Despite the rumor mill churning just as hard as it could about Lance Lynn landing on a number of other contending teams at Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline, he will continue to wear the birds on the bat across his chest, at least for the time being.
You may notice that I said “other” contending teams. That’s right, I’m not ready to stick a fork in these Cardinals yet. The Cardinals have been flirting with a .500 record for a while now and just can’t seem to break through that ceiling, but nobody is running away with the National League Central this year.
The Cubs have had their fair share of struggles too and the upstart Brewers might be starting to fade. As Will Smith put it in the movie “Independence Day,” “I ain’t heard no fat lady.” Her song has yet to play for this team, which continues to hover around the five games behind mark in the division.
I can’t remember a time when the Cardinals went into anything close to a rebuilding mode mid-season, but I can recall a team just six years ago that was a lot further out of it than this. Now, that championship team got a jump-start at the deadline in the three-team deal that sent Colby Rasmus to Toronto and landed the Cardinals Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczyski and Corey Patterson.
This team doesn’t have that level of experienced help to add for the stretch run. However, this team continues to get a shot in the arm with each exciting new call up from Memphis.
With the contributions the Cardinals are getting now from young up-and-coming players like Paul Dejong, Jose Martinez, Harrison Bader and what’s quickly turning into a breakout season for Tommy Pham, the Cardinals have gotten significantly younger without having to trade key players now for prospects that may or may not pay off tomorrow.
However, let’s say for argument’s sake that the Cardinals were completely out of it and wanted to become sellers. This was not a team that had a lot of pieces that it made sense to move anyway.
Of the players other teams might desire, Yadier Molina was freshly extended in the offseason, and he and Adam Wainwright are the type of players so integral to the team for so long that it’s almost impossible to fathom them wearing another team’s uniform. Either would have to waive their no trade protection in order for a deal to take place anyway.
The club’s highest paid additions of the past two offseasons, Mike Leake and Dexter Fowler, both have no-trade clauses in their contracts as well. Then, you have Matt Carpenter, who has solidified himself as the second face of the franchise behind Molina and has multiple seasons left on his contract with the club.
Finally, young players like Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty and Kolten Wong are still growing and represent the foundation for years to come if the team is to have continued success. Those are pieces as a team you want to add to, not take away from.
The only Cardinals other than Lynn who potentially made sense to move were the end of the bullpen pairing of Seung Hwan Oh and Trevor Rosenthal, both of which have been plagued by inconsistency and are on the final years of their current contracts.
While a certain part of me wants to rationalize how it would have made all the sense in the world to trade Lynn away in a contract year, the fan in me just couldn’t shake the idea that the Cardinals would finally give in and be sellers at the deadline only to suddenly get red hot and no longer have an arm the team has relied heavily upon for the better part of the last five seasons. Hot streaks in baseball are amazing in their unpredicability. It seems like almost every season there is at least one team that trades away two or three key players and suddenly wins 10 straight, creating a feeling of seller’s remorse.
Fans in St. Louis have been spoiled by a team that’s been able to contend year in and year out for nearly two decades now without having to go through a prolonged rebuilding phase. For the most part, the team has been able to reload and keep playing deep into October more years than not.
It’s only natural to be somewhat in denial about that period potentially coming to an end. With the Cardinals holding their ground at the deadline, we can hold onto that last bit of faith for at least one more stretch run and offseason.