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Will Mo play the prospect market this winter?

The following is a guest column from blingboy.

John Mozeliak plays close to the vest during the off season, which can be frustrating for the rest of us.  A cryptic mention of low hanging fruit or dry powder is all we can hope for.  That is why a couple of articles concerning Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik and his frustration trying to get value for his top prospects this winter caught my attention.

Seattle Times

Prospect Insider

Over the last few years, the Mariners, like the St. Louis Cardinals, have turned their farm system into one of the best, featuring some highly-rated prospects.  Mr. Zduriencik was hoping to use prospects as currency in trade this winter.  While that has been an effective strategy in the past, it isn’t working out that way this year.

The market for prospects is not what it was.

Reasons given for the devaluation of prospects include the second wild card and all the TV money sloshing around, but Mr. Hendrix of prospectinsider thinks the market will rebound in a few years.

“I’d expect the value of prospects to go up once the TV money begins to run dry, which could be within the next 2-4 years. Add in the fact that many teams will indeed get burned mortgaging their future for immediate success, and the value of prospects will again soar.”

I don’t know about that, but for now at least, Mo and the Cards are looking at a down market. If it is bad for Seattle, it might be worse for the Cards.  I say that because the 2012 Prospect Watch ranking, which includes results of the 2012 season, has the Mariners with two prospects rated higher than anything the Cards have to offer.  RHP Taijuan Walker and LHP Danny Hutzen are ranked 4th and 8th, while Oscar Taveras and Shelby Miller are 12th and 19th.

Mr. Hendrix argues that recently-traded OF Wil Myers, 3rd, and C Travis d’Arnaud, 11th, did not fetch what similar top prospects would have in past years, and Mr. Zduriencik has been disappointed with the value of his top prospect Walker so far this winter.

As bleak as all that may be, the Cards are not the Mariners, and the differences may present an opportunity.  Mr. Zduriencik, who is thankfully more talkative than Mo, says that the devaluation mostly affects prospects unproven at the major league level.  Walker and Hutzen fall into that category, as do Myers and d’Arnaud.

Since trying to trade away a top prospect without major league experience is being on the wrong side of this year’s market, then trading for one is the right side.  The right side of the market is where opportunity always lies and Mo is positioned to pounce.

Unlike the Mariners, the Cards have enough top young talent with MLB experience to be sellers if they choose.  Although one can never have too much pitching, there are Miller, Lance Lynn, Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly, all young and proven, and with others behind them who will be ready for a try in St. Louis soon.  The rich pitching environment also features young(ish) veterans in the pen, and seasoned veterans in the rotation.  There are also Matt Adams or Allen Craig (theoretically), and perhaps others.

We have seen for ourselves how expensive the free agent market is, in both dollars and years, and the opportunity is there for Mozeliak to use the present market for prospects to his advantage.  It would involve risk of course, but being on the right side of the market helps minimize it.  It seems like a golden opportunity to try to set the team up with a shortstop of the future or plug other holes.  Hopefully he is ready to pounce while the time is right.

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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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35 Responses to “Will Mo play the prospect market this winter?”

  1. JumboShrimp says:

    Walt gave away prospect Dan Haren for Mark Mulder while Mo was fleeced of Luke Gregerson for Khalil Greene and Chris Perez for soon to be injured Chris DeRosa. Three terrible deals. More happily, Mo unloaded veteran Jim Edmonds for prospect David Freese.
    Zdurnieik helped the rise of the Brewers when they drafted Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, so his promotion to GM was dependent on developing prospects. Once GM, signing veteran Chone Figgins to a big money deal backfired. Mariner prospect Adam Jones was traded to the Orioles and has helped Baltimore reach the playoffs.
    Mo know how to trade with Zdurnieck. We unloaded vet Brendan Ryan and picked up prospect Cleto. Would the Mariners surrender Walker for Wigginton?

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Previous Mariners GM Bavasi traded prospects Adam Jones and pitcher Chris Tillman to Baltimore, helping the decline of the Mariners and the rise of the Orioles. Not Zdurnieck’s fault.

      • Brian Walton says:

        During Jack Z’s first year, some members of the saber community prematurely anointed him as a genius. The reality is that Seattle was a mess and it would take time for anyone to recover. Jack Z has traded a lot of pitching for hitting, but the latter has yet to produce.

        • JumboShrimp says:

          Z won a trade with the Yankees, picking up Jesus Montero for a pitcher Pineda, soon injured. Montero did ok for a rookie in that ballpark and will improve.
          Chone Figgins was terrible, but maybe there are behind the scene factors. The previous Angel hero to go for Seattle bucks was Spiezio and he was a dismal failure for reasons that later emerged.

  2. blingboy says:

    I keep thinking about how the Rangers are short a corner outfielder with pop, and about how they’ve got the prime SS prospect in baseball sitting there behind Andrus on their depth chart. A guy with no MLB experience. And about all that pitching, MLB proven pitching, that Mo is sitting on. And about Mo’s proven ability to structure a multi-team transaction to use what we’ve got to get what we need. It seems like the market this winter is absolutly perfect for Mo to do exactly that sort of thing.

    • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

      Who in major league baseball doesn’t have “opinions” about what is going on in St. Louis? Matt Carpenter?…. Loved the way this guy swung a bat…… Then the power move came in…… and the “special emphasis” on the Cardinal’s “special swing prerogatives”. ……………. watch what Skip brings to the table in LA…if he even gets to the table………. Perez had an attitude….. still does ….. Geregerson was on a list in the Greene deal … SD didn’t miss it …. any St. Louis position players tearing it up with other teams?……………. Furcal has been hurt for years……..most everyplace but his arm… that’s questionable……… He was running like an old man by June last year…… he doing some intense off season work for this year?………….right!!!!! ………. Mo keeps standing Pat……. he is suggesting that what he is bring to ST in prospects is superior to what other teams have developed……….. Wigginton? plays many positions ……… He has a good cut………. does he end up playing often because of that?… poor defensive skills in exchange for a bat……. that going to make the starters last 6?………… face it…….. any moves Mo makes reflects on the quality of his prospects…. so he just doesn’t make them………… If the Brewers get Lohse, its not going to go well here….. IF Carp survives ST…….. he going to break his back trying to stay in games? Elevated pitch counts? Garcia can’t possibly make the regular season………. If the kids bog down….. BD going to trade and spend for pitching………. or finally get to that fabulous rebuild phase in his next 5yr plan……

      • Brian Walton says:

        DeWitt’s group has owned the team for almost two decades and we have yet to see that supposed rebuild phase you mention.

        If Lohse ends up in Milwaukee, I will wish him well – but I can’t see it changing the Brewers status in the division behind Cincy and StL.

        • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

          Stadium tax shelter in place…… Laundromat running at full capacities……. Bill retires from the “active” aspects of his interests, with the retirement of GB ……. to focus on a hobby…….. The first phase is done….. removal of AP/TLR….. second phase is on track ……….. Cardinals do not make the playoffs in 2013 …… your argument that they will be second is naive ………. For those that can’t objectively examine your first two weeks of last year…….enjoy this first two weeks ………. My complements.

      • CariocaCardinal says:

        “BD going to trade and spend for pitching………. or finally get to that fabulous rebuild phase in his next 5yr plan……”

        Typical Westie, covering both sides so he can later claim he was right.

      • CariocaCardinal says:

        yep, Carpenter’s performance in the playoffs really showed how they messed up his swing.

  3. Nutlaw says:

    Nice, thought-provoking article, bb. I hadn’t really considered those facets of the trade market, but when you bring them up, they seem reasonable. Thanks for sharing it!

  4. JumboShrimp says:

    Wainwright might leave in 2014. With the miles on his arm, Carpenter could break down in 2013 and retire in 2014. Garcia’s shoulder seems iffy. Mo may want to keep Lynn, Miller, Kelly, and Rosenthal around for 2013. We are not going to outhit the Reds, but we might be able to overtake them with better pitching.

    • blingboy says:

      Jake gives Mo some flexibility. Kind of expensive flexibility, but not much uncertainty about what you’re getting. Sort of like dry powder in a way, giving Mo the ability to pull the trigger on a move if opportunity presents.

    • Nutlaw says:

      The Cardinals outhit the Reds by nearly 100 runs last year. I wouldn’t be so pessimistic about their respective offenses…

      • JumboShrimp says:

        Votto missed much of last year and is an MVP caliber hitter. The Reds dumped Stubbs and landed Choo, a big offensive upgrade. Frazier could improve, Mesoraco produce at catcher. The Reds could have immense firepower in 2013, while the Cards best hitter is gimpy kneed Beltran. Maybe Pete Kozma can be the equalizer.

        • Bw52 says:

          Votto missed around 40 games for the Reds.Otherwise the Reds where very lucky and didn`t have any other injury problems.Will they be able to pull out 15 last At-Bat wins again this season or go almost injury free? I doubt it.Some bad Karma will get them.How often does a team get that lucky regarding everything 2 years in a row.

        • Nutlaw says:

          Frazier should improve. Choo is solid, though coming off of couple of down years. Ludwick probably lost one of his glass slippers when the clock turned midnight.

          The Cardinals’ best hitter is perfectly healthy Matt Holliday. He, Beltran, Molina, Freese, and Carpenter all had OPSs well north of .800. Jay came in at .773. Craig, Carpenter, Matt Adams, and Oscar Taveras should all be improving at this point in their careers. I’m not worried one bit.

  5. jabbott21 says:

    I for one would like to see the Cards make a play to use their aforementioned strength to set up the potential for a difference maker at one of their weak spots on the farm. Certainly shortstop is a glaring weakness, but there are other areas where Mo could take advantage as well, given the dearth most organization face at shortstop. Among the shortstops, it would seem the Cards best chance would be to go after a guy in the lower levels, such as Alen Hanson from Pittsburgh. Certainly that type of move represents the greatest risk, but would likely come at a lower cost than someone in AA/AAA. Another spot I think the Cards might do well to consider would be CF. While not entirely lacking in prospects with potential in CF, most of them are at the lower levels. Perhaps a guy like Brian Goodwin (Nationals), Aaron Hicks (Twins), or Adam Eaton (D’Backs) MIGHT be netted. While those guys would all come at a high price, their distance to the majors is minimal, and with the possible exception of Goodwin, they would provide the Cards with a much needed speed/potential lead off threat. The bonus is that upon reaching the majors, they would allow the Cards to either use Jon Jay as a superb 4th OF option, or see what his value might be on the trade market. I have long wondered why you don’t see more prospect for prospect deals, allowing teams with a surplus in one area to address other needs with an organization having the opposite issues.

    • blingboy says:

      I agree with your line of thinking in general jabbott, but I like our CF situation. It could be improved, of course, but I don’t think I’d want to give up something good to address something that isn’t really a problem. I’d also like to see Jay get the chance to continue in the leadoff spot that he took on late last season.

      I too wonder why there are not more prospect for prospect trades. Nobody wants to risk giving up a future HOFer I guess.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Yes, I suspect the organizations are holding out hope their disappointing guys to date will become the late bloomers.

  6. blingboy says:

    Maybe Mo should work something out with Scotty for Kyle Lohse. I say that because, so far, only two teams have been willing to forfeit their first round pick and the pool money that goes with it. The Angels signed Hamilton for 5 years, and the Braves signed Upton for 5 years. The Indians, having a protected pick, gave up their second round pick along with a lesser amount of pool money to sign Swisher for 4 years.

    Maybe an everyday bat for 4 or 5 years can make it worth it. Good news for Bourn and La Roche maybe. Lohse and Soriano may not be hearing much good news. How many years would you need to get out of a pitcher to be worth the pick and the pool money? Kyle is 34, can he get that many years?

    Several teams would only lose a second round pick and pool money, the Indians a third round. The Cardinals wouldn’t lose anything. Maybe we should sign him. Scotty and Kyle would have to agree that we could trade him if we want, to a team that would like to have him but not if it costs the pick and the pool money. That might be how Scotty can get Kyle the best deal given the rules and the climate this year. Mo should be able to peel off a useful piece for our cut.

    • jabbott21 says:

      I think the sign & trade will likely become a somewhat common occurrence in MLB now. Less for the picks, & more for the loss of that slot money. While the strategy of drafting has been made more interesting, the potential loss of draft picks for exceeding total slot money will hurt a lot of teams that allocate money more towards draft/development. That is something I (for one) strongly dislike. While I enjoy keeping up with the intrigue of FA movement every offseason, I don’t think clubs should be punished for choosing to allocate money more towards drafting/developing their own. I’m fine with the luxury tax element of exceeding total slot, just not the loss of future draft picks.

      • CariocaCardinal says:

        The problem with that logic for me is just as much as a team will not want to lose the draft pick and the slot money, won’t the team losing the player (such as the Cardinals) want to gain that extra draft pick and the slot money?

        • blingboy says:

          The lost pick just vanishes now, so I’m not following you CC. Could you re-phrase.

          • CariocaCardinal says:

            But we would get a pick if someone else signs him. We lose that pick if we do a sign and trade. If a pick is so valuable nobody wants to sign him, isn’t a pick also valuable to us?

            • blingboy says:

              My understanding is we do not get a pick if someone else signs Lohse. The team that does sign him (other than the Cards) loses a pick, but it just vanishes, we do not get it. They also lose the pool money.

              So my thought is that we could sign him and then trade him to the team that wants him but doesn’t want to lose the pick and the pool money.

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