According to The Athletic baseball author Ken Rosenthal, the Cardinals have rekindled their interest in acquiring third baseman Mike Moustakas of the Kansas City Royals.
It would be a step in support of the middle of the St. Louis lineup, which until recently struggled to make runs. Rosenthal suspected that he would bring the hot-swinging Matt Carpenter to either second of first base.
The first option moves Kolten Wong's strike average out of the lineup. Option two leads to a solid infield defense, but replaces Jose Martinez, who along with his 875 OPS has seven mistakes on the first base.
Martinez (.301 / .370.493 on Friday against Atlanta) was by far the Cardinal's most consistent thug, so it's hard to imagine that he's part of a mid-season trade. He could instead be moved back to the outfield to spell out either Dexter Fowler or Tommy Pham, who had lost their swings months ago.
But why Moustakas? Why now?
Moustakas was one of those supposedly high-priced free agents who languished on the offseason market until the Royals decided to bring him back to spring training for two weeks. The deal includes a mutual option for 201
Among their other pursuits, the Cardinals had the idea of signing Free Agent First Baseman Eric Hosmer and were reportedly persistently busy with trading deals to Toronto for third baseman Josh Donaldson, who spent much of the first half of the List of disabled people has spent. The Cardinals were not interested in Moustakas, at least not that we knew about it.
On the positive side Moustakas should not get back much, certainly not one of the highly regarded young pitchers of the Cardinals. That would be the price (and then some) for Baltimore Third Baseman / Shortstop Manny Machado, who will become the hot commodity when the general managers meet in Las Vegas for the next winter gathering.
The left-hander beating Moustakas would also bring some balance to the series of Cardinals, who at the moment can only send Carpenter, Wong, Fowler and Greg Garcia to this side of the panel.
But does Moustakas make the Cardinals much better?
Carpenter was not as defensive in third base as widely believed. He has only five mistakes in 52 starts and among the players with at least 400 innings on the third base, ranking 10 in defensive saves at seven. That's surprisingly good.
Moustakas made seven mistakes and saved four defense runs – slightly better than the average – in more than 500 innings.
Offensively, he comes from 2017, in which he scored an average of .272 with career highs in both homeruns (38), RBIs (85) and slugging percentage (.521). But after a blazing April, Moustakas has gone downhill. In June he beats .190 with three home runs, 258 on-base percent and an OPS of .591.
Depending on what it costs in return, Moustakas is attractive.
Wong only marginally improved this month, batting .232, although his defense was superb. He makes only $ 4 million this year, but will owe $ 30 million by 2021. A direct trade for Moustakas does not seem likely.
Rosenthal, however, postulates that any deal would almost certainly be the first step in the other steps to "reconfigure their disjointed mix." That could mean that Martinez, who is under the club's control until 2022, will have to earn a much higher return, especially to an American League club looking for a designated hitter.
Rosenthal also suggests that the Cardinals would willingly move Carlos Martinez, who frustrates her with his lack of concentration and inconsistent performance. Given the injury of the rotation (Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, and another lost season for Alex Reyes), plus the added burden of a disappointing bullpen, that does not seem wise.
Perhaps a deal could also be a way to move Fowler along with cash to cover part of his remaining three years in the contract?
All of this is speculation, of course. It is still more than a month before the deadline for the waiver of the 31st of July. That's enough time for a heat spell or other injury that affects the Cardinals' point of view.
So stay tuned.
Todd Eschman is the sports editor of Belleville News-Democrat. It can be reached at [email protected] or (618) 239-2540.