The trade deadline is approaching, and Cardinals fans are starting put together their trade proposals. Surely, they won’t be gift wrapped and sent to John Mozeliak’s Iphone any time soon, but that doesn’t stop the madness from kicking up a notch with less than 29 hours to go before the July 31st 3 p.m. deadline. I can play a part in that madness, because who really wants to talk about a quiet depressing 3-1 loss in San Diego?
The biggest debate yesterday was deciding between Cole Hamels and David Price. Which pitcher is the better fit with the Cardinals and which is more realistic? Let’s get this out there first. It would take a lot for either pitcher to wear the Birds on the Bat. A rival GM told Jon Heyman on Tuesday that the Phillies aren’t just asking for players for Hamels but “the world” as well. The asking price for Price will be high as well. The Rays, unlike the Phillies, are in contention for the AL East and the Wild Card right now. They are playing great baseball and it would be shocking to see them suddenly tell their fanbase and team, “Hey, we are throwing the anchor down and trading the team ace.” Both of these guys are the aces of their respective rotations. It’s going to be ridiculously expensive to acquire these two. When I say pitchers like A.J. Burnett, Ian Kennedy and even the Phillies lefty counterpart Cliff Lee are much more realistic for the Cards because the asking price will be a lot lower.
As it stands this morning, a deal for Hamels seems more likely than Price. If John Mozeliak is going to give up premium prospects, it’s going to be for a pitcher that the team has under control for years to come. Hamels has 4 years and 96 million dollars left on his contract. Price has one more year of arbitration left before he becomes a free agent in 2016. A logical soul can’t sit here and say Mo will give up Oscar Taveras and Carlos Martinez along with other prospects for a one year rental like David Price. If they were going to try and sign Price, it would take a 6-8 year deal worth 25-30 million annually. There’s no indication Price even wants to talk about an extension if he was traded. There’s a small chance the Rays even make him available. The Cards didn’t do their part to make it easier. They lost 3 of 4 to the Rays this summer(pardon my humorous attempts to leverage the seriousness of commerce being spread among players.
Hamels isn’t having a baseball card mafia friendly season but it’s stellar beneath the hood if fans care to check. His win-loss record is 6-5 but his earned run average is 2.55 and he has 139 strikeouts to only 39 walks. His fielding independent ERA is 2.90 and his brWAR is 3.9. Hamels isn’t declining at all at the age of 30 and would be a fine top of the rotation addition. Think of Adam Wainwright, Cole Hamels, Lance Lynn and possibly Michael Wacha starting in the playoffs. The Phillies may want the world for Cole but in my mind Mozeliak stays on the line longer here because of the 4 years remaining on the contract.
Don’t get me wrong. David Price would be nice. It’s impossible to deny his talent and future makeup. He’s two years younger than Hamels at 28 and thriving this season. After a slow start, Price has his innings load up to 163.1 and we haven’t touched August yet. He has struck out 183 batters(10.1 per nine innings) and walked just 20. His fielding independent ERA is 2.93 and he will only get better in a National League park. He is a golden valve to plug into this Cardinals engine. I just don’t see the Rays trading him unless the Cards offered a package of prospects more substantial than Hamels. The Rays are contending and could easily command a similar batch of players in an offseason trade. Why would they trade him now when they are the hottest team in baseball? It makes little to no sense. While an argument can be made that the Rays don’t want to sign Price to a long term deal, they don’t have to worry about that now. Unlike the Phillies, the Rays have a young team and can contend in a weakening AL East.
If the Cards are going to get Hamels or Price this week, the most likely acquisition will be Hamels. Jon Lester was scratched from his start for tonight by the Red Sox, which makes him likely to be traded. Lester is having a solid season for a disappointing Red Sox team, but is a pure rental with no contract for 2015. I highly doubt the Cards and Mozeliak give up premium prospects for Lester. A deal for fellow Red Sox starter John Lackey seems more likely for Mo to bite on than Lester.
There is A.J. Burnett and Ian Kennedy in addition to other starters on the market. Once again, if Mozeliak truly believes Wacha is coming back in September, he may push for an innings eating arm like Burnett or Lackey instead of a big fish like Hamels, Price, Lester or Lee.
What do you think, Cardinal Nation? Tell me which pitcher you think Mozeliak should go after and the package you would offer in the comments section below.
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