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Cardinals won’t do anything at the trading deadline and they shouldn’t

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Spoiler: it’s just too easy to make the playoffs.

Cleveland Indians v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The Cardinals, in a normal year, have the reputation of a team who do not make major trades at the trading deadline. They’re in a familiar position at the trading deadline: no-mans land. They have a record of 12-13, which is, in this stupid weird season, too good of a record to sell, but it’s certainly not a good enough record to go all-in either. You don’t want to be the team to trade a major prospect only for it to not make a difference in a month of playing time and you certainly don’t want to trade Tommy Pham only to lose out on the playoffs by the difference of a Tommy Pham.

Two other factors complicate. This is not only a weird season, it’s an especially weird season for the Cardinals. The Cardinals have seven doubleheaders to go. They play 32 games over the next 28 days, and only have two off-days, which sounds better than it is. One of the off-days has a doubleheader the day before and then there’s a doubleheader the day after. In the end, they still end up playing 28 innings or more in 3 days.

This is either a positive or a negative. The Cardinals would benefit the most from any trade. They have more games to play. At the same time, it’s a possibility that this unprecedented scheduling wears on them. Hard to see how a trade would solve that problem. The one exception is a starting pitcher who can eat innings, but that’s not particularly easy to find, is costly, and you still only get a start every fifth day so their impact is somewhat limited.

Secondly, it’s incredibly easy to make the playoffs. Stupidly easy one might argue. The Cardinals are a playoff team right now. They are in 2nd place in the NL Central, being 3.5 games out first, and that would secure them a playoff spot. The first place Wild Card team, the best team that isn’t 1st or 2nd in any division, is the Colorado Rockies, who are 17-17 and have been outscored by 14 runs. The Phillies and Marlins are tied currently, and the Marlins are being outscored by 13 runs while the Phillies have a +0 run differential. The Giants are half a game behind these teams. To repeat, the Marlins are a playoff team right now and the Giants are barely not a playoff team. This is an absolute joke.

In fact, just look at the NL Wild Card standings. ESPN has not adjusted for the fact that, technically, 2nd place teams are no longer Wild Card teams, so it includes 2nd place teams. But the Cardinals and Padres are the only teams with a positive run differential. Phillies are +0 and literally every other 2nd place or worse team has a negative run differential.

What is my point? That the Cardinals aren’t exactly competing with the NL Central circa 2015. They’re competing with the checks notes Marlins and Giants. I would imagine that another team or two might emerge ahead of them. This does not exactly suggest a team that should be making ay moves at the trading deadline. I mean if the Cardinals don’t make the playoffs with eight of the 15 teams making the playoffs, I’m not going to be convinced they should have made a move to be the 7th or 8th seed. If that move would even push them to that.

But, you may argue, just make the playoffs. That’s the goal. If we need... whoever, and they push us from 9th place to 8th place, then we should do it. But in my opinion, you have to weigh likelihood against risk. And the odds that they Cardinals make a trade that pushes them from non-playoffs to playoffs just seems incredibly, incredibly small. It feels like the Cardinals are very good at being just slightly above .500 and well, lookie here, that’s pretty much guaranteed to make the playoffs this year.

I don’t know. I’ll be honest. I think this season is a joke. I’m watching the games. Sometimes enjoying them. But I don’t think we should do literally anything at the trading deadline, because I don’t care about this season. I will root for them if they make the playoffs. I will ignore the winner of the World Series as legitimate unless it’s the Cardinals, and I will do that unabashedly.

Okay, I’ll give it to the Dodgers too. They’ve “deserved” one for a long time. I’m not talking their fans, they can all go to hell, but they’ve just constructed so many teams that could have won, they should have won one by now. And the Rays and Athletics, maybe, for similar reasons to the Dodgers, although neither was ever necessarily the best in a given season. Just like a reward for long-running competence with no titles to show for it.

As much as I like the idea of the White Sox or Padres winning it, I will admit it will also slightly annoy me because I’ll never really know if they’re “for real.” And I just mean like the 2020 version of them. I think both would eventually settle into .500 teams if given a full season if I’m being perfectly honest. Which is basically why there are only a few teams that could really, truly be taken seriously as the winner of the World Series to me, and the Cardinals... would not be one of them if I weren’t a fan of them.

I’m on a tangent. My point, i think, is that the small sample of everything makes it just feel useless. I mean some of us, myself included, wanted two months of consistent playing time for Tyler O’Neill and then we’d see what he was and altered if necessary. That’s the entire season. Two months is enough to see what the rest of the season looks like. There is no rest of the season. So, essentially, we don’t actually know what the Cardinals are right now, and it feels useless to make trades when we don’t know.

We won’t even know after two months of playing. Any team can be good for two months. Any team can be bad for two months. Last year’s World Series winning champions were bad for two months. The Brewers used to reliably be good for the first half of the season then collapse in the 2nd half. I think the Pirates faked being a .500 team for three months last year.

Look at like this. If the Cardinals are slightly under .500 after 25 games in April, I would not want to make a trade based off those 25 games. I don’t really think it’s any different now? The Cardinals made the playoffs last year with a similar team and eight teams didn’t make the playoffs last year. We are currently in a playoff spot. I don’t think they should make a trade unless it falls on their laps. Make a trade if the player has control beyond this year. Beyond that? Hold tight. Hope the bats come around.

Honestly, if you just change the offensive production of a single guy, a guy I am hesitant to mention because I don’t want to scapegoat, this team’s fortunes are radically different. I’m taking the broadcast at its word here, but he’s come to the plate the second most times with RISP in baseball since he got called up and he has mostly failed in those spots. And I don’t get the sense that the Cardinals are interested in replacing him this year, trade or no trade, so either he figures it out or he doesn’t.

Okay, so I say the Cardinals shouldn’t make any moves, but I do have things they can change with the trading deadline as an excuse to do so. Three interconnected things that have bothered me. Sit Matt Carpenter more. There is really no reason to play him literally everyday like he has. Only play Brad Miller at DH. He should never, ever be in the field again. And literally never, under any circumstance play Tommy Edman in the OF. Edman does not look like a good fielder out there and his bat damn sure doesn’t justify playing a corner outfield position.

Other than that, I wouldn’t change anything else. Roll with the team you have. This isn’t like those years where if the team misses the playoffs by a game, it’s going to feel like us fans have been cheated. If the Cardinals finish 9th, I’m not gonna think “what if we made a move to put us over the hump?” I’m gonna think “God this team sucked for two months.” I’ll also think “Holy hell the Cardinals schedule really did affect them and no move they made would have changed that.” Because really, you have to pretty bad to miss the playoffs this year. Anyway, my two cents when nothing happens at the trading deadline for the Cards.