The St. Louis Cardinals captured, what well may turn out to be (barring a Roy Halladay deal), the biggest prize in the trade deadline season today when they sent Brett Wallace, Shane Petersen and Clayton Mortensen to the Oakland Athletics for Matt Holliday. Holliday hadn’t lived up to the A’s expectations this season and, with Oakland out of playoff contention and Holliday a potential free agent after this season, the Athletics decided to off-load some of that roughly $5.5 million remaining on this year’s deal. The Cardinals, desperate for offensive help for likely NL MVP, Albert Pujols, are hoping that they have acquired the Holliday of 2007/2008 as opposed to the one the A’s saw for most of the first half of the season and that his acquisition will be enough to hold onto to their current 1 ½ game lead in the NL Central. So let’s take a look at whether Holliday will be the final requisite piece for the Cardinals and at what cost it comes.
From Oakland’s perspective, Holliday was due approximately $5.5 million for the remainder of the season. They were not going to resign him at the end of the season, and in order to get two compensatory picks if he signed somewhere else, they would have to offer him arbitration where he would likely receive a $15 - $16 million award. For the A’s, dealing Holliday is a no-brainer. So what did they get in return? The centerpiece of the deal is Brett Wallace. Wallace is the exact type of high OBP hitter that Billy Beane loves, whose bat, at 22yo, is just about Major League ready. The A’s can insert him in their lineup, as early as September, and likely get .280/.360/.490 numbers out of him for nearly a decade, and he’ll put up those numbers at considerably less cost than Holliday. The only downside to Wallace is that he is not likely to stay at 3B, meaning that you’ll be getting an .850 OPS from likely either 1B or DH, which will put him in the middle third for the position. In other words, they are likely getting a slightly above league average 1B/DH. In Mortensen, the A’s are getting a right-hander, with an upside of a solid end of the rotation innings eater, and one who is nearly Major League ready. The only problem with the Mortensen acquisition that I see, is that the A’s have a very young group of pitchers who are already penciled in for the rotation and Anderson, Cahill, Mazzarro, Braden and Gonzalez all have more talent. But you can never have too many young live arms. Petersen, is the most intriguing player in the deal, as, while he is a solid prospect with an upside of an everyday Major League outfielder, he is likely less than 50/50 of ever getting there. Still any way you slice it up, Oakland gets a player with nearly the same offensive potential (in Wallace), at a younger age and a cheaper cost. If they never get anything out of the other two players, this is still a huge win for Oakland.
Now over to the Cardinals. St. Louis has been using a combination of Chris Duncan, Rick Ankiel and Nick Stavinoha to man left field. Duncan has already been dealt to the Red Sox, and with the Holliday acquisition, Ankiel moves into a 4th OF type of role, who will likely see time at all three positions. Holliday likely bats either behind Pujols or Ludwick and there, at least in my opinion is the governor on enthusiasm for this deal, as your three best hitters will all be right-handed, and all be next to each other in the order. I’d like the deal a lot more for the Cardinals, if they had acquired a left-handed hitting bat. Make no mistake, the Cardinals did upgrade their offense with this deal. If you look at three year, park-normalized, numbers, Holliday is likely to post an OPS that is .100 to .140 points higher than the three players that had been playing the position this year. But what does that mean? That means that the Holliday upgrade is likely to translate into 1.0 – 1.5 more wins over the rest of the season,than they would have yesterday. That is great, but does anyone seriously think that the Cubs aren’t going to play 3 games better over the rest of the season than they did in the first half?
By making this deal, the Cardinals have fired the guns. There is no more help coming, no Roy Halladay, no Cliff Lee. And I just have to question if it was enough? St. Louis is a better team than they were yesterday, but they gave up an awful lot to get here, and I just have a feeling they still fall short.