The Cardinal Nation blog

Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Hunting the Cardinals’ precious Faberge Eggs


Several of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writers have been very consistent in their skepticism over the St. Louis Cardinals player development function and the ballplayers in it.

One important area where I struggle with their perspective is the apparent lack of consistency and specifics in their evaluation of the system.

At times, the contention seems to be that the Cardinals overvalue their prospects. Upon occasion, they have referred to unnamed scouts from other organizations that are not high on the Cards’ top minor league players.

At other times, the Cardinals take hits over their supposed refusal to trade away prospects. The implication is that the organization is walking away from good trade offers based on principle. This could be independent of any potential overvaluation of these players by the Cardinals.

In his most recent article on the subject, columnist Bernie Miklasz asserts the following:

“Vice president of player development Jeff Luhnow will object to any deal that requires the bartering of his precious Faberge Eggs, which is the name I’ve given to the Cardinals’ long list of breathlessly hyped prospects. Why? Track record. They haven’t traded a Faberge Egg yet.”

Putting aside how anyone knows what Luhnow will or will not object to 100% of the time, I want to focus on the phrase, “the Cardinals’ long list of breathlessly hyped prospects.”

Which is it? Do the players on this extensive list of prospects have little value because they are overrated or do they have considerable value and the Cardinals just refuse to trade them? Can one have it both ways?

I am the first to admit that I didn’t buy the party line implication that Jason Motte for Will Ohman was the only possible trade that the Cardinals could have made last summer to help their floundering bullpen from the left side.

But which argument does this support?

Was not trading the organization’s seventh-ranked prospect (according to our off-season ranking at Scout.com) for two months worth of services of a left-handed relief specialist an indication of the Cards overvaluing Motte or were they foolish not to accept the Braves’ offer?

In other words, was Motte a precious Faberge Egg?

I suggest most Cardinals watchers would agree that this particular trade was best unmade. Yet none of us have any idea as to the specifics of some very high percentage of trades under consideration. As a result, it is pretty much impossible to gauge which Eggs are being inspected and bartered.

Yet I keep seeing these vague references to “precious Faberge Eggs” without any indication of exactly who they are. Let’s consider other recent trade talks that did become public.

The Cardinals dealt two prospects over the winter to acquire Khalil Greene. Were relievers Mark Worrell and Luke Gregerson Faberge Eggs? Apparently not, though both are products of the Cards’ farm system and are now major leaguers.

In our Cardinals prospect ranking, linked to above, Worrell came in at number 31 and Gregerson was listed at 37.

Mitchell Boggs (pictured), our eighth-ranked prospect, was reportedly part of the nixed deal to Colorado for Matt Holliday. I have seen no indications that Boggs’ inclusion was the deal-breaker, so I guess the number eight prospect isn’t an Egg either.

So exactly what defines these Eggs? Are they only the top twenty, ten or five prospects? Are they the recent first or second-round picks? Are they high school draftees or collegians? Are they at higher or lower levels in the system? Are they players currently performing well or underperforming?

Or is it a non-existent list that makes it easier for self-admitted skeptics to take potshots at every deal, real or imagined?

What do you think?

1) Exactly who are the Cardinals’ “precious Faberge Eggs”?

2) Should any of them be considered completely untouchable in terms of trade consideration, no matter the proposed deal?

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