The Cardinals trade deadline was another slow one. They made a couple moves a few days earlier, trading Sam Tuivailala to the Mariners and Luke Voit to the Yankees. Then they moved two more pieces on the day of the deadline. Here’s a look at who they moved and what they got in return.
Tommy Pham to the Rays
The big deal of the Cardinals’ trade deadline day was sending Tommy Pham to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Pham hadn’t performed anywhere close to the level he had the previous year so far this season. There was also some possible controversy in the clubhouse and likely some frustrations on Pham’s part with the team electing to renew his contract for league minimum this past offseason.
Last season, Pham put together a very solid year, finishing eleventh in MVP voting. He hit 23 homers, stole 25 bases, had an average of .306 and an OPS of .931. Unfortunately, he slowed down this year, hitting just .248 with 14 homers and a mere .730 OPS. Combine his lack of production with his attitude, age and his eye problems and it made for the perfect time to trade him while he still had some value.
Some people think the Cards didn’t get enough in return for Pham. However, the package they got in return was probably as good as anything they could’ve gotten for him.
The centerpiece of the return is left-handed hitting Justin Williams. Williams has shown some power at times in the minor leagues. In 2017 he hit 14 homers with a .853 OPS at Double-A, but he’s not necessarily a big “bopper” so to speak. He’s more of a gap to gap hitter with occasional power.
Williams doesn’t strike out a ton, but he doesn’t walk a lot either. His power has dropped off some this year. He’s got just eight home runs to last year’s 14 in just two less games. He’s also hitting just .258 with a .313 OBP compared to last year’s .301 and .364.
Most of his decline this season has to do with the fact that he’s been in Triple-A all season. Fortunately, he’s still just 22-years old and has time to develop into a more consistent hitter with a better OBP.
The other two players the Cardinals received for Pham are young pitchers, starting with Genesis Cabrera. Cabrera is a six-foot-one, 170 pound, 21-year old left-handed starter out of the Dominican Republic. In 20 starts in 2018 he’s got a 7-6 record with a 4.12 ERA, 124 strikeouts, 57 walks and a 1.293 WHIP over 113.2 innings pitched.
Like most young pitchers, Cabrera’s biggest need is for command. His stuff is pretty good already. His fastball sits 90-95, he’s got a big league slider when he controls it and his changeup is a solid third pitch. He might profile better out of the bullpen, at least early in his career, but time will tell. His debut will likely be in late 2019 or 2020.
The other pitcher in the deal was reliever Roel Ramirez. A Rays’ draft pick in 2013, Ramirez stands at six-foot-one and weighs in at 210 pounds in his age 23 season.
This year in A+ ball Ramirez didn’t allow a single run over 12.2 innings in eight appearances, striking out 14 batters. His success got him the call to the Double-A Montgomery, where he has also pitched well. In 40.2 innings he’s got a 3-1 record with a 3.32 ERA and has struck out 46 batters. He spent some time in the starting rotation in years past, but at this point, it looks like his future is as a reliever, which should be welcome news for Cards fans.
Oscar Mercado to the Indians
The other move the Redbirds made at the deadline was one that sent Oscar Mercado to the Cleveland Indians.
Mercado is a very solid center field prospect with tons of speed and an above average glove. In 100 games this year at Triple-A, Oscar hit .285 with a .351 OBP and 31 stolen bases. Unfortunately, the Cards already have a plethora of young outfield prospects, which also makes it puzzling when you consider who they got in return. Both Conner Capel and Jhon Torres are outfielders, though neither will have to be added to the 40-man roster.
Conner Capel is the older of the two prospects at 21-years old. He has spent the 2018 season in High-A ball. He hasn’t hit incredibly, but he does have a .355 OBP and walks quite a bit while not striking out too much. Capel doesn’t have a ton of power but he has hit 17 doubles in 89 games this year.
Conner now ranks as the Cardinals number 10 prospect, right behind Justin Williams.
Jhon Torres is a very young outfielder at just 18 years of age. He hasn’t made it out of Rookie ball yet, in his second professional season, but he’s shown better power this season than last, with four homers in just 99 at-bats. He also has a slash line of .273/.351/.424 in 2018.
At 18-years old, Torres still has a lot of time to progress as a player. He could change completely in the next few years. However, at the moment he doesn’t rank in the Cardinals’ top 30 prospects. It will take some time to see how well the Redbirds did with this acquisition.
Cardinals Trade Deadline Overview
John Mozeliak and company didn’t do a whole lot again this trade deadline. They got rid of some dead weight in Tommy Pham, who wasn’t getting this team any closer to the playoffs. Fortunately, they got a nice return for him while they still could. The Mercado trade is a bit of a head-scratcher, but it does free up a spot on the 40-man roster.
Overall though, the Cardinals weren’t buyers or sellers. Again, they sent a somewhat unclear message to the fans and media about the direction of this team. They aren’t good enough to win now and they didn’t get any better in order to win next year. It’s shaping up to be another year without playoff baseball in St. Louis with a lot more talk than action from the front office.
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