The Cardinals are reportedly open to trading right-hander Carlos Martinez and outfielder Tyler O’Neill by the July 31 deadline. However, they’re not “aggressively” shopping either of those two or outfielder Harrison Bader, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. On the other hand, they plan to “explore interest” in righty Michael Wacha, according to Goold.
Martinez, the most notable member of the bunch, is someone the Cardinals at least took offers for at last year’s deadline, per Goold. But because Martinez assumed the reins as their closer last month when Jordan Hicks underwent Tommy John surgery, the Redbirds aren’t as willing to consider moving him this season. The former (and possibly future) starter had been eminently effective in a full-time relief role until his past few appearances, having allowed five earned runs on seven hits and three walks across three frames in three outings this week. He now owns a 3.80 ERA, albeit with a far better 3.18 FIP, in 23 2/3 innings on this season. The hard-throwing 27-year-old has picked up seven saves on nine tries and posted 9.5 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and a superb 64.5 percent groundball rate.
For St. Louis, there’s no imminent threat of losing Martinez, whom the club signed to a five-year, $51MM extension entering the 2017 campaign. He’s controllable through 2023 via two club options, and will play for a reasonable $11.5MM salary in each season through 2021.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals could watch Wacha walk in free agency during the offseason, which helps explain their amenability to parting with him now. President of baseball operations John Mozeliak did tell Goold the Cardinals don’t “see anybody on the current roster that we’re looking to move,” but Wacha has fallen from grace this season. The once-promising Wacha has logged a hideous 5.42 ERA/6.15 FIP with 7.27 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 in 78 innings, and has lost his spot in the Cardinals’ rotation multiple times. Considering the way Wacha has performed in 2019, his $6.35MM salary looks steep.
Thanks in part to Wacha’s struggles, the Cardinals’ starting staff has come up short of expectations thus far. Aside from Dakota Hudson, they don’t have a single hurler with double-digit starts and a sub-4.00 ERA. Even Hudson’s 3.59 ERA is accompanied by a subpar K/BB ratio and a shaky 5.13 FIP. With that in mind, Goold writes that St. Louis has “evaluated” Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner, the top rental starter who could move wind up changing teams before the deadline. However, with the Cardinals on his eight-team no-trade list, Bumgarner would be able to turn down a move to St. Louis.
The Cardinals’ outfield, meantime, may have two long-term building blocks in O’Neill and Bader. Their presences look especially important with Marcell Ozuna set to hit free agency after the season and Jose Martinez not being a viable defensive option in the grass. O’Neill, 24, has been a solid offensive producer since debuting last year, having slashed .275/.314/.502 (115 wRC+) with 14 home runs. He has, however, fanned in a massive percentage of plate appearances (39.2) and drawn walks at only a 4.5 percent clip. It’s also worth noting an impossible-to-sustain .405 bating average on balls in play has buoyed his numbers.
O’Neill won’t even reach arbitration until after 2021, while Bader’s scheduled to start the process at the conclusion of the 2020 season. The 25-year-old Bader was a 3.5-fWAR player in 2018, his first full season, owing to above-average offense and tremendous defense. While Bader remains a star in the field (8 Defensive Runs Saved, 9.4 Ultimate Zone Rating in center this season), his output with the bat has plummeted. He’s hitting a mere .207/.325/.361 (82 wRC+) with six HRs and five steals in 247 PA.
Although there are causes for concern with regards to O’Neill and Bader, it appears they’ll remain in place through the deadline. But Mozeliak informed Goold, “We don’t know where we need to go to change our team.” No matter what the Cardinals do change by month’s end, they’ll try to stop their playoff drought from reaching four years. Despite a lukewarm 50-47 record, they’re very much in the race, trailing a wild-card spot by half a game and the NL Central-leading Cubs by 3 1/2.