I'm not a big curser, just by nature, really. I don't toss around obscenities a whole lot, particularly when in print. I do occasionally, of course, but I try not to go to extremes. I just don't think that it's really necessary. That being said, there's something that I feel I need to say this morning. I apologise in advance to anyone who is easily offended, and to all of the ladies who might be reading this.
Goddamn fucking Royals.
There. Again, I apologise to everyone for that, but it really and truly did need to be said, I think.
Alright, now that we've got the unpleasantness out of the way, we can move on. There's really not very much that I can say about last night's game. We had the worst possible combination of middle infielders on the field, Chris Duncan's double doesn't change the fact that he still can't hit his way out of a soggy paper bag at the moment, Ryan Ludwick desperately needs to get hot again, and Joel Pineiro should sue Aaron Miles and himself for poor defense and throwing meatballs, respectively. Just a poor showing pretty much all around.
A couple of days ago, in Lboros's post entitled "The Market for Pitchers", someone mentioned that they would be interested in a post about which players in the Cards' minor league system we consider, or should consider, untouchable when looking at possible trades to improve the current roster. Well, when I read that, I thought to myself, you know, that's a fantastic idea. And I am nothing if not willing to run with somebody else's good idea, (I'm like the Jasper Johns of sports blogging, really) so that's just what I want to talk about this morning.
Now, of course, when we're talking about possibly making trades involving the Cards' minor league depth, it's important to consider just what they might be receiving in return. In order to keep this from becoming too very overwrought, though, I can't really take into account every possible trade target. Suffice it to say that if Brian Sabean were really, really looking to move Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain, I would trade anyone and everyone, possibly outside of Rasmus, to bring one of them in. The only reason I wouldn't move Rasmus is because I'm not a big fan of trading superstar position players for pitchers, no matter how good. Too much injury risk and all that.
With that caveat in mind, about not mapping out specific trades, let's take a look at what they Cardinals have, and what they should and should not be willing to move, shall we?
First off, of course, there's Colby. Others, most notably Azruavatar, have laid out the reasons why you shouldn't trade Rasmus more completely than I ever could, so I won't rehash the exact arguments here. The point is, the kid is going to be a star, and for cheap, for awhile at least. I'm not sure there's a player in the major leagues right now I would move Colby for straight up, to be honest. Maybe Jay Bruce. He and Rasmus are fairly equivalent players, with Colby's defense a big plus over Bruce, but Bruce's bat much closer to a finished product. Since the Cards already have a player who can man center field pretty well in Ankiel, I would consider making the deal for Bruce. Other than that, though, I just don't know if there's anyone I would move him for. I think Rasmus has to fall pretty firmly in the untouchable category.
Jess Todd, RHP- The other day, I believe it was on the MLB channel on XM Radio, I heard a news break that included the line score for the Double A All Star Game. In it, Jess Todd was referred to as "Cardinals' righty phenom Jess Todd." It's the first time I've heard Todd referred to as a phenom, but I doubt it will be the last. Admittedly, Todd has struggled badly lately, seeing his ERA balloon all the way into the upper 1.00s, but I think he'll get back on track soon. His peripherals are all pretty much in line, so it's not as if his success is an illusion at the moment.
The biggest key to Todd's performance this year has apparently been his development of a cut fastball, as detailed by Derrick Goold a while back in his Birdland blog. Todd also falls firmly in the untouchable category for me. He's a little undersized, but his mechanics are solid, so I don't think he'll be a huge injury risk. I wouldn't move him.
Chris Perez, RHP- We all know what's happened with Perez this year. He came into the season seeking better command over his repertoire, found it in Triple A, got called up to the bigs, and hasn't looked back since. He's still not exactly Greg Maddux on the control front, but he's good enough. I still want to see Perez continue to develop, but this is the sort of pitcher you can build a bullpen around. Untouchable.
Bryan Anderson, C-After working with Mike Matheny in Spring Training on his blocking abilities, a lot of us had high hopes for Anderson, and for the most part, he hasn't disappointed. The power still just doesn't seem to be around very often, but he's hitting above .300 at Triple A as a 21 year old, while upping his caught stealing % to nearly 40% and not giving up a passed ball every other day. In short, this is a very, very good prospect, one that I think is quite underappreciated by most Cardinal fans.
Still, with Yadier Molina appearing to have the big league job locked up for years to come, (and I find it hard to complain too much as long as he continues to hit) I think you have to consider Anderson movable. I wouldn't ship him out on just any deal, but I wouldn't put him in the same category as these other guys. If you could trade for a young stud middle infielder or starting pitcher, Anderson should be on the block. (It hurts me inside to say that.)
Jaime Garcia, LHP- Garcia will turn 22 years old in a couple of weeks. He's pitching in Triple A right now, and doing so quite well. Enough said.
You want a good stat to demonstrate how well a pitcher is throwing? One of my personal favourites is GB%+K%. The two most desirable outcomes for a pitcher, added together, presents a pretty good picture of what kind of a job a pitcher is doing of preventing hard contact. (Yes, that's right, despite my railing against Dave Duncan, I do think groundballs are a very good thing.) Two years ago, Garcia was second in all the minor leagues in GB%+K%, next to only Philip Hughes. Last year, of course, Garcia struggled a bit with his control, his delivery, and his elbow, but appears to have mostly put that behind him this season.
He's only 21, lefthanded, and looks to be turning the corner in Triple A. He's untouchable, for me at least.
Pete Kozma, SS- Now here's an interesting case. The thing about Kozma is, he's probably too young, or at least too far away, to be much of a trade target anyhow, so this is most likely a moot point. Still, though, I have to wonder if the Koz is untouchable. He's 20, playing in the Midwest League, (Low A) and holding his own. Kozma got off to a very hot start in April this year but has since cooled off with the bat. Still, he's not overmatched in his first full year of pro ball, and by all accounts his defense is the real selling point, so he's still doing just what you hope he would.
As to whether or not he's untouchable, that's a little more complicated. The Cardinals are utterly barren at the shortstop position in the minors, with both Jose Martinez and Tyler Greene proving to all of us why they weren't considered top prospects in the first place. So Kozma's value is definitely improved within the organisation by positional scarcity. However, any move the Cards make would likely be made to try and upgrade the middle infield, so it's entirely possible they might end up making him less valuable as they make any hypothetical trade. Bottom line, I think you have to consider Kozma untouchable at this moment, but that may not stay true. The Cards just drafted a kid by the name of Niko Vasquez this season, who's off to a very hot start in short season ball, and as I said, any move is possible to bring in middle infield help. For now, though, I don't move Kozma. He looks to be for real, and the Cards desperately need for him to be.
Clayton Mortensen, RHP- Mortensen, only in his first full pro season, has reached Memphis already. Now, he wasn't necessarily moved up because he just absolutely decimated Double A, but he's held his own in Triple A despite being slightly, (though not a lot) young for the level and definitely being short on experience. He's walking too many in Triple A so far, as he looks to be trying to trick hitters rather than just attacking the strike zone, but he hasn't been overly hittable and is mostly getting the job done.
With the depth that the Cardinals currently have in the pitching ranks, particularly among those who throw from the right side, you have to consider Mort tradeable. I wouldn't be in any kind of hurry to move him, because I think he has a chance to be a very, very good pitcher, but there are others who probably have just as much potential. He's not exactly a fungible commodity, but he's not on the list of guys I just couldn't bear to part with. In the right deal, I have to consider moving Mort.
That's my list. Pretty much everyone else in the system is eminently tradeable, in my estimation. I'm not at all in favour of moving prospects just in general, but if the right deal comes along, I would part with pretty much anyone in the system outside of the players I listed above. Guys like Jon Jay or Jason Motte, while exciting talents in one way or another, are replaceable assets at this point.
The Cardinals have finally begun to build a minor league system with enough depth that they can afford to start moving some pieces here or there if it will help the big league team. Again, I'm not really a big proponent of moving prospects, as I think the future of this team is in the players they already have in the system and can build around, but outside of a few select individuals, the depth is now there to start using the minor leagues to bulk up the big club, if you can get good value.
So, what about you all? Who would you be willing, (or unwilling) to move?