Matt Holliday to the St. Louis Cardinals: A's Win the Deal

M. S.Correspondent IJuly 26, 2009

JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 20:  Brett Wallace #84 of the St. Louis Cardinals poses during photo day at Roger Dean Stadium on February 20, 2009 in Jupiter, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Friday, All-Star left fielder Matt Holliday was traded from the Oakland Athletics to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for three minor-league prospects. It was a huge addition for the first place Cardinals, who are trying to win the tight National League Central division.

In his first two games for the Cards, Holliday has connected on four and two hits and added RBIs in each of the games.

The short-term results of the trade show that the Cardinals came out on top in the deal, receiving a No. 4 hitter who will bat behind Albert Pujols and make their lineup all that more dangerous.  Along with Mark DeRosa, the Red Birds have traded themselves into a situation that makes them the sure-fire favorites to come out on top in the division.

However, the Athletics wil be the team to come out in the end, receiving three players all capable of reaching The Show in the near future.

The main part of the deal was third baseman Brett Wallace, ranked as one of the Cardinals’ top prospects this year.  In 62 games this year with Triple A Memphis, Wallace is batting .293 with six home runs and 19 RBI and a .346 on-base percentage. 

Drafted 13th overall in the 2008 Draft, Wallace has shot up the ranks and is expected to reach the Majors by the end of next year.

His body and conditioning are somewhat in question and some believe he will not be able to stay at the hot corner his whole career.  Scouts say his athleticism is better than his body would suggest, but the video I have seen of him makes me believe otherwise.

Hitting from the left side of the plate makes him even more valuable and his work ethic seems to be all there.  After trading starting third baseman Jack Hannahan earlier this year, Wallace should find himself in the starting lineup next year for the A’s. 

Eric Chavez’s back will probably prevent him from ever being the same type of player he once was, so Wallace looks to be a very solid addition.

In addition to Wallace, the Athletics also picked up right fielder Shane Peterson and right handed pitcher Clayton Mortensen. 

Peterson, 21, was the Cardinals’ second-round pick in the same 2008 Draft that Wallace was selected in.  Recently promoted to Double A, Peterson has also done well for himself (.284 batting average and .33 on-base percentage) and has great potential.

The pitcher traded in the deal, Mortensen, is 24 years old and is the only player that has seen time in the Majors.  As a supplemental pick in the 2007 Draft, he was 7-6 in Triple A this year with a 4.37 ERA and a 2.41 K/BB ratio.  Both those numbers are down from last year, and if there is any team that loves young pitching, it’s Billy Beane and the A’s.

What the Cardinals receive in the trade is more than likely a rental for a half a year as Holliday is eligible to become a free agent next year.  Whether or not he stays with the Cards after this year, they still receive an excellent hitter that will make the Cards’ lineup a force. 

Slugger Albert Pujols leads the league in walks and has had little help after he gets on base.

In a division that has been mediocre at best, the Cardinals hold a half-game lead on the Cubs, but two other teams (the Brewers and Astros) are within two-and-a-half games.  With a solid starting rotation and a bullpen that has gotten the job done, the Cardinals have now filled their last major void in a bat behind Pujols.

While anything can happen once a team makes it to the playoffs, the general consensus is that the winner of the National League Central will play the Dodgers in the first round and have little shot at advancing in the second season.

The A’s, currently 17 games back of the first place Angels, are in re-building mode after failing to compete in what was supposed to be a very winnable division.  The signing of Holliday last season was made by Beane and the A’s to boost their lineup, but the stars never aligned for either party.

Instead of getting two draft picks in losing Holliday to free agency next year, the A’s basically received the same compensation a half a year early, plus Mortensen.  Known for sporting the best young players in the game, the A’s get three very good players that are projected to hit the majors in a ballpark near you very soon.

Unless the Cards have plans to re-sign Holliday and make him a Cardinal for a long while, this trade makes little sense.  Wallace is going to make one heck of a third baseman, something that the Cardinals have but could use an upgrade on.

If they shift Mark DeRosa to second base or right field and put Skip Schumaker in the other spot, third base opens up right away.

Troy Glaus will become a free agent after this year and is still recovering from shoulder surgery that has caused him to miss the whole year.

As I have said the whole year, if a team in the NL Central believes they have a shot to win the pennant, then go ahead and make a move to put yourself in a better situation to win.  However, it is my opinion that no team in the Central is in “win now” mode and needs to stay put at the deadline.

What the Cardinals have now done is put themselves in a very tough spot if they do not win this year.  It is true they have a solid core of young talent in Rick Ankiel, Ryan Ludwick, Brendan Ryan, and Colby Rasmus, among others, to go along with Pujols and DeRosa. 

But if the Holliday trade backfires and he continues to play just average baseball and proves that his stats in Colorado were not completely inflated, they are in a very tough situation and have lost out on two, maybe three prospects. 

While they will receive the two draft picks for Holliday being a Type A free agent, Wallace and Peterson were already somewhat proven picks.

Time will tell whether or not the Cardinals made the right move nd while they are now the front-runners in the NL Central, that does not say all that much.  On the other hand, the A’s have made good on their trade for Holliday from last year and picked up a darn good third baseman in the process.

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