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St. Louis Cardinals trade rumor analysis: Adam Lind vs. Chris Davis at first base

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Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The MLB non-waiver trade deadline is this Friday. The St. Louis Cardinals have already made one move, trading for righthanded reliever Steve Cishek to bolster their bullpen. In a Sunday morning interview on KMOX, general manager John Mozeliak indicated that the Cardinals "are certainly going to try to make a[nother] move before the deadline."

The Cardinals have had one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. Their offense is not bad, but it's not great either—particularly at first base. That position is the Cardinals' weakest link. As a refresher, here is how the Cardinals' 2015 hitting production at first compares to MLB as a whole at the position and MLB non-pitchers combined.

2015 Batting Stats: Cardinals vs. MLB

Split

K%

BB%

BABIP

BA

OBP

SLG

ISO

wOBA

wRC+

MLB 1B

20.8

9.3

.295

.257

.330

.434

.177

.331

111

MLB Non-P

19.6

7.7

.299

.257

.319

.404

.147

.315

100

STL 1B

26.8

7.9

.304

.236

.299

.372

.136

.295

87

Fangraphs' weighted runs created plus (wRC+) is a stat that takes the run value a player or group of players' batting production, adjusts it for park effects, and then places it on a scale where 100 is exactly MLB average with every point above 100 being one percent better than average and every point below being one percent worse than average. As you can see, St. Louis first baseman have produced a batting line so far in 2015 that is 13% worse than the MLB non-pitcher average and 24% worse than the collective production of first basemen. That's not good.

Who is to blame? Everyone from Matt Adams to Mark Reynolds to Xavier Scruggs to Dan Johnson. Excluding rookie Stephen Piscotty (who has barely played at all in the majors this year, let alone at first base), no player who has manned first base for St. Louis this year has hit at a league-average rate. Reynolds has come pretty close. Unfortunately, as shown above, even hitting on par with the overall MLB non-pitcher average is well below what is average for a first baseman. Reynolds is a fine bench option but is lacking as a primary option at first base.

2015 Batting Stats: Cardinals First Basemen

Split

PA

K%

BB%

BABIP

BA

OBP

SLG

ISO

wOBA

wRC+

MLB 1B

-

20.8

9.3

.295

.257

.330

.434

.177

.331

111

MLB Non-P

-

19.6

7.7

.299

.257

.319

.404

.147

.315

100

Reynolds

292

30.5

10.3

.309

.229

.312

.391

.163

.309

97

Adams

153

22.9

5.2

.292

.243

.281

.375

.132

.284

80

Scruggs

43

23.3

0.0

.344

.262

.279

.310

.048

.260

63

Johnson

16

18.8

12.5

.182

.143

.250

.143

.000

.196

19

Going forward, there is reason to believe that the St. Louis first-base collective will not be quite so bad at hitting. And not because of the Stephen Piscotty experiment. Here are the ZiPS rest-of-season projections for the Cards' various internal options at first base compared to the MLB stats from above.

2015 ZiPS Rest-of-Season Projections: Cardinals First Basemen

Split

PA

K%

BB%

BABIP

BA

OBP

SLG

ISO

wOBA

wRC+

MLB 1B

-

20.8

9.3

.295

.257

.330

.434

.177

.331

111

MLB Non-P

-

19.6

7.7

.299

.257

.319

.404

.147

.315

100

Johnson

138

18.9

12.1

.248

.228

.326

.404

.176

.321

105

Reynolds

190

29.0

11.0

.281

.221

.311

.399

.178

.312

99

Piscotty

153

12.4

5.9

.293

.267

.319

.378

.111

.306

94

Scruggs

156

32.1

8.3

.306

.219

.296

.363

.145

.293

86

It should be noted that Steamer's rest-of-season projections are more pessimistic across the board and especially with respect to Johnson. Nonetheless, the ZiPS rest-of-season projections for the St. Louis first-base collective has a part of me wanting to see a Johnson-Reynolds platoon for the remainder of the way, just out of curiosity to see how their slash lines take shape. It would be the ultimate casting aside of batting average and embrace of on-base percentage and power. But that's no reason for a MLB club to make a roster decision.

While there is reason to hope for better production at first base over the season's final two months without a trade and if Piscotty does not exactly pan out, the uptick is not particularly large and is unlikely to reach the level of batting production from MLB first basemen overall. With an outfield of Matt Holliday, Randal Grichuk, and Jason Heyward playing most days going forward, first base is the easiest at which to upgrade via trade.

With that in mind, let's also remind ourselves of Goold's reporting that Mozeliak will be "disciplined" at the trade deadline and his preference with a first-base upgrade is to acquire a player who will not block Adams in 2016 (or beyond). I'm not the biggest fan of Adams's hitting profile, so I tend to agree with Bernie Miklasz's assessment that the Cardinals should not be afraid to improve at first even if it means blocking Adams. But that's neither here nor there if the St. Louis front office wants to leave first base open for Adams in 2016 and the years that follow. We'll accept that as a limitation of the club's trade targets.

Now to the trade-rumor smoke.

Chris Davis

The Davis to St. Louis gossip is more speculation than anything concrete. It comes from ESPN's Jim Bowden predicting on satellite radio that the Cards would end up with Davis. (I can't find the audio and can't link to my friend's text about it. If you have a tweet or link, please share it in the comments and I'll update this post.) However, there has not been any reporting that the St. Louis front office is kicking the tires on the lefthanded slugger. Nonetheless, his profile fits what the Cardinals are likely shopping for at the deadline.

  • Davis is a free agent after the 2015 season, so he will not block Adams.
  • Davis is a lefthanded hitter, which makes him a complement of sorts to Reynolds and maybe Piscotty.
  • Davis has prodigious power.

While Davis is unlikely to ever again reach the stratospheric heights of his amazing 2013 season, he is still a very good hitter. Davis has produced at a rate that is above average for an MLB first baseman this year even after taking into account the park effects of hitter-friendly Camden Yards. And there is no reason to expect him not to continue to hit at that level.

Davis 2015 to Date & ZiPS RoS vs. MLB

Split

PA

K%

BB%

BABIP

BA

OBP

SLG

ISO

wOBA

wRC+

MLB 1B

-

20.8

9.3

.295

.257

.330

.434

.177

.331

111

MLB Non-P

-

19.6

7.7

.299

.257

.319

.404

.147

.315

100

Davis ‘15

391

30.9

10.5

.298

.242

.322

.484

.242

.348

122

ZiPS RoS

236

31.3

10.2

.297

.242

.325

.491

.250

.349

123

Whether the Orioles, who are presently seven games back in the AL East but just 3.5 games out of the wild card, want to sell their first baseman before he tests free agency during the Hot Stove remains to be seen. It takes two to tango and at least two to trade. One can see why Davis would appeal to the Cards and why Baltimore might opt to hold onto Davis, make a postseason run, and then make a qualifying offer to him after the season. Any trade offer from the Cards would likely have to be greater in value to the Orioles front office than the compensatory pick they will receive if Davis rejects their qualifying offer and signs elsewhere during the forthcoming Hot Stove.

Adam Lind

There is legitimate smoke to the Lind rumor. Goold reported in today's Post-Dispatch that the Cardinals have kicked the tires on the lefthanded slugger. It is perhaps worth noting that Mozeliak has done business with the Brewers previously, when he acquired John Axford, so the intra-divisional nature of such a deal would not appear to be much of hurdle for either club. Then again, trading for a slugging first baseman is a different kind of deal than swapping righty relievers.

Like Davis, Lind checks a lot of the Cardinals' first-base boxes:

  • Lind is a lefty.
  • Lind has an $8 million club option for 2016 with a $500,00 buyout that would allow the Cards to not block Adams come next season if that is their desire. They'd simply pay the $500,000 buyout and allow Lind to become a free agent.
  • Lind hits for power.
  • Unlike Davis, Lind does not strike out very often—which is in line with the general St. Louis batting approach.
  • Lind has hit and projects to continue to hit better than the MLB first-base average.
Lind 2015 to Date & ZiPS RoS vs. MLB

Split

PA

K%

BB%

BABIP

BA

OBP

SLG

ISO

wOBA

wRC+

MLB 1B

-

20.8

9.3

.295

.257

.330

.434

.177

.331

111

MLB Non-P

-

19.6

7.7

.299

.257

.319

.404

.147

.315

100

Lind ‘15

359

17.8

11.1

.311

.285

.365

.500

.215

.372

135

ZiPS RoS

191

17.7

9.9

.322

.289

.359

.479

.191

.362

129

It's true that after play on Sunday, the Brewers are closer in the standings to the Cubs (nine games) than Chicago is the Cardinals (11.5 games), but that is not saying much. Milwaukee is horrible. They have the worst record in the NL Central and third-worst winning percentage in the NL—behind only Miami and Philadelphia. The Brewers' season is over and it's time to sell their valuable parts to build for the future.

The Brewers' current standing as a franchise makes them a natural partner to deal with the club that owns the best winning percentage in the majors. Of course, the organizations lining up in terms of record and need does not necessarily mean that Mozeliak will decide to pay what the Brew Crew is demanding in prospects for Lind. Mozeliak will be patient and opportunistic—like he always is—and will not overpay for a rental. Especially if it means helping to jumpstart the rebuilding process of a divisional rival. If a Lind-to-St. Louis trade happens, it will be interesting to see which players the Cardinals send to Milwaukee.

Update:

The Lind smoke is thickening a bit.