The biggest names traded on deadline day were that of Sonny Gray, who went from the Oakland Athletics to the New York Yankees, and Yu Darvish, who went to the Dodgers. A ton of mid-level relievers exchanged hands—but not Hand—which is usually the Cardinals go-to deadline deal. Some of the bigger rumored names for all teams—Justin Verlander, Josh Donaldson, the entire Marlins outfield—ended up staying put. The Cardinals opted not to make a move.
There were a ton of rumors that Lance Lynn would be on the move. He did not move. There were smaller rumors regarding Trevor Rosenthal, Randal Grichuk, and Tommy Pham. They did not move. The Cardinals neither helped nor hurt their chances of contention this season, and they made no moves despite an average team with an uncertain future.
The Cardinals are 52-53. They are no longer chasing the Brewers for first place in the NL Central, with the defending Champion Cubs making multiple moves to shore up their roster, and inching closer to the juggernaut that steamrolled the Central last season. They are 4.5 games out with 57 to go. Surprisingly, that’s not the best shot they have at the playoffs.
The Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks currently lead the Wild Card race by eight and 7.5 games ahead of the Cardinals with the Brewers also a couple games ahead of the Cardinals. The leaders added J.D. Martinez, Jonathan Lucroy, Pat Neshek, David Hernandez and Adam Rosales. Those moves won’t make them better than the Cardinals on paper the rest of the way, but with such large leads it might not matter.
Fair or not, failing to buy or sell or reconfigure the roster in any meaningful way sends a message of contentedness, of satisfaction. While their words might indicate this is not the case, their actions do not dictate the same. This is a roster not worthy of upgrades, and the front office is willing to wait until the season ends before taking any action to help the team in 2018.
The same day that the organization looks out of touch with modern media and culture, their manager was calling all non-hardcore fans bitter for failing to support a mediocre product, the team failed to show a way forward. They will play out the string, hoping for a miracle run. There is always the possibility of a waiver deadline move as Giancarlo Stanton seems likely to pass through waivers, but the Cardinals had an opportunity to get better for the future, either this season or next and they seem to have passed.
The Cardinals organization at the Major League level has been missing a certainty of direction for the last several years. They keep trying to make a superstar, whether internally from the system or outside through trade and free agency. Those efforts thus far have failed. They have accumulated a ton of good players in the majors and they have one of the better minor league systems in baseball.
The Cardinals are at a crossroads and they have the hazard lights on. Maybe there wasn’t a good deal to be made at this deadline, but after missing out on David Price and Jason Heyward, the Cardinals have a pattern of taking the safe route. This isn’t an attack on the Cardinals approach at this particular deadline. The same way the Cardinals have built a ton of credibility over the years by constantly winnings, it is slowly eroding as the Cardinals continue to pass on potential opportunities to make the team better in favor of waiting things out.
The Cardinals might finish with a winning record again this season. They’ve assembled that team and if things break right, they might even make the playoffs. They will certainly be in that same position in the offseason. What they haven’t been able to do is push themselves beyond that level. Whether it is due to failing to pull the trigger due to risk aversion, or that players and teams simply don’t like the Cardinals as much as the team believes they should, the Cardinals are an average team missing great players. The search continues.