ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- The 4 pm ET deadline has come and gone and the Cardinals appear to have abstained from any action the trade market.
Deals closed in the waning minutes of the trade period are often announced after the deadline has passed, but short of a wholly-unreported transaction, St. Louis’ roster will remain the same.
Heavy speculation surrounded Lance Lynn in recent weeks as the big righty, pitching well and on the last year of a three-year deal, appeared an attractive asset for contending teams short on starters. While Monday’s observations about Lynn fitting well in Cleveland sparked speculation, no deal ever materialized.
Trevor Rosenthal was another trade chip, as the fire-balling closer was presented as a cost-controlled relief option for teams looking to shore up their bullpen for a pennant push. But like Lynn, a deal for the 27-year-old Rosenthal never progressed beyond the idea stage.
One reason teams may have been gunshy on Lynn is his return from Tommy John surgery. While the burly starter has shown no ill effects and demonstrated no need for an innings limit, pitchers coming back from the surgery are most at risk at the tail end of their comeback year. Contending teams would be eyeing Lynn as top-end rotation help, and fears of a him hitting a wall in October (justified or not) could have tempered the market.
Add that to the fact the Cardinals know they have a win-win with Lynn at season’s end. If he takes the qualifying offer they get a good pitcher for a reasonable price, if he doesn’t, they get a second round draft pick. That certainly increases their patience when perusing offers, and given the loss of Lynn would likely signal the end of the 2017 season, the return would need to justify (or ideally forestall) the forfeiture. After all, the team is still within sight of the division lead as things stand.
Rosenthal has battled control issues throughout his career, and getting a requisite return on the young reliever is contingent upon the trading partner believing in the “stability” they’re acquiring. That may have been harder than it appears to install as the window for trading closed.
Still, a complete lack of action from the organization is confounding. The needs for this team are myriad and the talent available to trade is plentiful.
When Sonny Gray was sent to the Yankees, the Cardinals shifted into pole position in the starting pitcher market with Lynn. They’ve showcased quality minor leaguers in Paul DeJong, Magneuris Sierra and Harrison Bader. Tommy Pham is having a career year and his role in the long-term plans for the club has, to this point, been uncertain. Jedd Gyorko, signed as a super-utility man, is playing well enough to be an everyday starter for teams in need. Tyler Lyons is a lefty with a curveball.
It’s surprising, then, that no deal was even whispered about, much less finalized. The closest the Cardinals came to making deadline news was being mentioned as having interest in Joe Smith, the righty reliever who was traded to Cleveland.
The Cardinals need bullpen help and offensive teeth. They need reliable defensive play. The assets they have on hand haven’t proven capable of stringing together multiple series of consistent play all year. The talent infusion from Memphis has been fun to watch, but doesn’t appear enough to transform a team clawing to reach .500 into a pennant contender.
One of the best free agent classes in history is set to hit the market in 2018, and the Cardinals will have the money to be a heavy player in that market. But taking this team where it needs to go will take incremental steps, a series of small moves to build the framework for the large ones. Many thought St. Louis would began that work Monday. Instead, the front office sat tight. It was sort of fitting the team had the day off as well. The sun will rise Tuesday and the 57 games remaining in the season will be played by the personnel responsible for the first 105.