This is the second in what hopefully be a robust series of fanposts on potential trade partners as the deadline approaches. The St. Louis Cardinals currently lead the NL central by two games with a record of 40 and 34. While the members of the Cardinals front office certainly do not suffer from the same "head is already in the guillotine" that Omar Minaya must feel, they have not made the playoffs since their 2006 WS, which was under a different GM (Walt Jocketty who they let go due to "divisiveness", so they do have something to prove. Lets look at their needs.
Looking at Fangraphs their offense is 10 Runs below average. Their starters are faring well, but their relievers are the third worst in the bigs. According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch their needs are Matt Holliday. The Cardinals have been the most heavily rumored destination for our underwhelming slugger. The interesting part of the article is the proposed package coming back to Oakland.
Reluctant to commit a multi-player Rockies vs Athletics coverage package to the Colorado Rockies for Holliday last November, the Cardinals are now open to sending a similar package to Oakland for the 2007 National League batting champion.
Such a package would probably include right fielder Ryan Ludwick and either reliever Jason Motte, Chris Perez or Kyle McClellan, plus a prospect.
While the MLB players involved are not barn burners and are having poor seasons, that package could be essentially what the A's gave up for Holliday in the first place, though Chris Perez the most talented reliever was traded in the Derosa deal Motte is still a talented but struggling reliever (though cheaper and less proven than Street), I would prefer Ludwick over Smith despite the expense and him currently sucking (by which I mean outhitting most of our current players),
The A's starting pitching next year should give the team the ability to contend. The A's do not have an playoff quality left field bat on the roster or stashed in AAA (Buck has not shown the abilty to hit or stay healthy and Cunningham has not given me the confidence that he could be a three win player next year. Depending on both seems like a risk a team trying to make the playoffs can't afford. Ludwick's ZIPs projection for the rest of the year sow a rebound from what in a down year is still a 94 OPS + and outhitting much of the team. While Ludwick's arby award will probably be around 4.5 million it would definitely be affordable. What the question becomes is who would the third part be.
The final question is the who the final prospect would be; here is sickles list of top Cardinals prospects.
4) Daryl Jones, OF, Grade B: I buy into the improvement being real. Has always had the tools and skills improved rapidly this year. This is an aggressive grade but I’m comfortable with it.
6) Jon Jay, OF, Grade B-: I like him more than a lot of people, but I think he can play center and put up solid numbers. Another aggressive grade, but both Jay and Jones have impressed me and I think both tend to be underrated..
11) Pete Kozma, SS, Grade C+: I rather like him and I think he might end up being a better hitter than people think.
12) David Freese, 3B, Grade C+: An older prospect and plate discipline looks spotty, but he has power and a good glove at third.
14) Allen Craig, 3B, Grade C+: A personal favorite, could rank as high as 9 or 10 depending on criteria. I think he’ll hit, though glove isn’t the best and he’s got a lot of competition.
Looking at the depleated farm I would think that the hope of many A's fans, Wallace, would be untouchable as the final piece. Daryl Jones had a break out year in 2008 but is struggling in AA. Picking up Jones might interfere with Corey Brown's assent as they are at the same level and Brown is actually hitting, where as Jones' .760 OPS in AA is helped by about .060 worth of luck and park effects. Jones would probably not be a more than an average defender in center but could be a plus defender in the corners, and there is some speculation that he is playing there primarily because Rasmus is in CF already, though he does have excellent speed. Finally I believe that his power is suspect to be considered a excellent corner outfielder.
Jones has more upside than Jon Jay, the Cards other non-Rasmus CF prospect, but Jay is in AAA and though not hitting excellently is performing satisfactorily if you neutralize for park and luck. He would need to spend the rest of the year in AAA with a cup of coffee after Sacramento's playoffs but could compete with Sweeney for the starting CF job as soon as spring training. There is a fundamental question though, is Sweeney better than Jay? Thats hard to say. Sweeney has put up fairly good numbers as a centerfielder this year with a UZR of 3.3 RAA so far despite being labeled a tweener. If that is his true talent level and his -4.8 mark last year was a fluke then that would negate Jay's ability to be a +10 RAA defender in center according to Sean Smith's Total Zone rating. Jay is the same age as Sweeney and has generally put up slightly better numbers with the caveat that Sweeney was severely rushed and Jay had a much worse age related to league. The problem is when you are dreaming on prospects and you aren't sure if they are going to be better than your current crappy player, you are destine for a let down. I think that Jay could be a better player than Sweeney, but like Sweeney I have a hard time projecting him to be more than a 2 WAR player.
I do not think that Wallace would be included due to a need for a starting 3bman as soon as opening day. Additionally, I am not a big fan of Wallace anyway since I don't believe that his bat profiles nearly as well at 1b or DH where I believe he will he will end up defensively.
Though I see a need for a power hitting corner outfielder that others who have more faith in Buck and Cunningham don't, generally these teams don't match up well. St. Luis is an older team without much cost controlled talent at the major league level and a weak farm system. For me the question is two fold: 1 Do you believe in Jones or Jay enough to make the trade and 2 Can the A's get a better return from another team. If you believe in Jones or Jay then I think you make a Holliday trade. I don't believe in them enough to deal with St. Louis without the inclusion of at least one of Craig or Kozma since I am not a big fan of Freese.
Now if St. Louis wanted to address its deficient bullpen where it just traded a key arm away and by RAR is the fourth worst pen in the majors that would be a different story. The with anyone besides Andrew Baily, the aforementioned prospects would be much more sufficient. For Wuertz I would want Jay or Jones, as he has proven to be a dominant reliever this year who is under team control for two more years. The same goes for Zigler due to his 5 years of team control left. But for others including Breslow, Springer, Edgar Gonzalez, Cameron, and Casilla, Freese, Craig, or Kozma would be plenty.