The Cardinals are going into the deadline looking to make moves that help the 2024 club. That’s likely to involve trading impending free agents like Jack Flaherty and Jordan Montgomery. Though Jordan Hicks is also an impending free agent, it was reported earlier this week that he and the club were discussing an extension, perhaps keeping him in St. Louis. However, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports today that those talks have not progressed and he is garnering trade interest.
Hicks, 26, has long been one of the hardest throwers in the league, averaging north of 100 mph on his fastball since he debuted back in 2018. Oddly, he wasn’t about to translate that velocity into elite strikeout stuff. He came into this season having punched out 23% of batters faced, a mark that’s roughly around typical league averages. He did get grounders at an excellent 61.1% clip but also issued walks to 13.4% of batters. His 4.05 ERA prior to this season was fine but not especially exciting.
This year, he finally seems to have had a breakout. He’s thrown 41 2/3 innings for the season, striking out 31.2% of opponents in the process. His 12.7% walk rate is still on the high side, but he’s also still getting grounders on 58.3% of balls in play. That combination is difficult to come by, as among pitchers with at least a 30% strikeout rate in at least 40 innings this year, only Jhoan Durán of the Twins has a higher ground ball rate. Hicks has a 3.67 ERA for the year but may have deserved better, since his .366 batting average on balls in play is above his career rate and the league average, leading to a 3.02 FIP and 3.40 SIERA. Those results have come with Hicks taking over the closing role while Ryan Helsley is on the injured list, racking up eight saves in the past six weeks.
Since Hicks debuted when he was 21, cracking the Opening Day roster in 2018, he’s now just a few months from qualifying for free agency. He’s in his final year of arbitration, making a salary of $1.838M. The Cardinals are 46-57 and have been outside contention for quite a while now. Since they seem to be more focused on the future than the present, it makes sense to move on from Hicks and exchange him for more controllable players, especially now that extension talks haven’t found much traction.
Just about every contending club can use bullpen upgrades at this time of year, so Hicks should get plenty of interest. His previous track record isn’t as dominant as this season and he’s had some health concerns, including a Tommy John surgery in 2019, but acquiring clubs wouldn’t be making long-term commitments to him. They would simply be hoping to catch lightning in a bottle for a few months to help with a postseason push. The trade deadline is August 1.