So...this team might be pretty good, huh?
The Cardinals are, as of this morning, 50-24, and inspiring articles giving historical context for exactly what that record means. Anytime you're getting those sorts of articles, you're probably feeling pretty good about where you stand.
However, the nearly impossible to believe brilliance of this club has not completely changed certain facts, some of which are rather inconvenient, to say the least. Chief among those: the fact this Cardinal rotation is still approaching a worrisome innings shortfall, particularly if the club is unwilling to push Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha, as wonderful as they've been this season, to huge new innings heights they've never scaled before. And, I have to say, I sincerely hope the club is unwilling to do that; stretching El Gallo and Pac-Man out past their previous innings limits is definitely something that needs to happen, but blasting past and just leaving them on an every-fifth-day schedule for the rest of the season, caution thrown completely to the wind, seems like a disaster just waiting to happen.
There are internal options to soak up some innings, of course; Tim Cooney probably deserves at least one more start in his career before he's sent off to the glue factory, and if we're concerned with the club's HART rating (that's Handsomeness Above Replacement Team), Tyler Lyons is obviously the best choice to rejoin the roster. Marco Gonzales may yet contribute this year, as well. So it's not necessarily fait accompli just yet that the Redbirds are going to have to look outside the organisation to fill in whatever innings gaps there may be.
Then again, there's a very good chance the Cardinals will have to do exactly that. And so, here are some updates on some possible pitching trade targets. Seven of them, to be exact. Actually, seven of the innings-eating variety, and then one...special case.
Dan Haren, RHP, Marlins
3.38 ERA, 4.26 FIP, 70:18 K:BB in 93.1 IP
Pros: Haren remains one of the most durable, reliable starters in baseball, a decade after he established himself as a major league force in the Oakland Athletics' rotation. He's on pace to throw nearly 200 innings again this year, and is showing just as strong a disdain for walking hitters as ever, with a bases on balls rate of less than five percent for the season. Also, the karmic rebalancing properties of bringing Dan Haren back to where it all began for him would guarantee the Cardinals win one of those championships they lost out on because of Rick Ankiel and Mark Mulder in the late 2000s.
The Marlins are also pretty terrible this year, so any of the veteran talent Miami possesses should definitely be on the block. Haren should also be relatively cheap in acquiring costs, as he seems a poor candidate for a qualifying offer, meaning he would likely net the Marlins nothing if they chose to keep him all season.
Cons: Haren hasn't been as good as his ERA, getting by largely on limiting walks and a low BABIP. He's still very vulnerable to the long ball, somewhat amazingly considering he's had at least five years now of being homer prone and, presumably, trying to correct the issue. He's also posting a career-low ground ball rate, which is bad. But the Cardinals have amazing outfield defense right now, which is good. Also, the sprinkles contain potassium benzoate. By which I mean regression could be coming for Haren, in a big and painful way.
Mat Latos, RHP, Marlins
5.49 ERA, 3.62 FIP, 56:22 K:BB in 62 IP
Pros: Latos has actually outpitched his results this season, and should see better results going forward if he can strand something like a league-average percentage of baserunners, rather than the 62.5% he has to date. Is also a Marlin, and so should be extremely available. He retains an ability to strike hitters out, even if the stuff isn't impressive the way it was back in his Padres days.
Cons: Should be a QO candidate, so would likely require a bigger package (heh) to bring in. Hasn't been particularly durable the last couple years, and so may not be the best choice to hopefully soak up innings. Also possesses one of the most punchable faces in all of baseball, if not the world entire.
Mike Leake, RHP, Reds
3.91 ERA, 4.48 FIP, 60:26 K:BB in 96.2 IP
Pros: Leake is still remarkably young, and so is likely one of the better bets to stay healthy of the available guys. Can still roll up the groundball totals with the best of them; an extremely positive trait when considering the possibility of pitching in front of a sterling defensive team like the Cardinals. Going from the launching pad of Great American Ballpark to Busch Stadium could, potentially, have a greater impact on his pitching than what the park factors would strictly suggest, considering home runs have been a bugaboo for him most of his career.
Cons: Really hasn't been all that good this year, with both ERA and FIP minus numbers over 100. (Which is bad. I'll spare you the rest of the routine this time.) Is young and durable enough to merit a QO, which could boost the price. More importantly, it's a question how available he or any Cincinnati player will be, since the Reds' owner is kind of a crazy person who seems willing to go down with the ship rather than concede defeat, particularly with the All-Star festivities and all that this summer. When Walt Jocketty is saying to you, "You know, Bob, we should really consider rebuilding this thing, because I don't think continuing on this same path is going to get us anywhere good," perhaps it's time you reconsidered your plan.
Also still unsure how interested Jocketty and Co. are in dealing with Mozeliak. It shouldn't make a difference, but we all know it probably does, at least a little.
Aaron Harang, RHP, Phillies
3.56 ERA, 4.02 FIP, 72:26 K:BB in 101 IP
Pros: Harang has been a durable, if decidedly average-ish, innings eater over the past four seasons, since leaving Cincinnati and heading off to San Diego. Has one of the most modest contracts on this list, at just $5 million for the 2015 season. May be too old to risk a qualifying offer, much like I believe of John Lackey, and so might be a little cheaper in talent costs.
Cons: Has been extremely mediocre this season, with some good luck on balls in play largely accounting for his solid ERA. Plays for a club with a crazy person for a GM, meaning he might very well cost Alex Reyes, Stephen Piscotty, and a pint of blood from every person in St. Louis to acquire. If Harang were brought in, Tyler Lyons would almost be required to be called up as well, just to try and balance out the handsomeness level of the transactions.
Scott Kazmir, LHP, Athletics
2.79 ERA, 3.39 FIP, 85:33 K:BB in 90.1 IP
Pros: Is awesome. Often strikes motherfuckers out. Might be worth a short-term extension, if amenable to the idea. Is still awesome. Oakland, after a brief run of playing good ball and looking like a potential crawl-back-into-the-race story, have struggled to make significant headway and likely dug themselves into too deep a hole with their early-season struggles.
Cons: Definite QO candidate, and one of the best pitchers on the trade market, so will likely be quite costly to acquire. The walks are up a bit this season, and xFIP sees him as a markedly worse pitcher than his ERA would suggest, to the tune of nearly a full run higher.
Jeff Samardzija, RHP, White Sox
4.53 ERA, 3.67 FIP, 84:17 K:BB in 101.1 IP
Pros: Samardzija is coming off three consecutive seasons of at least 28 starts, and has shown no signs of slowing down this season. He's the only pitcher so far who projects to be a fair bit better than his current ERA, as his peripherals would suggest some positive regression should be on the way. Still refuses to walk hitters, which again would play well in front of an elite defensive squad like this Cardinals team. Would be fun to get The Shark a World Series ring before the rest of his Cubs teammates.
Cons: Will be very costly, due to both QO status and position in the market. Has definitely lost some of his strikeout stuff, and the ground ball rate is way down, which is somewhat troubling. Has really terrible hair. Large number of former Cubs on roster could very well doom championship hopes.
Kyle Lohse, RHP, Brewers
6.28 ERA, 5.11 FIP, 66:20 K:BB in 91.2 IP
Pros: Should be cheap to acquire, as age, iffy performance, and Brewers' situation would likely preclude qualifying offer. Has been remarkably durable, outside of motocross forearm stuff. Needlessly handsome. Has an awesome Mike Matheny impersonation he's been working on for awhile now.
Cons: Appears to be a bad pitcher. Even xFIP doesn't like him all that well, after getting rid of a ton of the long ball-itis he's had this year. Home runs being allowed at a crazy rate could mean positive regression is on the way, or could mean he's just getting shelled now. Sometimes that happens. Westcoastbirdwatcher may be part of the package coming over to the Cardinals. Is not actually all that handsome any longer, and is beginning to have a bit of the Jerry Lewis fat face thing going on.
And the special case...
David Price, LHP, Detroit Tigers
2.42 ERA, 2.82 FIP, 95:21 K:BB in 104 IP
Pros: Is David Fucking Price. Tigers are slipping, and fading, and falling out of the NL Central race, and may be forced to consider dealing Price if they don't believe they can retain him.
Cons: Will cost an arm, a leg, three balls, one right ear, at least one eyeball, and maybe a fourth ball to acquire, being David Fucking Price and all. Will get a qualifying offer, so the price is even higher. Hasn't been as otherworldly as last season, though doing a better job of actually preventing runs this year, so...
I'm including David Price here for one reason, and one reason only: because the Cardinals trading for Price and extending him is almost certainly the only way to keep him from joining the Cubs next season. Joe Maddon is there, Price's former pitching coach at Vanderbilt is part of the organisation, he wants to play in close to home in Tennessee, which really rules out all but St. Louis, the two Chicago teams, Cincinnati, Atlanta, and possibly Cleveland and Kansas City, and there are really only two teams in that group with the financial firepower to sign this caliber of player. If he hits free agency, he's going to the Cubs. If the Cardinals were to acquire him, I think he would sign an extension, as he's expressed some very vague but meaningful, I believe, fondness for St. Louis.
Trading for Price would be extraordinarily costly, both in terms of the talent required to acquire and the salary commitment needed to lock him up for the next sevenish seasons. That being said, he's David Price, and would make the Cardinals the overwhelming favourites to win the World Series this season, I believe, and would likely set them up to rule the top of the NL Central even over the improving Cubs and Pirates for the next several years. The Cardinals, despite their protestations to the counter, have the financial firepower they could bring in Price and lock him up while still signing Jason Heyward to a long term deal without hamstringing themselves. The club is insanely profitable, has the biggest contract on the books coming off in the very near future, and needs to establish a core going forward to retain their place in the Central. There's an arms race coming soon, and the Redbirds are going to need to invest heavily to win it.
Of course, I see absolutely no chance of this happening. David Price will likely not be traded, will leave Detroit for Chicago after the season, and the Cards are going to find themselves staring down the barrel of a very big and dangerous gun on the Northside as soon as next year.
But anyway, have a nice Sunday, everybody. Carlos Martinez is pitching tonight, trying to sweep the Cubs. I have tickets. I'm quite excited.
Oh, and here: listen to this. Sugar Tongue Slim is not my favourite, but god damn do I love an RJD2 track. And him working on an Aquemini-era Outkast/late-90s Trick Daddy style marching band horn sample is almost too good to be true.