A series win over the Phillies feels like a loss since it wasn't a sweep—yeah, the Phillies are that bad.
Because Thursday's loss to the worst team in baseball came in the afternoon, it left plenty of time the rest of the day for trade speculation as national media connected the Cardinals to Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria. Miami is reportedly fielding offers for the light-hitting, flashy fielding infielder, and according to Miami Herald beat writer Clark Spencer, the Cardinals were among three clubs to contact the Marlins with interest.
On the surface, the addition of a player with a career OPS+ of 74 (league average is 100) wouldn't seem to make sense for a Cardinals team that has struggled to score runs. However, Hechavarria is viewed as an elite defender at a premium defensive position, and is arbitration eligible for 2018. If acquisition cost is reasonable, the Cardinals could snag Hechavarria, and plug him into their shoddy defense like cork in the bottom of a sinking canoe—and would have him at a reasonable salary for next season, too.
Such a move would produce questions about Aledmys Diaz's status on the roster, but trade or no trade, these are discussions that should take place, anyway. Diaz has fallen well short of his rookie season production in 2017, and the idea that shortstop won't remain his position for the long haul remains a topic of conversation. Even when it comes to young, talented, likable players like Diaz, nothing should be assumed for a team underperforming as severely as the Cardinals have this season; change for this team is inevitable.
That's not to say Diaz's role will necessarily be the one to change; multiple spots could be in flux. It just happens that the rumor de jour plays shortstop—and so does Diaz. But the Cardinals reported interest in a player like Hechavarria speaks to the core question on John Mozeliak's plate: Are the Cardinals—at five games below .500 with July fast approaching—buyers or sellers?
Potential acquisitions like Hechavarria—or to a greater extent, players like Marlins teammates Christian Yelich or Marcell Ozuna—would represent a stance somewhere in the middle. The Cardinals have not performed to a level that warrants Mozeliak buying talent for today at the expense of future prospects tomorrow. This team has no use for rentals.
Mozeliak would also prefer to avoid the traditional notion of selling; the Cardinals have not once used such an approach in this millennium. Instead, the coming weeks should feature bold movement in the middle ground: a combination of major leaguers and prospects heading elsewhere, with the Cardinals strategically–but aggressively–adding pieces that could help them both now and down the road. Contracts and years of control are critical in those considerations, which is why Hechavarria makes sense on some level: he's not a rental.
There are few spots on the Cardinals roster that deserve to be written in stone. Mozeliak shied away from tricky trading waters over the winter in compiling this roster, opting instead to supplement his team primarily through free agency. With his club performing below expectations, can Mozeliak fill holes and eradicate redundancies on the fly as the Cardinals hang around in a wide open NL Central race–while also keeping an eye on the years ahead?
It won’t come easily, but Mozeliak shouldn't shy away from bold strokes as he works to reshape this roster in a hurry.