an entirely fair comparison given the injuries and adversity Wong has dealt with so far this season. As I stated in an earlier post, Wong was hitting .310/.385/.431 in 16 games after being recalled from Triple-A and prior to injuring his shoulder. With two home runs in three games (three HR in six games if you include his rehab stint with Memphis) and the fact that he was quoted in saying he is now able to take "more aggressive" swings at the plate (huge for a guy who thinks as much as Wong does), I cannot help but smile when thinking about Kolten's plate potential the rest of the season.
Let's take a look at two more components of Wong's game: his defense and his speed. Despite a handful of head-scratching errors, his five defense runs saved (DRS) is the seventh most among MLB second baseman, and in my opinion, he has one of the quickest double play turns as well. Utley has proven to be a top defensive second baseman in his career, so if he is acquired, the team wouldn't take much of a step back on defense, if at all. However, if Beltre is acquired, I truly believe the defense will take a bit of a hit. At this stage in Beltre's career, Matt Carpenter is the better defensive third baseman. A Beltre acquisition would move Carpenter back to second base, and though adequate at the position last season, I think that if given equal sample sizes, Wong's defense at second would come out slightly ahead of Carpenter's.
Finally, and to me, most importantly, let's look at the speed component of Wong's game. He is nine for ten on stolen bases this season. Though this is not all that many, it is still tops on the team. If he had enough appearances to qualify, his 6.9 speed score (per Fangraphs) would be in the top 15 of baseball and the top score on the team. Speed score is somewhat outdated, so I checked out his UBR as well, and like his speed score, his 1.3 UBR is the highest on the Cardinals and it would put him in the top 40 of baseball. With Peter Bourjos's playing time severely diminished, it is nice to have Wong as a threat on the base-paths, even if the manager doesn't make it a priority. Acquiring Beltre or Utley would virtually eliminate speed from the Cardinals starting lineup. This would be very different, of course, if Matheny began starting Bourjos again.
I just don't think trading Wong is in the organization's best interest at this time. There is no way the organization knows what they have in Wong after just 244 big-league plate appearances. With his ability in the field, on the bases, and flashes at the plate, he could easily project as a 2-4 fWAR player every year until at least 2020 (when he becomes a free agent). Thus, is a short-term trade with Philadelphia or Texas worth it? If it propels the Cardinals to win the 2014 World Series, then absolutely. But how much better does this team become by adding Beltre or Utley in place of a seemingly rejuvenated Wong. A trade will undoubtedly make the team better, but is it enough to win the ultimate prize? I do not believe so, but that is a question for Mozeliak to ponder, and I look forward to your thoughts as well.
**All that being said, if the medical staff has even the slightest inkling that Wong's shoulder injury could become a chronic issue, especially if soft tissue (such as the labrum) is involved, then seeking out a trade, such as the ones listed by fourstick, is probably a wise thing to do. Even at a young age like Kolten, shoulder injuries are not a fun thing to deal with, especially when they involve the inside of the joint.
With trade rumors swirling about the possibility of Jake Peavy coming to St. Louis, I decided it would be a good idea to take a very brief look at his BrooksBaseball page. Over the course of his 13-year career, Peavy has been quite crafty—throwing seven different pitch types (eight if you include a "slow curve" as a separate pitch), with his fourseamer, sinker, and cutter being the most used portion of his repertoire. His career average velocities are 92.10 MPH, 92.62 MPH, and 86.80 MPH for his fourseamer, sinker, and cutter, respectively. So far in 2014, the velocities on two of these pitches have shown a pretty significant decline: 90.99 MPH (fourseam) and 91.06 MPH (sinker). His cutter has an increased average velocity, but this is probably due to the fact that he is purposely compensating for lost fastball velocity.
His most-used pitch, the fourseamer (32%), not only has decreased velocity, but it is also having trouble missing opponents' bats and is getting hit with more force. Over the course of his career, his fourseamer has a whiff rate of 8.34%. So far in 2014, the whiff rate is roughly half of that at 4.58%. For a fastball pitcher this can be a cause for concern. Plus, both the line drive percentage and home run percentage are increased from his career averages as well. One final point to add regarding Peavy's PITCHF/x data: somehow, his home run percentage is higher on his sinker than his fourseamer (1.34% versus 1.02%). Is this statistically significant? Probably not, given the sample size, but I found it quite odd when looking through the data.
Peavy's peripheral statistics are not very good (8.7 K-BB%, 4.81 FIP), and unfortunately for him, his PITCHF/x data does not show any obvious signs for improvement going forward. If I am working in the front office of the Cardinals, I am looking at other options unless the Red Sox are willing to basically give away Peavy.