The Cardinals haven’t had a losing record since 2007. Despite a recent playoff “drought” — a three-year stretch from 2016-18 that only qualifies as such by the St. Louis organization’s lofty standards — the Cards have run out a solid roster on an annual basis. Riding a blend of productive veterans, high-end prospects who emerge as key contributors and what seems like an out-of-nowhere success story or two every year (we see you, Tommy Edman), the Cardinals have established themselves among MLB’s more consistent franchises.
And while their strong track record in player development allows them to continually filter up quality young players to complement the veterans on the roster, it also inevitably leaves some talented players on the outside looking in. Because they’ve been able to develop so many quality youngsters, the Cards simply don’t have the space to play them all. (That’s a partial driver behind the outfield carousel they’ve experienced in recent years — though certainly not the only factor.)
Just look at some of the young players the Cardinals have traded away prior to 2019 while still managing to field competitive rosters:
- Carson Kelly, Luke Weaver — traded to D-backs in the Paul Goldschmidt deal
- Tommy Pham — traded to Rays in return for Genesis Cabrera, Justin Williams and Roel Ramirez
- Oscar Mercado — traded to the Indians in exchange for Conner Capel and Jhon Torres
- Luke Voit — traded to the Yankees in the deal that brought Giovanny Gallegos to St. Louis
- Sandy Alcantara, Zac Gallen — traded to the Marlins in the Marcell Ozuna deal
- Marco Gonzales — traded to the Mariners in return for Tyler O’Neill
- Randal Grichuk — traded to the Blue Jays in return for Dominic Leone and Conner Greene
That’s nine big league regulars/rotation pieces shipped out — in some cases, for disappointing returns — without causing the final on-field product to dip below .500. It’s a testament to the Cardinals’ amateur scouting and player development staffs that they’re so regularly deep with talent that they’re able to ship it off for veterans, potential areas of need or larger quantities of further-off talent. Certainly, not all of those swaps have worked out — Mercado or Pham would look nice in the outfield right now — but the Cardinals have rarely come up completely empty-handed on a deal.
Trades of this nature have become the norm for the Cards, and it’s likely that will continue to be the case. With Yadier Molina reportedly talking extension prior to the shutdown and Paul Goldschmidt signed five more years, for instance, the Cards look to have a pair of roadblocks to some more young talent. The outfield, too, has more names than playing time available. It seems likely that we’ll see more young players change hands as a result in the next calendar year, so let’s run through some possibilities.
If a Molina extension does indeed come together, that doesn’t leave much of a path to regular playing time for 25-year-old Andrew Knizner — a fairly well-regarded backstop whose bat looks close to big league ready. In 83 games and 341 plate appearances in Triple-A, Knizner is a .283/.362/.453 hitter with an 8.2 percent walk rate and just a 13.1 percent strikeout rate. Scouting reports on Knizner question his receiving and framing skills, but he notched a 42 percent caught-stealing rate with Triple-A Memphis in 2019.
If Knizner does indeed change hands following a Molina extension — the Cards brought Matt Wieters back to serve as his backup again — then perhaps 19-year-old Ivan Herrera will emerge as the true heir-apparent to Molina and his Hall of Fame legacy.
Luken Baker isn’t an elite prospect — few first-base-only prospects are considered as such — but FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen put a 70 grade on his raw power in this year’s scouting report on the hulking 6’4″, 265-pound slugger in the making. Baker hasn’t tapped into that power just yet, though he spent the 2019 season in a pitcher-friendly Florida State League (Class-A Advanced). He’s managed his strikeouts to this point (21.6 percent) and also walked in 10.5 percent of his plate appearances. With Goldschmidt entrenched at first base through 2024, there’s no hope of Baker emerging as a regular in the near future, which seemingly puts him on a similar track to Voit.
Elsewhere on the roster, 27-year-old Rangel Ravelo (28 later this month) is out of minor league options and limited to a bench role. A career .293/.369/.452 hitter in 1652 Triple-A plate appearances who also slashed .310/.385/.473 in 649 Double-A plate appearances, Ravelo has done enough in the minors to suggest that he could hit in the big leagues. He’s played a little corner outfield, so perhaps the Cards view him as a replacement for the recently traded Jose Martinez. However, it’s possible that another club could view him as a potential late-blooming regular at first base.
The Dexter Fowler signing clearly hasn’t panned out as hoped, but the switch-hitting veteran’s five-year, $82.5MM deal runs through the 2021 season. Had the 2019 campaign been as much of a struggle as his 2018 season, he’d perhaps be a release candidate, but Fowler’s bat bounced back to roughly league-average levels last year (103 wRC+, 98 OPS+), and his contract should grant him a decent leash.
Harrison Bader was one of the game’s best defenders in center (14 Defensive Runs Saved, 12.9 Ultimate Zone Rating, 13 Outs Above Average), so he’s probably locked into center field despite a rough sophomore showing at the dish (.205/.314/.366).
Left field was to be determined in camp, with the likes of Dylan Carlson, Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas, Justin Williams and waiver claim Austin Dean vying for playing time. Carlson ranks among baseball’s elite overall prospects and should be installed as a regular at some point in 2020 (assuming a season is played). Even in the unlikely event that the club quickly moves on from Fowler, there’d be O’Neill, Thomas and Williams left to compete for that theoretical spot.
O’Neill was a ballyhooed prospect himself when acquired from Seattle, and though strikeouts have been an issue, he’s a passable corner defender with light-tower power and a history of drawing walks in the upper minors. Thomas can play a solid center field and owns a career .270/.342/.472 slash through 444 plate appearances in Triple-A. Williams is a corner bat who draws good marks for his raw power. He’s yet to show off that power in the minors, but FanGraphs points to his high-end exit velocity as a source of optimism if he can add more lift to his swing.
Most organizations would love to have the “more talent than playing time” issue on the big league roster — and you certainly won’t head president of baseball ops John Mozeliak or GM Mike Girsch complain about the reality. But that duo and the rest of the Cards’ front office figure to continue to find creative ways to deal with those surpluses, and it shouldn’t come as a big surprise if some of the above names finally get their chance at playing time in another organization,
must be nice having depth
*Blue Jays fan laughs bitterly*
It also would be nice having a competent front office (says a Phillies Fan)
I wish the Rangers had better depth, especially in the infield, because even though they have tons of depth everywhere… it just isn’t really good.
@ DarkSide- Kinda the perfect comment for the whole article –
If your gonna churn that much Mlb talent, then have that much waiting below in the wings, your gonna lose a lotta trades on your B team no matter what-
Maybe a better way of consolidating could help? IDK the answer but def 1st World Problem
* Dont follow minors that much, interested have they just been a force AA/AAA the last decade ?
stan lee the manly
Yes they actually have, they consistently play for the PCL championship. Won the entire national championship in 18 and runner up in 17.
Seems like at points they would have like 6 mlb hitters in the starting lineup some MLB Sps and huge arms in the pen
As a Reds fan, I’m all for a Molina contract extension. He ain’t what he used to be.
I agree. Molina isn’t blocking anyone, at this point of his career. I hope he gets at least 3 years.
He won’t. He will go year to year and has told the front office he will be the back up moving forward if/when he gets extended
True, but he’s still an overall above-average catcher.
He’s really not. 711 OPS and 85 OPS+ are below league average. What Molina has in his favor is the complete, overall weakness around the league for catchers.
Why would you judge a catcher purely by his offense? Yadi is still a very good defender, which makes him overall an above-average catcher.
Well, let me expand a little. Offense is a huge part of the game. He’s below average, and at this time of his career, he’s an average defender. His skills are in decline. Add up below average offense with average defense, and you get a mediocre player. Not above average as you stated. I would doubt anyone would describe a 1.3 WAR player as above average. What else do you want to know? If you had made this comment 3 years ago, I might agree. 5 years, I would totally agree. Today, not agreeing with you. Not looking for an argument. I simply laid out my case.
Troll…Yadi is still a top ten catcher in the game and everyone knows that WAR is a stupid stat to apply to a catcher
Those were some pretty awful deals.
It’s too early to say for sure on Some of those deals. If you would’ve asked about the Luke Voit trade pre-2019. Everyone would’ve said it was a landslide win for the Yankees. Then Gio Gallegos comes in and completely flips the narrative. There’s definitely more losses than wins here but we do need to see on some of these. I don’t think we can call the Mercado trade yet. The Pham deal also looks pretty poor right now but maybe Genesis Cabrera takes a huge leap forward or something.
Pham would have made the cardinals better for sure…but the trade looks good…Cabrera a lefty pitcher the cardinals needed and the other two prospects have some upside…wait and see…Mercado trade boils down to see if Jhon Torres becomes anything…he is only 19 and has great potential..Capel looks good and might bring something back in a packaged trade
I mean the trade doesn’t look good right now. The trade is dependent upon Genesis Cabrera working out. Maybe they’ll get some 4th outfielder production out of Justin Williams. Cabrera didn’t help the Cardinals last year and Tommy Pham was just traded for a starting outfielder and a top 100 prospect.
I’ll take TB’s side of the deal pretty easily. Renfroe, a season of Pham, and Xavier Edwards for Genesis Cabrera, Capel, and Justin Williams.
Cabrera may pan out and the Cardinals will be happy enough but they definitely sold low on Pham. Had that deal been done 12 months earlier it would’ve involved a hell of a lot more than that.
All American Johnsonville Dogs
So an outfielder with no obp ability who is all power striking out at 31% last year and who’s defense is gonna take a hit given that Tampa has a deeper outfield and plays in the division with 4 of the top 10 hitter parks in the league? No I’m sure Cardinals would rather have Justin Williams. One thing people overlook about renfroe is he’s proven to have had attitude with being coached. He was demoted couple years ago because he refused to listen to coaches trying to help him get his obp up.
Also. Capel wasn’t part of the Pham deal. Roel Ramirez was.
stan lee the manly
For what it’s worth, Genesis looked lights out all Spring. He would have a spot in the rotation if he wasn’t blocked, but he may end up being a pretty important setup man if they play
I think they should have kept Kelly because Molina is only gonna be playing for a few more years.
But keeping Kelly would have led to a great young catcher sitting the bench for 3 more years gaining little playing experience. Better for club and player that he went elsewhere.
They liked Knizner better because of his bat…but now it does seem that Herrera will be the heir
dynamite drop in monty
Have they tried dulcolax?
Do you think you’re funny?
dynamite drop in monty
Lighten up, Francis
Still not better….
Funny on 2 fronts. Blockage of turds.
What do they want for Knizner ? And no extra pitching ?
Inquiring Phillies fans wanna know…
Would you really want an under-average defensive catcher dealing with that Phillies pitching staff? I’d rather see a defense first catcher in Philly backing up Realmuto, but I seriously can’t name the Phillies back-up catcher… wait… as I’m typing I think I got it… Is it Andrew Knapp? Man I just pulled that name out of nowhere.
Defense only catchers are a dime a dozen
Same can go with offensive only finding the sweet spot of both is difficult.
Even if you find one that can hit and defend, their effectiveness window is normally very slim
Well, Knizner does have a great arm, which is just as important defensively for a catcher as framing and blocking.
Cardinals really don’t need anything right now unless it’s a blockbuster deal…Phillies have two Shortstops in their top 10…that might be something of interest because the cardinals lack depth there
While they do lack depth at SS, they also have a very good young starter signed long term there. If they’re going to grab a high quality SS prospect, he should be someone in the low minors or at least someone with major questions about his ability to stick at SS defensively.
Maurice Locke and Clepto….here is some of that depth you hate hearing about lol. The cardinals really are good at churning out quality major league pieces. They just don’t get the uber prospects because they never draft in the first half of the first round and the international prospects tend to sign with the big market teams or those closer to their homes.
Is it “unbelievable” depth?
Oh, and maybe you should look up Aroldis Chapman and Miguel Sano but dont let those facts get in the way either.
Who are you quoting? Maybe you should learn to read.
He is quoting me williemayshayes…he can’t get over that I used the adjective “unbelievable” when I talked about the cardinals depth…although the article doesn’t say “unbelievable” it kills Clepto that the term “unbelievable” Does apply…thanks for playing Clepto
Clepto Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha…tell me how you know so much about the cardinals farm system and remember they have Liberatore now…don’t forget that because it would be embarrassing
Tards81, you must be the only person that deducted “unbelievable depth” from that article. Please tell us how you deduced that and dont change the subject, like you normally do. We are all so intriqued.
Man oh man i like your effort here…I really do…what is unbelievable is you continue to harp on this even though all signs say you should just give up…I commend you sir
I see you changed the subject yet again. You are as predictable as you are dense.
Please do tell, tards81, what is unbelievable about it? You are such a know-it-all. Share with us. Bring us all closer to your level of Cardinal knowledge, especially since, twice now, you have claimed they have unbelievable depth. As fans, we need to understand!
Ha ha ha ha ha …I’m not wasting my time on trolls like yourselves…the article above that you are commenting on says enough for me…I know it kills you guys that you are wrong but so is life…I’m going to enjoy my evening…got some nice marinaded chicken on the grill and some wine…have a nice night my trolls…sorry I can’t entertain you tonight but I have a life…ha ha ha ha ha ha …that is me laughing at you trolls
Hey Maurice: subject change or subject avoidance….as predicted, yet again. He cant answer the question, so off he goes. Takes his toys and runs…..
Clepto, and as he cooks chicken, he gave his laptop or phone to his “partner”, JD Candello.
Great dinner and wine…Lol did you guys just announce your troll relationship…I’m not changing the subject lol…the cardinals have unbelievable, unheard of, great and whatever other synonyms you want to use to explain it and the article above has fortified my stance…you trolls just look pathetic now…still laughing at you trolls
Tards81: “fortified” how? Please explain how you derive “unbelievable” from an article that does contain “unbelievable”, or “great”, or even “unheard of” anywhere in the article. By the way, those are your words, not mine.
Or is it Fortified (with vitamins and minerals) like the Trix cereal you ate today, that mommy served you in your Masters of the Universe bowl?
Lol Clepto you don’t know nothing about the cardinals farm…you didn’t even know about the Libetore trade…so why do you harp on the word “unbelievable”…the article clearly explains how great the cardinals farm system is…geez, how do you not comprehend that…ok Clepto…I am a big fan and I used the word unbelievable….it’s so pathetic how you can’t get over it that you were wrong…I’m here to talk about baseball not adjectives like unbelievable
Well, take that as admission that your truly were a fanboy, talking out of rearend on something you knew nothing of. Thanks for playing and dont drink all your Yellow Tail at once….headache in the AM. Certainly dont want that for you….peace be onto you.
Nope you shouldn’t take that as admission of me talking out my rearend…the article above proves that the cardinals have a great farm system that you know nothing about…like I said it is pathetic that you come on here and pretend you do..but right on…peace be with you also
dynamite drop in monty
All of you need to hug your loved ones
All American Johnsonville Dogs
Matt Adams traded at 28 (young in baseball years)
Jenkins and Miller
All American Johnsonville Dogs
“Just look at some of the young players the Cardinals have traded away prior to 2019 while still managing to field competitive rosters:”
Probably should have mentioned that the first time around.
It was obvios.
Steve Adams did you write this article for me? I appreciate it no matter what reason lol
Yes, just for you. Tomorrow he’s going to teach you coloring inside the lines.
He comes the slander…
Socrates said ‘When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the losers.’
Slander? I’ll wait and see if you can figure this out.
Lol you’re rich bud…keep trolling
Do you always change the subject? How am I “rich” because you don’t know the difference between slander and libel, even though nothing I wrote is libel? I’m sorry you are uneducated. Blame that on your teachers, not me.
Slander-false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation…you saying I can’t draw between lines falls under this…are you wrong all the time or are you just this bad of a troll
No, you can’t you damn fool. Go overcook that chicken and enjoy that yellow tail wine.
Lock buddy, when slandering someone and saying they are uneducated it would help that you don’t use a double negative in a sentence…pathetic you look
Dear English teacher, point out where I have a double negative? By the way, since you still don’t know the difference. Slander is SPOKEN words. Libel is written. If you can HEAR me right now talking to you, please go sit in the middle of a rubber room.
Maurice, not 10 mins ago: “clepto you dont know nothing” from our friend Tards81….AFTER he called you out for a double negative and said you were pathetic.
Nice grammar from Mr Grammar Patrol?
I think we are done destroying the little turd for today. He got hammered on at least 3 fronts today. “Here endth the lesson.”
“No, you can’t damn fool….my gosh you make this to easy
And so do you….
Lol you guys and your troll relationship is heartening…are you guys going to meet up later and talk about the future ha ha ha ha you literally are going to the argument on the subject of grammar because you both don’t know anything about baseball…hey Clepto I didn’t start the grammar debate Your troll buddy did…I could care less…how pathetic you both look
He’s a L7 loser.
Awww lock you can’t talk about baseball anymore because of how wrong you are…PATHETIC!
I stopped trying to figure out what you are talking about? You ramble on with drivel and write, “lol” and “ha” twenty times in every comment you post. You are either senile or drunk. Move along.
Can all 3 of you just go away for good? You’re all clearly obsessed with another. Go have a circle jerk somewhere else so the rest of us don’t have to be bothered by your incessant, pointless comments.
Jonny5 I do apologize…sorry this quarantine has me bored and nothing else to do but argue with trolls…but you are right and I do apologize that we can’t just talk about baseball
^This. Please and thank you.
You know how you make trolls go away? YOU STOP FEEDING THEM.
Maurice lock? Make sure you bash Mo…it’s what you do
The Cards are a perfect team. 10th best record in MLB in 2019 with the most putrid offensive playoff performance in the history of baseball. They don’t need anything.
Haters going to hate…keep up the good work Lock
Whew, was not fully aware of just how much talent has gone out / came thru St Louie
I imagine they face great “40” problems like the Rays ; but the crunch must be even harder having many more players under guaranteed contracts to begin with + having nice sized payrolls-
Ive felt they’ve been gun shy at trade deadlines before but maybe this explains why-
The padres who have a great farm system have stolen a lot of rule 5 drafts from the cardinals
Padre system currently is easily top 5 system, with “unbelievably” more depth than StL. And while anyone with a brain will not debate that, tards81 will.
Exactly which of their top 10 prospects was a rule 5 from StL. Please cite sources.
Is your comment stupidity truly that limitless?
Lol what are you talking about my biggest fan Clepto…I know the padres have a good system which is why it’s unbelievable that with that great system they still stole players from the cardinals in the rule 5 draft…wow your hate is blinding you be careful
I get that they like Yadi but if they aren’t going to use Knizner they have to take what they can get for him now.
That goes along with a lot of the trades…teams know the cardinals are stuck and lowball them on trades…but If you ask me they replenish the farm with those trades…and a lot of the trades, like the Pham and Mercado trade still have to play out
The simply GAVE AWAY pham, mercado and grichuk. Must be nice to have such top-level talent where guys like that are dispensable! Cardinals draft and trade pretty well, for the most part!
Thanks to Maurice and Clepto for the entertainment tonight. That the Cardinals success torments you to the degree that you can’t help but rage when anyone writes anything positive about them warms my heart. You should really practice more social distancing the way you let them live in your head. I’ll be back tomorrow to check on you 2 crazy kids:)
As far as framing goes when the E strike zone comes to play will it matter?
True, but it could be a decade or more, if ever, when that finally happens. Personally, I don’t think MLB should ever make that change.
Seems like they are really good at producing talent but not so good at realizing what talent to keep and what is expendable
Obviously hindsight helps makes that type of comment, but there’s a couple kinda painful subtractions given what they have in the OF
Well you gotta remember that 3 years ago they thought they had what they needed in Ozuna and Fowler, leaving little room for up and comers. It’s easy to look back and say coulda woulda shoulda now that Fowler has flopped and Ozuna never materialized and now is gone. We have a long standing history of too much outfield depth making it difficult to determine who goes and who stays when prospects prowess doesn’t always translate into MLB performance.
In the outfield, yes, but otherwise they’ve been very good at keeping guys like Carpenter, Wong, DeJong, Lynn, Carlos Martinez, Flaherty, Hudson, etc.
Randal Grichuk isn’t a really a “regular” player. He strikes out too much and doesn’t get on base enough, which is why the Cardinals traded him in the first place. He only makes sense as a starter on a non-contending team.
Well said. Blue Jays fans say that about Kevin Pillar, and they are right. The moment you bring up Grichuk they defend him to no end. He’s being paid like a star OF and he is not. Now the Blue Jays think they can compete and Grichuk is asked to be a productive 5-hole hitter starting in CF.
This is even without mentioning the ridiculous level of depth they’ve had with starting pitchers in recent years, which is why they’ve had no issues trading guys like Shelby Miller (not that any team would regret that one at this point), Marco Gonzales, Sandy Alcantara, and Luke Weaver.
Mercado couldn’t start for this team – then or now.
Yadi is still productive. I can live with him continuing being a starter. Carpenter, on the other hand, needs to be on a very short leash. As should be Fowler. . No matter who it it is or what they make—-If there is a better player on the team—-they should start instead of the person who makes the most money.