Top Prospect Oscar Taveras Driving Rumors Around St. Louis Cardinals
Talk to any fan of the St. Louis Cardinals about what they are excited about and the majority will mention prospect Oscar Taveras. The adoration from the fans is well-earned. The problem for the Cardinals is simple: How does Taveras get playing time in the big leagues?
The result is rumors all over the league about who the Cards may be willing to trade in order to create room for Taveras when he is promoted. It has fueled rumors about when he may be promoted to gain some exposure in Major League Baseball. It has even produced rumors about why Taveras has yet to be promoted.
Taveras has done everything he could possibly be expected to do this year. After suffering an injury last year, seeing limited time due to nagging injuries in spring training and starting the season with even more missed time, he has found a way to come back strong. Through 49 games at Triple-A Memphis, Taveras has posted a slash line of .325/.373/.524 while hitting seven home runs, 15 doubles and driving in 40 runs. He has compiled exactly 100 bases through his first 191 at-bats in 2014.
That success has sparked rumors around Busch Stadium on how to get the impressive youngster playing time. Four of those rumors are summarized here.
Adding Pitching Would Require a Trade
The last few seasons have seen the Cardinals improve their pitching staff with promotions within their organization. Players like Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly, Michael Wacha and Trevor Rosenthal have allowed the team to avoid making a trade to bolster the pitching staff.
That is not the case in 2014.
In a recent article for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Joe Strauss confirmed that general manager John Mozeliak identified this as a "gap" year in pitching. Later in the same article, Strauss accurately surmises that the Cardinals will need to make a trade if they are to improve the pitching staff.
Having Taveras in Memphis can allow for a few scenarios to be projected from that statement. Taveras can be the centerpiece to a trade that would bring a substantial upgrade in the pitching staff. Alternatively, the Cardinals can deal from the group of players that create the logjam for a promotion for Taveras: Matt Adams, Allen Craig, Jon Jay or Peter Bourjos.
Bernie Miklasz, also of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, shares thoughts from an unnamed scout on what the Cardinals may hope to acquire:
If the Cardinals go for for a big move, they’ll try to acquire a formidable starting pitcher so they can go into a postseason series lined up with Adam Wainwight, Michael Wacha and the elite-level Pitcher to be Acquired Later. Nothing against Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller or the others, the scout said. But if they fade out, the Cardinals would regret not having a third big-gun pitcher to go with Waino and Wacha.
Strange to hear that a team whose offense is struggling is connected to a search for pitching in rumors. Hard to argue that a third power arm would propel the team forward, however.
Interleague Play Could Create a Playing Time Audition
The Cardinals will find themselves in a position to get Taveras an audition of sorts in the very near future. Right around the corner is a week of interleague play in American League ballparks. As Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch points out, that gives the team a chance to ensure some playing time for the star prospect.
The stretch of American League ballparks would allow the team to leverage the designated hitter to get some playing time for a prospect such as Taveras without having to take at-bats away from established players. Allen Craig, Matt Adams and Matt Holliday could all find themselves playing a game or two at DH, and Taveras could find himself in the outfield for a stretch of games.
Ultimately, the gamble could make the decision even harder if Taveras responds well. It could press the team to make a long-term decision regarding the outfielder. The team suddenly having a decision to make involving an overabundance of hitting would be a welcome change.
Conversely, the team could see reason to send Taveras back to the minors for additional seasoning if he does not perform well. It would allow the team the luxury of giving the player a look and being able to have a tangible reason for him not remaining in St. Louis.
The timing certainly seems right.
David Price Is a Possibility Via Trade
It was ESPN's Buster Olney that dared to dream the impossible for St. Louis in an insider article (subscription required) last weekend. Would the Cardinals entertain a run at Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price?
Price fits the bill of a third, top-level arm in the rotation. He is certainly being shopped by Tampa Bay, who would likely not be fond of his pending contract demands that are rumored north of $140 million. The Cardinals have pieces that the Rays would likely covet in a deal.
That being said, Price may be nothing more than a rental player if the Cardinals can't convince him to stay or if they don't like the price tag he will demand. A player for the remainder of the season who will also generate a compensation pick if he signs elsewhere is fine as long as the other team's demands are low.
The Rays are not likely to sell Price too cheap. The discussion may even start with Oscar Taveras before it even gains traction. If the Cardinals are truly interested in improving the pitching staff, Price would be the way to go.
John Mozeliak has yet to show the willingness to pay a hefty amount via trade for a player of this caliber, however.
Lack of News Is Echoing Patience of General Manager John Mozeliak
If there is one word that can define the tenure of John Mozeliak as the general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, it is patience. Mozeliak has proven time and time again that he will remain patient and only act when he feels it is necessary to do so.
It seems to be working for him so far.
Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checked in with Mozeliak over a week ago to discuss the possibility of the Cardinals making a move in the near future. The GM stressed patience:
If you pick up a game here each week, you’re where you need to be. From that standpoint, it’s not panic time.
That doesn’t mean we’re going to sit back and be complacent and do nothing. We’ll survey markets and see where we might go. It’s a little too early to say what we might chase.
While many people are quick to jump to conclusions about what the Cardinals could possibly do to improve, there seems to be far less substantial evidence towards imminent action. Instead, what seems to be manifesting is a lot of speculation around logical adjustments the team may make.
For now, it appears that Mozeliak is happy to let things develop a bit more before he takes action.
Oscar Taveras Is Poised to Arrive Soon in St. Louis
The Cardinals may be remaining patient when it comes to making a trade or a substantial roster move, but that does not mean Taveras is not very close to the big leagues. The young man is simply playing too well, and the big league team is playing too poorly, to ignore his potential impact for much longer.
The likely scenario was discussed earlier: Taveras will find his way to the roster for the American League swing that the Cardinals find themselves on. Should he play well enough, he may be there to stay.
No matter how you look at it, one of baseball's most exciting talents will likely be in St. Louis very soon. While the team continues to struggle, fans will find something new to get excited about this summer.
Taveras is coming.
Statistics are from Baseball-Reference and current through 5/28
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