Yesterday on MLB Network Radio, Casey Stern and Matt Diaz were letting callers to the show “Inside Pitch” play GM of their favorite team. One particular caller to the show was from Arkansas and he was a Cardinals fan. He suggested that the Cardinals go out and get Mike Moustakas and Kelvin Herrera from the Royals to boost their playoff chances this season.
As much as I’m not too fond of our friends across the state on I-70, Casey Stern thought that was a great idea. He was all aboard the Moose and Herrera to St. Louis train. And he made some good points about why the deal would work.
St. Louis needs a left-handed thumper in their lineup. Second baseman Kolten Wong is currently hitting .187, utility infielder Greg Garcia is hitting just .257 with 2 HR, and switch hitter Dexter Fowler is hitting a robust .190 from the left side of the plate this year. Matt Carpenter has been fine, but those four names are the only LHH on the Cardinals roster at the moment. “Not great, Bob.”
Enter Mike Moustakas. Moose currently has a .793 OPS overall but that number jumps up to .879 against RHP this season. 11 of Moose’s 13 HR have come off RHP as do 12 of his 17 doubles. Moose would be a perfect fit for a struggling Cardinals team. Kelvin Herrera would be an obvious fit for any contending team, as he’s been one of the best relief pitchers in all of baseball this season, so maybe a trade with the Cardinals actually makes some sense. But what would it look like?
On the radio yesterday, Casey Stern suggested that the Cardinals give up 24-year old RHP Luke Weaver in return for Moose and Herrera. Weaver is under team control through 2023 when he will be 29 years old, and currently owns a 4.52 ERA (3.68 FIP) in 73.2 IP (14 starts) with a 7.82 K/9 and 3.18 BB/9 at the Major League level.
You read that right. Luke Weaver is already playing Major League Baseball and has put up some very respectable numbers while he’s at it. He’d probably be the Royals best starter if he joined the team tomorrow. He’s under control through the Royals rebuild and could potentially be on the team the next time the Royals are ready to compete.
Here’s my issue with the Luke Weaver part. Why would the Cardinals trade one of only three big league starters on their roster that has a “qualified” amount of innings pitched (1 IP per 1 team game). Luke Weaver has been one of St. Louis’ betters starters this season, and I don’t know that it makes a ton of sense for them to move him at this point in time, especially with top prospect Alex Reyes being done for the season. Let’s assume that Weaver may be off the table in a deal for Moose and Herrera, who else should the Royals target from the Cardinals?
1.) Dakota Hudson, RHP, 23 YO, AAA
Dakota Hudson would be the first guy that I’d target if I was Dayton Moore. Hudson is 23 years old in his second round at AAA. He’s posted an ERA of 2.18 (3.87 FIP) with a 58.5% GB% in 74.1 IP in 2018. Hudson doesn’t strike a ton of guys out, but he gets tons of ground balls and he’s a polished prospect. There may not be a ton of upside here, but Hudson would easily be one of KC’s top pitching prospects and could probably slot into the big league rotation later on in the season, if not right away.
2.) Ryan Helsley, RHP, 23 YO, AAA
Ryan Helsley is another 23-year old arm at AAA that could be in play for the Royals here, but he’s a bit of a different pitcher than Hudson. Helsley would likely spend the rest of 2018 in AAA Omaha should he be traded to KC, and you’d be looking at a lot more upside here. Since being promoted to AAA, Helsley is striking out hitters at a rate of 11.48/9 innings and has actually seen his BB/9 decrease from 4.39 at AA to 3.04 at AAA. It’s only been 5 starts at AAA for Helsley, but he’s looked really good. His ERA is a tidy 3.71 and his peripheral numbers are all fairly tidy. He may take a longer to be big league ready, and his floor is much lower than Hudson’s, but this is a guy that could have some tall ceiling room should he reach his potential.
Those two guys need to headline any trade with St. Louis. You’re almost certainly not getting the Cardinals top two prospects, Alex Reyes and Tyler O’Neill, in a trade for Moose and Herrera, but they’d obviously be nice as well. Unless…..
Here’s where things could get interesting. Dexter Fowler is under contract through 2021 for $14.5M/year. The Kansas City Royals owe Alex Gordon $20M in 2019, but then he becomes a free agent. Gordon is hitting the ball better than Fowler right now and has always hit well in St. Louis. Gordon is still playing Gold-Glove caliber defense in LF, and with Tommy Pham patrolling CF in St. Louis, would the Cardinals think about giving up Tyler O’Neill if they could flip Fowler’s contract for Alex Gordon’s?
Tyler O’Neill, the Cardinals 2nd ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, is destroying the baseball as a 22-year old in AAA. He’s slashing .317/.363/.676 with 15 HR in 38 games, and even had a cup of coffee in the big leagues earlier this season. He struggled a bit in St. Louis and was demoted, but he did hit 3 HR in 16 games and is still just 22 years old.
This is the move I’d be looking for if I was Dayton Moore:
St. Louis gets:
- OF Alex Gordon
- 3B Mike Moustakas
- RHP Kelvin Herrera
Kansas City Gets:
- OF Dexter Fowler
- OF Tyler O’Neill
- RHP Ryan Helsley
Will it happen? Probably not. Have I predicted trade returns eerily similar in the past? Sort of.
Photo Credits: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports