The Cardinals made two trades before Tuesday's deadline, including sending Tommy Pham to Tampa Bay in exchange for three prospects. (USA Today Sports)

By Rob Rains

John Mozeliak knows that Cardinals fans who were hoping the team would make a sexy move and acquire proven major-leaguers before the non-waiver trading deadline on Tuesday likely were disappointed by their pair of deals.

While Mozeliak, the team’s president of baseball operations, can appreciate that sentiment from the fan base, he also hopes the moves they made will produce positive results – even it might come more in the future and not the present.

The Cardinals’ strategy as the deadline approached, Mozeliak said, was about creating “flexibility and opportunity” along the lines of the moves they made on Friday when they reshaped their bullpen by promoting three pitchers from Triple A.

In trading Tommy Pham to the Tampa Bay Rays for three prospects, the Cardinals opened a spot in the outfield for more playing time for Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill, who was recalled from Memphis and started in center field on Tuesday night against the Rockies.

“Staying status quo was not getting it done,” Mozeliak said. “When you have five guys for three spots it’s a lot harder than four guys for three spots.”

In their second move, completed just before the deadline, they sent Memphis outfielder Oscar Mercado to the Indians for two younger outfield prospects. That move, Mozeliak said, had playing time implications as well for some of the other outfielders at the top of the Cardinals’ farm system.

Mozeliak admitted an alternate approach might have been to package those prospects in a trade for a more veteran player, but that was not the strategy the Cardinals wanted to pursue.

“It’s the path we went down,” Mozeliak said. “We didn’t think that (trading prospects for current major-leaguers) was our best chance for long-term success so we didn’t do it. I’m not claiming we hit a home run today. It was an incremental strategy. This was about creating some opportunities and space. Hopefully we made the right move.

“What we were trying to do is put ourselves in a position to get a peek at the future. As we stated we were going to give some of our younger arms a chance and over the last week or two I said if we could have a way to clean up some of the outfield we would do that too. They are probably not the most exciting moves for the people out there watching but for us, we feel like we accomplished some things.”

Here are a few takeaways from what the Cardinals did, or didn’t, do:

The Cardinals still have too many outfielders

Since the end of last season, the team has traded Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk, Pham and Magneuris Sierra, all now playing elsewhere in the majors, and Mercado, heading to Triple A with the Indians. They have Marcell Ozuna, Dexter Fowler, Bader and O’Neill fighting for playing time in the majors, and Adolis Garcia and Randy Arozarena close to major-league ready in the minors. One of the players they got from the Rays, Justin Williams, is an outfielder, as are both of the players coming from the Indians.

Williams, 22, and Conner Capel, 21, howeverl both hit left-handed, which the organization had identified as a weakness in the farm system as almost all their leading outfield prospects hit right-handed. In Capel, who was playing in high Class A, and 18-year-old Juan Torres, however, the Cardinals also added players who are younger than Mercado and will slot into openings farther down in the farm system, giving more playing time to prospects in Triple A and Double A. The move also has 40-man roster implications as well.

“One of the things we were trying to do was get a left-handed option, something we felt was important,” Mozeliak said. “Williams has been a solid player.”

Williams will join the Memphis roster.

The asking price for Chris Archer was too high for the Cardinals to swallow

In past trade or free agent negotiations, General Manager Michael Girsch has talked about the “puke” point, where the price, either in players or money, is so much that it makes him want to puke. That apparently happed in the talks for Archer, who was traded to the Pirates for two of their best prospects and a third player “of significance” who has not been named. That would likely be the equivalent of the Cardinals trading O’Neill, Carson Kelly and either Dakota Hudson or Jordan Hicks. With the depth of their young starting pitching, that just didn’t seem to be a move that made sense for the Cardinals.

The Cardinals needed to rebuild pitching depth in the farm system.

Of the 13 pitchers on the roster for Tuesday night’s game, eight still have rookie status, as does the injured Alex Reyes. That has removed a lot of the depth from the upper end of the farm system, and the Cardinals addressed that by adding Genesis Cabrera, a 21-year-old left-handed starter, and Roel Ramirez, a 23-year-old right-handed reliever, in the deal for Pham. Both are expected to join Springfield, the same level they were with for Tampa.

The Cardinals also added another right-handed reliever, Seth Elledge, 22, in the trade for Sam Tuivailala from Seattle on Friday and a 26-year-old right-hander, Giovanny Gallegos, as one of the two pitchers coming from the Yankees on Saturday for Luke Voit.
Mozeliak referred to Cabrera as an “electric arm” and also noted that as was the case with the outfielders in the system, most of the higher-end pitching prospects are right-handed.

“Having someone who we think can start from the left side makes sense,” Mozeliak said.

The return for either Jose Martinez or Bud Norris was not to the Cardinals liking

The market for Martinez was extremely limited, since all of the contending teams in the AL have a DH. There will be more of a chance to move Martinez when all teams are more interested in pursuing a deal after this season. In the meantime, keeping Martinez does not hurt the Cardinals. He doesn’t make any money, he is a good pinch-hitter and he will still have a chance to also help the team as a spot starter.

“We didn’t get to a point where we felt it made sense,” Mozeliak said of a trade possibility.

The same is true for Norris. The Cardinals no doubt listened to what other teams were offering, but it wasn’t enough to make them move their closer – at a time when they finally believe they have settled down some of their bullpen issues.

“We certainly could have realigned our bullpen if we wanted to trade him, but would we have weakened it? We felt like if we traded him we would have weakened it,” Mozeliak said.

Whether Norris will fit into the Cardinals’ long-term plans was not something Mozeliak was ready to discuss on Tuesday.

Did Carlos Martinez’s injury on Monday night keep him from getting traded?


This is a question that could not be answered, at least on Tuesday.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains