I find myself in an odd juxtaposition with VEB as I continue to be somewhat optimistic about the trades that the Cardinals have made recently. (Shouldn’t the minor league site bemoan the losses of all our key writing material?) We’ve unquestionably put a serious dent in the farm system but the talent we’ve acquired isn’t marginal but impact and puts the Cardinals in a much better position to win the division. It’s going to be a rough week as the Cardinals make these trades and then run into the Phillies and Dodgers (the two best teams in the NL) but make no doubt, the major league club is better.
At the same time, I’ve given Mozeliak my address in which to cut the check because it’s time to come to the Cardinals defense yet again.
- Brett Wallace – 2008 1st Round (13th overall pick)
- Clayton Mortensen – 2007 1st Round Supplemental
- Shane Peterson – 2008 2nd Round
- Chris Perez – 2006 1st Round Supplemental
- Jess Todd – 2007 2nd Round
Do you notice something there? The Cardinals acquired these players with prospects drafted in the last 2 years. There’s no Brandon Wood in these trades that has been in the minors seemingly forever (2003) or a Delmon Young (2003) for Matt Garza. The Cardinals aren’t hawking players it’s taken then 4-5 years to develop. They are turning over prospects that have been around for 1 or 2 years.
We’ve bemoaned the Cardinals somewhat conservative drafts while still lauding some of the individual players that they take. Credit Jeff Luhnow for taking an organization in the dregs of all the major league systems and turning it into something that can do this (without ever giving up their BEST prospect in Colby Rasmus) because it’s pretty impressive.
Where does this leave us going forward? Well, I can’t say yet. I’ve mentioned this previously but I don’t care for mid-season top prospect lists. It doesn’t do the effort required to create them right justice if we try it on the fly. If I move Descalso up the list only to watch him tank in AAA, do I then drop him in the offseason? So I’m not inclined to redo the list despite the fact that it’s been decimated. Let’s look at the 2009 list though:
- Colby Rasmus – St. Louis
- Brett Wallace – Oakland
- Chris Perez – Cleveland
- Bryan Anderson – Injured
- Daryl Jones – Injured
- Jason Motte – St. Louis
- David Freese – Springfield, Rehab
- Jaime Garcia – GCL, Rehab
- Jess Todd – Cleveland
- Mitchell Boggs – Memphis
- Pete Kozma – Springfield
- Allen Craig – Memphis
- Jon Jay – Memphis
- Clayton Mortensen – Oakland
- Niko Vasquez – Batavia
- Tyler Henley – Springfield
- Tyler Herron – Released
- Lance Lynn – Springfield
- Fernando Salas – Springfield, Rehab
- Adam Ottavino – Memphis
So of the top 20, we’re down to 13. Of those 13, 2 are inured (Anderson – shoulder, Jones – Right Leg) and 3 are essentially rehabing injuries still (Freese – heel, Garcia – Elbow, Salas – Finger). So you’re down to 8 players from the top 20 who are healthy. Of those 8, 5 have been relatively poor performers this year (Kozma, Craig, Jay, Vasquez, Ottavino) and the other 3 have been good but not astoundingly so (Boggs, Henley, Lynn).
We’ve seen some players emerge (Daniel Descalso, Eduardo Sanchez). You’ve also got some players from 2007 and 2008 that have been overshadowed: David Kopp (2007 2nd Round), Scott Gorgen (4th Round). There’s also a lot to like about the upside of the 2009 draft: Miller, Stock, Kelly, Bittle. Then you have to remember the splash that was Wagner Mateo and the $3.1M signing bonus.
The Cardinals have shown the ability to draft players and turn some of them around in a hurry to be top prospects. Jeff Luhnow deserves credit and he also deserves some faith moving forward. He’s revitalized the system once and he can do it again. The dismay that we’ve had over the last few years watching Albert Pujols best years possibly be squandered by subpar supporting casts isn’t an excuse that can be made this year.
Now, setting aside my positive PR spin for a moment, this isn’t the model that everyone wants. A lot of prospect watchers seem to want the Cardinals to become the new Rays where the system is constantly refilling the majors with cost controlled talent. It’s not a bad model but it takes a LONG time to get to that situation. You have to build depth and then you have to continually find impact players on the cheap. A better comparison for the Cardinals is that they become the new Braves. Save a few players from your farm to keep costs down but make trades for guys like Tim Hudson and Mark Texeira to surge your already fringe contender team into the playoffs. To butcher a poker analogy, it seems like the value already in the pot (major league clubs chance at a pennant) makes the cost to call (the prospects traded) worth the potential reward EVEN THOUGH you think there’s a chance your opponent has you beat. It’s a gamble but it’s not one that’s indefensible.
Once again, I think the best course of action is to enjoy the 2009 Cardinals, wait till the offseason to fret about resigning players (we simply don’t have the insight to know how that will or could go down with regards to payroll) and breathe a deep breath as we look to the future. The front office has placed a bet on the present with a hold on the future.