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What if the Cardinals had traded more prospects?

Some St. Louis Cardinals fans are questioning the club’s management for not making an impact trade before Tuesday’s non-waiver trade deadline. Their only deal was swapping former first-rounder Zack Cox to Miami for reliever Edward Mujica.

While the rumor mill linked the Cards to a number of prominent players supposedly on the market, only a very few of those names ended up changing homes. Many remained put.

That would imply the asking prices for many top pitchers like James Shields and even lesser ones like Jason Vargas were deemed too high, not only for St. Louis, but for whichever of the other 28 clubs were shopping as well.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t trades of big-name players as the deadline approached. I list nine recent deals below. In each case, prospects moved from one club to another.

Even though we know that all minor league systems are NOT equal, I went through the following analysis for illustration purposes, using pre-season assessments. I included the system ranking from Baseball America’s 2012 Prospect Handbook for each club that traded away prospects in these nine trades.

I then listed the ranking of the traded players within their previous system. For comparison, I also noted the names of the Cardinals prospects that hold the same ranking in St. Louis’ system.

For example, as part of the Ryan Dempster trade, the Rangers, who had the second-ranked system, sent their #8 prospect to the Cubs. St. Louis has the #12-ranked system, so the #8 Ranger may be a better prospect than the #8 Cardinal, but the Cardinals’ #8 prospect is Eduardo Sanchez, according to BA. (I chose BA because their team rankings go 30 players deep and they have system-to-system comparison ratings.)

Traded From To For “To” system rank Player rank St. Louis (#12 system)
Edward Mujica Marlins Cards 3B Zack Cox 12 4 Zack Cox
2012 WAR = 0.0
Ryan Dempster Cubs Rangers 3B Christian Villanueva 2 8 Eduardo Sanchez
2012 WAR = 3.0 P Kyle Hendricks NR
Zack Greinke Brewers Angels SS Jean Segura 18 2 Carlos Martinez
2012 WAR = 2.3 P Ariel Pena 9 Matt Adams
P Johnny Hellweg 4 Zack Cox
Hunter Pence Phillies Giants OF Nate Schierholtz 21 MLB
2012 WAR = 0.6 C Tommy Joseph 2 Carlos Martinez
P Seth Rosin NR
Shane Victorino Phillies Dodgers P Josh Lindblom 23 8 Eduardo Sanchez
2012 WAR = 1.3 P Ethan Martin 17 John Gast
PTBNL or cash
Jonathan Broxton Royals Reds P J.C. Sulbaran 7 12 Matt Carpenter
2012 WAR= 1.2 P Donnie Joseph 27 Boone Whiting
Gaby Sanchez Marlins Pirates OF Gorkys Hernandez 13 20 Tony Cruz
2012 WAR = (1.1) P Kyle Kaminska NR
Comp. balance draft pick
Francisco Liriano Twins White Sox IF Eduardo Escobar 30 10 Jordan Swagerty
2012 WAR= (0.5) P Pedro Hernandez 23 (SD) David Kopp (released)
Wandy Rodriguez Astros Pirates OF Robbie Grossman 13 8 Eduardo Sanchez
2012 WAR = 1.0 P Rudy Owens 16 Joe Kelly
P Colton Cain 13 Ryan Jackson
Hanley Ramirez Marlins Dodgers P Nathan Eovaldi 23 3 Oscar Taveras
Randy Choate P Scott McGough NR
’12 WAR 1.6/0.4

Again, I realize this work is inexact at best, but can at least serve as food for thought as to the kinds of prospects that may have been required to make comparable deals.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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48 Responses to “What if the Cardinals had traded more prospects?”

  1. Bw52 says:

    Nice writeup.Comparing sysytems makes a good article.Teams must feel that trading away said prospect that the team has a developing prospect a bit farther down the line (like the Cards with Cox at 3B with Piscotty,Wisdom and Carson Kelly ).Someone else here said it earlier; trading from strength.
    While still waiting for David Freese to make it thru 130 plus games yet……………..with Matt Carpenter providing solid depth and even Descalso for defense the Cards must feel 3B is adequately covered.
    A question for you Brian?
    Stephen Piscotty is at A ball and doing okay…………..
    Patrick Wisdom at short-season A ball…..
    Carson Kelly rookie ball…………………..

    Piscotty AA next season?
    Wisdom A next year?
    Kelly A next year?

    What say you?

    • Brian Walton says:

      Thanks. While there is no one to block them other than each other, here is how I’d guess they start 2013. Piscotty to PB, Wisdom to QC and Kelly to Batavia. To start at Double-A would mean Piscotty would have to do like Adams and Taveras and jump PB. His QC numbers are ok, but not that good, IMO.

    • CariocaCardinal says:

      Kelly – QC
      Wiadom – PB
      Piscotty – PB (outfield)

  2. blingboy says:

    Reportedly, Mo thought available players were just too expensive to acquire. One way of looking at ‘too expensive’ is that Mo’s currency wasn’t worth as much as he thought.

    • Brian Walton says:

      In the cases of Miller and Cox, probably yes. However, I have no reason to believe that is the rule rather than the exception.

    • crdswmn says:

      I think that this is the issue that a lot of Cardinals’ fans who were disappointed in the lack of trades made don’t understand about the Cardinals’s farm system. While the farm is definitely better than it used to be, it is nowhere near as deep as some other clubs, like the Rangers or the Royals for example. Because of all the hype around some of our prospects, like Taveras and Wong, many fans wrongly thought Mo had all these highly sought after prospects that other teams were just dying to get. The truth is the ones that other teams would want, are likely not ones Mo was willing to part with. A prospect like Matt Adams for instance probably has more value to the Cardinals than he does to other teams.

      Also, the new CBA rules have made shopping more risky as well, so I am sure that played a part in things.

      • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

        There are sacrifices made in trades…………… prospects and their potential are quantified differently in every organization……………. Cardinals take very seriously the propaganda of their own PR mechanism, and its visibility before the public…………… precedents are a huge part of that structure………

        I watched Shields pitch against the A’s last night………….. guy has value……….. why is it that you think SL was willing to take a talent like Kelly…. 97mph…..good change up and breaking pitch…….excellent hitting and running in a NL environment …….. good looking kid in every way …….cost controlled to the Max…………. and trade him… along with other players to get at Shields ????????????? Of course TB sent scouts………..why???????? because they know who they are dealing with……….. Any move that Mo made, displacing Cardinal weaknesses, would have repercussions ……… even though just shaking up the boys would or could have been beneficial …………. Cards were never in any of these discussion with more than a desire to enhance their business posture……….. and insulate Matheny…….. if you don’t understand this ……….. don’t ask me ……….

        New playoff rules are creating havoc………. I’ve never seen so many teams stripping down, with the full knowledge that they can rebuild out of the FA market the next year …………. Give that some though………Philly……Miami……… Texas has no limitations………. Angels……Dodgers…….
        BD foresee any of this?????????????????? Ya think…………

        • CariocaCardinal says:

          Why would anyone ask you to do something you’ve historically shown yourself unwilling and incapable of doing?

          And yes, some of us think (logically). Other just like to make to things up.

          • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

            I’m going to reserve judgment on this comment and give you till the end of the day, or maybe Brian will aid you…………………….. to elaborate………… otherwise its back to the poor house for some…..
            in case this is my final post here, I’d like to thank you all for your kindness and companionship over these last years…………its been stimulating…………. we all have allot to learn……..

        • blingboy says:

          Unlike lots of other owners and GMs, Bill and Mo rarely have to gnaw off their arm in the morning. Consider that other teams hire the whole middle of the order, but how many get two thirds of it short term?

          But I must admit I’m not sure why they bother. It doesn’ seem to be doing any of the others any harm. The economics of MLB must be set up to accomodate it, somehow. Unless your wife’s lawyers are smarter than yours, or you are friends with Bernie Madoff, it seems like one can’t help but make a killing.

  3. CariocaCardinal says:

    Great analysis. Adding the Mujica deal for comparison and also the YTD WAR of each player traded so that the Cox deal could be put in context would be interesting as well.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Thanks. My focus was other organization’s deals. Plus, the Mujica trade seemed clear to me from the info presented. He fetched the #4 prospect, Cox, from the #12-ranked farm system.

      Is YTD WAR a good/better indicator of prospect value compared to prospect ranking or are you looking for two data points instead of one?

      On a related topic, your monthly prospect rankings for the Cardinals system should be very different this time around. They will be ready this coming Monday, correct?

      • blingboy says:

        Speaking of CC’s monthly rankings, I can’t figure out how to find them after a week or so. Admitedly, I’m navigationally challenged. I enjoy reading the blurbs in addition to finding it very useful.

        • Brian Walton says:

          Good point. When I get a bit of time, I might look into a permanent link at the lower left of the home page.

          Good question on the search, too, as folks aren’t always familiar with the site. For this and any other search, the best way is this:

          Directly under the site logo are the words “Latest News”.
          Click on that and you will see a chronological list of all articles and news items.
          At the top of the list is a search box. Enter “CariocaCardinal”.
          You will be presented with a list of all of his articles.

          (There is also a search facility on this blog, located at the upper right in dark blue.)

      • CariocaCardinal says:

        If I understand your question correctly, I guess I’m looking for 2 data points. It is one thing to say teams gave up these ranked prospects for player x and those ranked prospects compare to ours in this manner. It would be a further step to see what “value” (if you consider WAR as value) teams were able to get for what level of ranked prospect.

        Haven’t missed a deadline yet this year – something I haven’t been able to say in the past 🙂

        • Brian Walton says:

          I may look at WAR if I have time after I complete my Player of the Month writeup. Two guys are neck-and-neck.

          • Brian Walton says:

            OK, I thought about this some more and I am confused. The focus of this article is to look at the prospects traded and to compare to the Cardinals prospects ranked similarly. It wasn’t about trying to analyze Dempster’s value as a major leaguer. Since WAR is for major leaguers only, that seems to be what you are asking for. Unless I am mistaken, minor leaguers don’t have WAR stats for me to list.

            For example, I don’t see how it is particularly relevant to look at Hanley Ramirez’ WAR this season. He is having a bad couple of years in what has been a very good career. How much of his trade value was diminished by his poor 2012 is unknown. Is he a 1.6 WAR player as indicated by 2012 or a 7.4-7.5 WAR player as he was in 2008-2009 – or something in between? Irregardless, how would that help me better compare Eovaldi to Taveras, which is my focus?

            • blingboy says:

              Maybe the request was to show the WAR of the major leaguer, as a measure of what value the prospects brought.

              • Brian Walton says:

                I get that, but…

                1) The focus of the article was NOT to analyze which trades were best/worst or which of the MLB players traded have the highest statistical value.
                2) I don’t know if a partial-season 2012 WAR is the relevant comparison to make, anyway.

                • blingboy says:

                  It looks like the Pirates traded a draft pick? ??

                • CariocaCardinal says:

                  yes, i was trying to change the focus of the article a little or at least saying that with a little bit more info that the chart could serve two purposes.

                  Of course one can’t say which was the best/worst trade until down the line and of course salaries/control also comes in to play. I do think it would be interesting to see if anyone else gave up such a highly ranked prospect for a player of so little (WAR) value – either this year or career or avg per year; choose your poison.

                  • Brian Walton says:

                    Certainly their new clubs must have thought that Liriano and Sanchez are better than negative value WAR players to give up decent prospects for them. I still think a better data point, if there is any, would be career average WAR – but I don’t care enough to go calculate all of them. 😉

                  • CariocaCardinal says:

                    Also forgot to mention that I think most people prefer fangraphs WAR to baseball reference WAR.

                    • Brian Walton says:

                      I am not a curmudgeon about new stats in any way. However, I have to wonder why those creating them can’t get together on common definitions. They only hurt themselves and lose credibility with others. Pretty ridiculous that the same term, WAR, has two different, competing formulas.

                      For that reason, some just won’t bother to accept either. I mean, can you imagine if there were two versions of batting average or ERA?

                    • blingboy says:

                      I’m still waiting for a weighted career WAR that discounts importance as the data becomes more remote in time from the present.

              • Brian Walton says:

                Heck with it. It was easier to just add the info requested.

                So, is Mujica a 1.7 WAR player like last year or a 0.0 WAR as this year? Not sure what this tells us.

    • JumboShrimp says:

      I am skeptical of trading a first round draft pick for 1.3 years of a mediocre reliever. Its like Mo felt pressure to do something, to show the Cards want to win. He did a trade, to do something. The logic seems weak. More PR than baseball.

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Albert ripped two HRs last night, 1 tonight, as the Angels are pasting the hapless Rangers. He is up to 21 HRs and about 70 RBIs. Throw out a terrible start and adjustment to the AL, Albert seems on his way to 100+ RBIs, like clockwork.
        Trout, Pujols, Trumbo, Morales, Weaver, Haren, Greinke, spend enough and the Angels are going to be hard to stop.

  4. blingboy says:

    1. Daniel Descalso (L) SS
    2. Allen Craig (R) 1B
    3. Matt Holliday (R) LF
    4. Carlos Beltran (S) RF
    5. David Freese (R) 3B
    6. Yadier Molina (R) C
    7. Jon Jay (L) CF
    8. Tyler Greene (R) 2B
    9. Jake Westbrook (R) P

    Maybe MM is thinking DD will get HBP again. I don’t remember him doing anything else, or am I forgetting?

    Maybe Tyler will show everybody what they could have had.

  5. blingboy says:

    “You got potential for an everyday third baseman for a [bleeping] seventh-inning guy?” said Marlins vice president/player personnel Dan Jennings, strongly endorsing the trade.

    Jennings added the Marlins weren’t going to bring back Mujica next season anyway.

    Read more here:

    • Brian Walton says:

      Spoken while the cameras were rolling….

      • kray66 says:

        And to note we have a pretty decent everyday 3B (Freese) already, two capable back-ups (M. Carp and DD), and that Miami had already traded their former star 3B last week. Time will tell who got the better deal, but they definitely needed Cox more than we did.

        • Nutlaw says:

          Right, but did someone else need or want Cox enough to pay more than Mujica?

          I mean, the Cards traded Rasmus for essentially nothing of lasting value and won the WS with it, but they need to compete strongly again for this to make sense.

          • JumboShrimp says:

            They traded Rasmus for
            1) Jackson and a WS win;
            2) several years of Rzepcynski;
            3) cleared space for Jay, who seems injured, nullifying this benefit right now; and
            4) two high draft picks.

            We traded Cox for one year of a ho hum reliever. Good trade by the Marlins.

  6. blingboy says:

    This past spring somebody around here was pretty insistent that Holliday was going to have a monster season. Good call.

    I’d guess it’s been a while since two Cards have led the NL in RBIs this late.

    The solo HR club might have to look for a new king.

    Sounds like Phillips might join Votto on the shelf. boo hoo.

  7. jabbott21 says:

    If the Royals would have accepted Matt Carpenter & Boone Whiting, I would make that trade in a heartbeat. I would have traded Zack Cox & Boone Whiting for Broxton. The extra year of control over Mujica is nice & all, but Broxton is a difference maker. The only issue with that deal would be the dynamic of pushing either Broxton or Motte into a set up role.

  8. blingboy says:

    Memphis had a catcher play 3B yesterday since they don’t have one now. They could try a perpetual shift and go with two second basemen. Or 4 outfielders. Perhaps its just a detail that slipped through the cracks. Warner will remind them, I guess. Any idea who will fill the spot? Or do we find a jurneyman AAAA guy?

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