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WHEELER: What Can The Cards Give Up To Make A Deal?

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This is the discussion Scott Warmann and I had last night following the Cardinals post-game show…what trade chips do the Cardinals realistically have to use in their search for pitching help? I’ll try to expand on my answer to Scott’s question from last night in this space. Here is that question:

“What do the Cardinals have to trade?”

Allow me to set up some ground rules before I offer up my thoughts on potential trade chips.

1) The Cardinals don’t want to touch the core of the Major League squad right now

2) Listing a player as a potential trade asset does not mean I want the team to trade that player, it just means that they may have value to other teams and the Cardinals won’t have an immediate need for that player.

3) Part-time players and struggling prospects generally do not bring a great return in a trade

I really love guys like Skip Schumaker, Daniel Descalso and Matt Carpenter and they are essential parts of a contending team but they’re not likely trade pieces in the eyes of other teams. Those teams want future everyday players that have significant upside. Other teams want future guys for the rotation, late inning relievers and everyday player and quantity never equals quality.

If a player doesn’t project to be any of those things with the Cardinals someday it’s unlikely another team will value them enough to offer up the kind of impact help the Cardinals would be seeking. That’s not a knock on anyone, just a statement about how other teams will be looking at this.

I don’t see the Cardinals trading Oscar Taveras, Kolten Wong, Carlos Martinez or Tyrell Jenkins at this time. That’s not based on conversations I’ve had with anyone, it’s simply based on what I’ve seen from those players and how much they seem to fit into the team’s future plans.

To me, the Cardinals have two significant trade pieces to shop around this summer – Shelby Miller and Matt Adams. Believe me when I say that I’m not suggesting the team needs to move those guys. What I am saying is that they fit the profile of what other teams will be looking for in a trade:

* Top of the rotation/middle of the order talent

* Team controlled for years to come

* Close to helping out in the big leagues

Most of the teams looking to trade off assets this summer will not be on a 3-4-5 year plan. They’ll want talent that is close to being Major League ready and that description certainly fits both Miller and Adams.

The reason I think the Cardinals would be safe moving either one of them has nothing to do with any perceived weaknesses on the part of Miller or Adams but rather on the Cardinals specific areas of strength moving forward.

With Allen Craig, already proven as a legitimate Major League bat, in-line as a possible long-term answer at first base you would think Adams could be dealt. Adams can hit and hit for power but at any point in the next 2-3 years will he be a better hitter than Craig? I don’t think so and Craig’s presence as a controllable asset for the next several years gives the team a chance to develop another first base prospect for the long-term. Remember, Adams turns 24 in August. You can just sit on a prospect until he’s 26-27 years-old if you hope to maximize that player’s value. If he’s mostly injury insurance for Craig moving forward, that’s not a reason to have him languish at Triple-A. With Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran already in the outfield (and Taveras soon) there isn’t a spot out there for Craig.

When it comes to Miller, the Cardinals have young guys like Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal, on top of having Martinez and Jenkins, for the long-term. The development of those guys, more than a few weeks of scuffling at Triple-A by Miller, makes it easier for the Cardinals to consider the possibility of dealing their #1 pitching prospect.

I’m a Shelby Miller honk. I believe he’s going to be a really good starting pitcher for a really long time. He’s not the first young pitcher to struggle upon reaching Triple-A but he’ll figure it out (5 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 8 K last night) and he’ll eventually be 1-2-3 type Major League starter. Heck, worst case he’s a #4. That’s really good but with all the other high-end young starters around the Cardinals are in the fortunate position to move aggressively to try to win now if it means including Shelby in a deal.

Again, I don’t want the team to trade Miller or Adams. But if you’re realistic about things and you want some kind of impact starter and/or reliever for the stretch run you have to understand that you will pay a price. Teams don’t want your role players or your fringe prospects, they want potential impact guys if they’re going to give up starting pitchers or proven late-inning relievers.

If John Mozeliak can pull off something of significance without touching any of the guys I’ve mentioned, that would be a hell of a coup. But I operate under the “you have to give something to get something” mantra and if you want impact help you have to expect to give up guys that could be impact players down the road.

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