Five months ago, when the Cardinals were looking to improve their roster for the stretch run in the postseason, I discussed the trade values of all of the Cardinals on the active roster at the time. That post, aptly titled (presciently titled would also be acceptable) St. Louis Cardinals Trade Rumors: Allen Craig and the active roster discussed the the value along with the probability that any Cardinals player would be traded before the deadline. This post aims to repeat that endeavor.
The Cardinals have undergone significant changes since mid-July. I listed five candidates to be traded at that time, and two of them, Allen Craig and Joe Kelly, have since been traded. Four players (Daniel Descalso, Jason Motte, Mark Ellis, and Pat Neshek) are currently free agents. Three players (Sam Freeman, Nick Greenwood, Tyler Lyons) do not have guaranteed paths to the active roster at this time. In July, Shelby Miller was in the David Price tier, only tradeable in return for a great asset, was traded for a David Price-like asset in Jason Heyward. Finally, Oscar Taveras' tragic death took away a potential star.
Just as I did in July, prospects are not considered for this list. Only players who currently project on the active roster are considered. This is not a 1-25 ranking. Tiers can and will overlap strictly in terms of trade value given the probablity of being traded, ease of grouping and importance to the team. If the player has a long term contract, the term and dollars follow in parentheses (information from Cots and Baseball Prospectus) after the players' name (years/dollars in millions). If the player is still cost-controlled, the number of years prior to free agency is in the parentheses instead.
Mike Trout Tier
Adam Wainwright (4/78)
Yadier Molina (3/45)
Wainwright and Molina are the Cardinals' best and two most important players controlled beyond 2015. I wrote this in July about the 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.
Jason Heyward (1)
Lance Lynn (3)
John Lackey (1)
If any of these players gets traded, something has gone terribly wrong for the Cardinals. Lynn has proven himself to be a very good starting pitcher and has three years of cost-control left. He is too important to team success to trade for an upgrade at any position. If he is moved, the Cardinals will be set to receive a haul not unlike one the Cubs received for Jeff Samardzija this past season. Similarly, Heyward is not likely to be traded absent disaster on the field. The Cardinals just gave up Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins for his services in 2015. If he leaves following 2015, the Cardinals would receive draft pick compensation. The odds of Heyward being successful enough to have value and the Cardinals being poor enough not to compete seem slim at this time. Similarly Lackey is signed for just one season and figures to be an important part of the rotation in 2015.
El Gallo and Company
Carlos Martinez (5)
Michael Wacha (5)
Marco Gonzales (6)
Trevor Rosenthal (4)
In July, I put Carlos Martinez in the Mike Trout tier. I might have been a bit overzealous, but after the Cardinals refused to trade him for Jason Heyward, that position seems somewhat justified. Given he was in those trade conversations, he might be more appropriately grouped with fellow rotation-mate Michael Wacha, current sixth-starter/bullpen candidate Marco Gonzales and closer Trevor Rosenthal. All players are young, have many cost-controlled years ahead of them, and provide what teams are looking for: starting pitching or proven experience at the end of games. These players are very unlikely to be traded given their high value and their importance to the future of the Cardinals.
Matt Holliday tier
Matt Holliday (2/35 w an option)
Matt Carpenter (4/49.5 w an option)
Jhonny Peralta (3/37.5)
Kolten Wong (5)
Matt Adams (4)
The Matt Holliday tier has players with both present and long-term value to the Cardinals and in Holliday's case, there is a no trade clause. A few of these players might have more trade value than the players in the two tiers directly above them, Carpenter in particular This tier includes a different type of player. Above are players tied to the Cardinals long term and vital parts of the everyday lineup.
With Holliday, Carpenter, and Peralta, we have reached the end of the Cardinals long term contracts. The Cardinals do not have a single long term deal that looks bad for the team right now. Adams and Wong, perhaps one-time trade chips have entered the everyday player category. The Cardinals do not have ready replacements for these players in the organization, and the years of cost-control make them better assets for the Cardinals than for trade.
Jordan Walden (2)
Matt Belisle (1)
Seth Maness (5)
Kevin Siegrist (5)
This tier includes the bullpen guys who do not close. They do not have a ton of trade value, but they are necessary parts of the Cardinals 2015 roster. There was some talk earlier this offseason about trading Choate, but that seems to have calmed down.
Randal Grichuk (6)
Dean Anna (6)
Tony Cruz (3)
These guys are the backups. Unlike in July when Mark Ellis and Tony Cruz appeared here alone, Randal Grichuk does have some trade value, but until or unless the Cardinals find another backup outfielder or prospect Stephen Piscotty supplants Grichuk, he is likely to remain on the bench for the big-league birds. Grichuk could be a piece in a trade, like he was when the Cardinals acquired him, but he does not have a ton of value at this point.
Jon Jay (2)
Peter Bourjos (2)
In theory, either one of these players could be traded with one left as the starter in center. They are both starting caliber centerfielders with two more years of team control. Both players underwent surgeries in the offseason, and Bourjos' value is likely lower than it was last season. Each player provides insurance for the other. Bourjos can step in if Jay's BABIP or fielding fall below expectations, and Jay can continue to provide a solid presence given Bourjos' penchant for injury.
Jaime Garcia (1)
Technically Garcia is not projected to make a contribution to the Opening Day roster in 2015, but he is also making more than $9 million in the upcoming season, hence his position way down here. Garcia is virtually untradeable until he can show good health. The Cardinals already project six starters with Martinez and Gonzales as the last two, but as the Cardinals know, teams can never have too much pitching depth. If Garcia can prove he's healthy for at least a short time, he could prove valuable to the Cardinals, either in St. Louis or elsewhere in 2015. Like the Cardinals, you should not be counting on it.
Given all the moves that have been made in the past five months, and the apparent readiness of the roster for spring, the Cardinals do not have many, if any, realistic trade candidates on the active roster. John Mozeliak has surprised before, but it looks pretty quiet right now As is usually the case, much will change between now and the next trading season in July.