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The problem with looking too far ahead

Foresight is important, but not when it compromises the present

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals-Workouts Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

To many, the trade for Marcell Ozuna signifies a two year window the Cardinals have suddenly created for themsleves to win a World Series. That may be true, still, fans are not satisfied. The inherent problem lies in that it is impossible to look too far ahead while maintaining the necessary focus on the present. Fans always want more, and rightly so.

Why have a two year window, when it could be three or four? The rotation is good now, but wait until Flaherty and Hudson are ready for the big leagues, then watch out! Perhaps even more extreme: when Delvin Perez makes it to St. Louis, we’ll be unstoppable.

Are these hyperbole? Yes. On the other side of this coin are potential acuqisitions like Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson. Do the Cardinals have the assets to acquire them? Probably so. But they are likely to be one year rentals. Value over the course of a player’s remaining contract is, of course, something to consider in a trade. No well-managed organization would pay the asking price for Machado when they know he is likely to jump ship after one year. In fact, the Orioles not trading their third baseman a year ago—when he had two years left on his contract and ultimately more value—is perhaps one of the top front office blunders in the last couple years, considering the talent on their team in 2017.

Front offices have a tricky scale to balance. This is especially true for the Cardinals. With a front office that never really hits the reset button, or the all-in button for that matter, the organization has a constantly evolving window of opportunity.

Whatever some may currently believe, the action taken by the organization to go after Stanton and ultimately trade for Ozuna reflects a certain willingness to win that we have not seen in some time. The Cardinals were competitive for years with Albert Pujols, but he was drafted by the team, not acquired. Matt Holliday was a big addition, but he was only a supplemental piece to the homegrown talent.

The Cardinals will certainly have an opportunity to resign Ozuna after the 2019 season. However, looking that far in advance is dangerous. Two years ago, Heyward and Piscotty projected as the long-term outfield. They have both come and gone. Aledmys Diaz, once considered the future at shortstop, arrived and left.

In a game that changes so quickly, looking beyond two years is not only dangerous, but might also be pointless. Certainly, front offices must plan for the future, but not at the expense of the present. And certainly, not when they have acquired pieces—like Ozuna—that make the team extremely competitive now.

Stockpiling prospects does wonders for organizational rankings and everyone enjoys seeing the farm system winning consistently. These are signs of a successful organization, to a point. Still, winning at the major league level is the only nobel pursuit.

To that end, it is worthwhile for the Cardinals to consider trading for a piece that may only be with the team for a year or two. Don't literally give up the farm for a player like Machado if you only expect him to play a year with your team. But don’t rule a player out because his contract only goes through the end of the next season. Too much changes from year to year to look too far into the future.