Q&A with Erik from Future Redbirds

by on July 24, 2008 · 15 comments

With the trade deadline fast approaching, and every post I write seemingly spouting off about “why can’t we trade this minor-leaguer for an All-Star?”, I thought it appropriate to get some information from a better source.  Erik from Future Redbirds was gracious enough to take the time to answer some (admittedly) off-the-cuff questions about the state of the organization below the St Louis level and who could potentially be moved.

First, if you were an opposing GM, and taking organizational needs that most teams emphasize when making trades out of the equation, how would you rate the top 10-15 Cardinal prospects on a “tiered” basis?  Most discussion around trade rumors centers on Tier 1 prospects, Tier 2 prospects, and so on.  How do you see the top Cards’ prospects on that scale?

Good question.  The new draft picks won’t be on any GM’s list because they aren’t tradeable commodities yet, but if I were a GM I would put tier one as Colby Rasmus and probably Brett Wallace.  Tier two would be Chris Perez and Bryan Anderson.  Tier three would include Jaime Garcia, Clayton Mortensen, Jess Todd, Daryl Jones and Pete Kozma.  Lance Lynn probably would fit in that category as well.  Next would be Mitch Boggs, Jon Jay, Adam Ottavino, Joe Mather, Tyler Herron and Nico Vasquez.  Vasquez could be jumping tiers rather quickly based on his numbers.  I’d be rather curious to get a scouts’ view on him.

Much has been made of the Cardinals’ bullpen struggles of late. Assuming guys like Mitch Boggs, Jaime Garcia, and Mike Parisi are assumed to be starters in the organization, are there any internal options at reliever that are big-league ready in the organization? Should we expect to see Chris Perez back sooner than later? Is Mark Worrell still too unpolished to be counted on?

Chris Perez just needs to find his lost slider.  Once he does that, he would hands down be the best choice. Mark Worrell is someone who deserves more of a look but should only be brought in to face right-handed batters.  I think he has been overlooked, and with his funky delivery he would give batters something to think about.  One thing that I notice about the big league pen is that Springer, Izzy, Franklin, and McClellan are not vastly different than each other stuff wise.  They’re not exact copies, but they don’t really offer opponents a different look like a Perez (who is a flamethrower) or a Worrell (who is just plain funky) does.

Obviously Colby Rasmus is the “top dog” in the Cards organization and future plans, and trade talk surrounding him has been shouted down by the Cardinal management. Are there any other players that GM John Mozeliak should absolutely refuse to trade as the deadline approaches?

I don’t think anyone should be regarded untouchable after Colby.  For the right deal I think anyone is tradeable.  Anderson is the best chip they have right now, and he is just about certain to be traded at some point- either this month, this winter, or next July.  I think his value could be close to peaking right now.  I’d also offer up the conspiracy that he hasn’t been named to Team USA yet because he is going to be traded soon.

Can Jaime Garcia or Mitchell Boggs be counted on as a fifth starter for the Cardinals as the organization patiently waits for Adam Wainwright and/or Chris Carpenter to get healthy? It seems as if one of these guys may be counted on as a regular starter down the stretch.

Absolutely, I think both Garcia and Boggs have already shown they have the stuff to pitch in the big leagues.  I’d prefer Boggs, as Garcia probably needs more time in the minors.  Boggs is pretty much a one-dimensional hurler, but I think he can have some Jason Marquis-like value as a 5th starter.

The Cards have, for a few years now, put together a makeshift middle infield to begin the season. Is there relief on the way in the system? Can Pete Kozma and Nico Vasquez eventually provide answers at 2B and SS?

It’s a little too early to fully determine, but both certainly have big league upside or they wouldn’t have been drafted as high as they were.  I certainly am hoping to see it, as Vasquez represents a power bat at the keystone, and by all accounts Kozma should be able to reach the majors on the strength of his glove alone.  He may not be the bat they were hoping for out of the first round, but we can hope can get rid of that slappy swing of his.

With Ankiel, Ludwick, and Rasmus being touted as the Cardinal outfield of the near future – which of the many minor league outfielders that are nearing or at “major-league ready” do you think are most available and most attractive to other teams in a trade? It would seem that at least one or more of Chris Duncan, Skip Schumaker, Brian Barton, Joe Mather, Nick Stavinoha, and/or Shane Robinson would be plenty available for a trade around this year’s deadline.

There are a glut of outfielders, but I’m not certain any of them will fetch you much in a trade.  Obviously Barton and Duncan are not available because they are on the disabled list.  That makes Skip non-expendable for the moment.  Mather, Robinson and Stavinoha might not fetch a lot, but Mather has the most value of the three for his plus power.  Robinson has really struggled in AAA after hitting unconscious in AA, and Stavinoha doesn’t profile as more than a 4th OF because of his lack of patience and lack of power.  He has some power, just not what you’d like to see out of a corner OF.  He has one tool-hitting for average.  He’s like a big Aaron Miles in an outfield corner.  Looking at the recent past, Terry Evans, who is sorta similar to Mather, got the Cards Jeff Weaver.  Sean Danielson, who is similar to Robinson, got us Joel Pineiro.

What’s the best package you could put together from the Cards’ organization for Orioles reliever George Sherrill? Brian Fuentes? And one name that probably isn’t on the tip of every Cardinal fan right now – Mark Ellis?

I think Sherrill’s price is bound to be inflated because of the amount of saves he’s racked up, and the O’s reportedly are wanting starting pitching and a middle infielder.  Former 1st round pick Tyler Greene may interest them, but I think it would also take Jaime Garcia to get it done and I don’t know if the Cardinals would be willing to do that.  As for the others, I’d just forget Fuentes.  O’Dowd’s asking prices are completely insane–I’m sure he’d demand Colby and more.  Not happening.  As for Ellis, I’m not sure what he offers that Jarrett Hoffpauir couldn’t do at a cheaper rate.  I’d sooner call up KC and find out what it would take to get the ageless Grudz back.  They should’ve met his contract demands in the first place.

If you were John Mozeliak and had to make one deal to better the big-league club this season, but not mortgage the future of the organization in any way – what would that trade be?

I’d see if I couldn’t talk Baltimore into taking Greene and Anthony Reyes for Sherrill, but that would be a stretch and I’m sure a little lopsided.  If they were OK with Greene but didn’t like Reyes, maybe they’d like Herron or Ottavino instead.  I dunno. I’m not sure I like how this trade deadline is working out for Mozeliak, I certainly don’t envy him right now.

Finally, shock Cardinal Nation. Make a wild prediction of a deal that will be made – prospects or not – that no one who follows the Cardinals will be expecting.

OK, but this is totally random: Huston Street and Alan Embree for Bryan Anderson, Jess Todd, Joe Mather and Tommy Pham.


I tried to piggy-back a final question onto the list just as Erik was answering these.  That question was about whether Bryan Anderson really had a future with the Cardinals, given that Yadier Molina is firmly entrenched at catcher with the big club.  I quickly found out that he had already answered that question pretty definitively above, expecting Anderson to move sooner than later.

I hope this provides some good insight into the farm system and its impact on the trading deadline – I know I learned a lot from Erik’s much-appreciated time.

If you want to learn more and keep up with the youngsters, please visit Future Redbirds, they have lots of good information over there.

Thanks again Erik!

Writing about the Cardinals and other loosely associated topics since 2008, I've grown tired of the April run-out only to disappoint Cardinal fans everywhere by mid-May. I do not believe in surrendering free outs.
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Rockin' the Red July 24, 2008

Great interview! Erik and the gang at Future Redbirds are the de facto authority on the Cardinals minor leaguers.

I don’t know how I’d feel about the Huston Street trade. I’d probably try to get Mark Ellis included in there too. It would fill a lot of holes while trading mainly surplus talent.

PHE July 24, 2008

You know Kujo – I was surprised when Erik compared Ellis to Hoffpauir – if that’s the case, why are we not taking a look at the kid already in the system?

I’m soured on Kennedy and Brendan Ryan – let’s see Barden, Hoffpauir, and the likes. Certainly can’t hurt.

I wonder who of the young bunch will see September call-ups?

roarke July 24, 2008

Just because it is a fun game and you asked Erik to make one – here’s my out-of-the blue deadline deal that will surely never happen but would blow everyone away:

Bryan Anderson, Joe Mather, Jaime Garcia, Jess Todd and Daryl Jones


Zach Greinke, Ron Mahay and Mark Grudzelanek

This will never happen, but perhaps it should. Greinke is going to get expensive for the Royals before they are ready to contend, they aren’t sold on John Buck at catcher, and their system is barren of talent. Meanwhile the Cardinals improve in three areas this year where they need help and they can keep Greinke to combine with Carpenter and Wainwright for years to come.

PHE July 24, 2008

With Grienke, Mahay, and Grudz all under contract for another year already – I say – “Why not?!”

Greinke = young, can eat innings when healthy.

Mahay = old, but a strong LHRP with history of excellent performance.

Grudz = well, the Cards never should’ve let him walk at that price to begin with, as Erik said.

I reckon I will have to come up with my own “left-field” deal and post it here. 🙂

hmw July 25, 2008
PHE July 25, 2008

Heh. Gracious fellow, that Erik.

StLCards July 25, 2008

Nice questions and responses. Very interseting.

I think if I were rating the tiers then Brian Anderson would have to be in tier 1 as would Chris Perez. Anderson is a very good catcher and any number of teams would love to get him. Perez throws hard which scouts love. Both Anderson and Perez were rated in the top 100 by Baseball America and both will be highly rated next year, assuming Perez is still eligible anyway.

The thing I would hate to see is for the Cardinals to trade away multiple pieces of the future for stop gap players. Under Jocketty we never seemed to have any depth in the minor leagues and were never in a positiion to get the premium players because of it. We’re still not there, but are getting closer in my mind with a lot of promising young players.

A guy like Anderson could still be 3 years away and at some point they will have to decide on how much to pay Molina who will come at a premium. For right now I would be in favor of adding an experienced power bat off the bench. The Brewers just signed Durham which I think was a great move. I think right now we might be missing out on some opportunities as Mozeliak is learning the business.

Guess we’ll have to withhold judgement until we see what materializes in the coming weeks.

Thanks for a thought provoking and interesting article!

PHE July 27, 2008

I would bet the farm that as long as LaRussa is in St Louis – Molina will be your starter.

That leaves Anderson as prime trade bait for a necessary piece, something the Cardinals have lacked in their system for a long time – organizational depth.

Hopefully what we will come to see in the next 2-3 years will be a build-up in the mid-range prospects that seem to always be packaged in threes and fours to nab big names at the deadline.

StLCards July 28, 2008

I don’t believe you can necessarily get big name players for mid-range prospects unless there are certain factors at play, like the guy is going to be an unsignable free agent anyway, or maybe if you are just smarter than the other GM. I guess looking at some trades like the Harden trade or the latest Yankees trade could change my mind though. Of course if Harden breaks down that trade won’t look too good, but you can’t really trade based on injury concern for a pitcher. If that were true then we wouldn’t have Carpenter right now.

This latest Yankees trade though has me wondering. Nady and Marte? I know Tabata is the next boy wonder, but he is still a few years removed from the bigs and apparently has some character issues on top of it. How nice would Nady and Marte have looked as Cardinals right now?

If we are going to play for this year then I would be in favor of trading for Burnett. He would be a top notch power pitcher and put him in a rotation with Carpenter and Wainwright and now you have something, assuming you fix the bullpen by adding a closer. Of course, you still probably need another power bat off the bench. Of course there is also still the issue of no real team speed to speak of. Hmm, maybe there are too many holes afterall? Maybe we should sign Bonds at the minimum? He could have Mark’s old locker 😉

Just thinking out loud

PHE July 28, 2008

I agree with you to an extent – the contract concerns, the overall “down” market, injury concerns – all of these things add up to bring a player’s price down. And ultimately, if you are trading for a player in his walk year, chances are good that player is not going to bring in as much in return.

For instance, since you bring him up, that’s why Burnett’s price is perceived to be so low. The Jays are absolutely terrified he’s going to walk after this year anyway, so anything they get out of him in a trade could well be gravy for them. They either get something, anything, or nothing.

There are lots of rumors floating about that the Cardinals are in on lots of names: Burnett, Fuentes, Holliday, Bay – hell, even Roy Halladay has come up – but I just don’t see Mo putting together a big enough deal to make it work this year.

He’s not in an enviable position, to be sure. IMO, they have to do *just enough* to convince fans they still want to win this year while still maintaining all of the momentum they’ve built towards winning next year and beyond. After all, 2009 was the year they were targeting, right? 🙂

StLCards July 28, 2008

Agreed, everything I hear from the Cards mngmnt says they are still building for the future.

We likely won’t have Lohse next year, so it seems they could justify adding an arm to the rotation for next year.

Right now if I were the GM I would really consider adding Bonds. A power bat to protect Pujols and the lineup could be stacked with power. Give him lots of time off and you still have room for Ludwick and Shoemaker to play.

Then I’d go after Burnett. Maybe trade Ludwick even and call up Stavinoha. He’s a good player and his trade value will never be higher, unless we think he is going to continue at this rate of production? Even still, we have good depth at OF so we really could afford to trade for pitching if we could find a taker.

Final spot is bullpen, and Weathers could still be a nice cheap option.

PHE July 28, 2008

Well, they’ve already called up Stavi – Boggs down.

I don’t think the club can reasonably deal Ludwick – they have to give him at least one more full-time year to prove this one wasn’t a fluke – plus he’s under team control for another three years at reasonable salary.

I think Burnett might be more of a reality than a lot of people think – and that in turn, with the return of Carp and Waino – will in turn strengthen the bullpen.

Then you’re left trying to find a bat…

StLCards July 28, 2008

BTW, yes I hate Bonds, and at the start of the year when I thought the Cards were going to be bad I’d have said no way, but now they really wouldn’t have much to lose would they? Certainly would wake up the baseball community here. Talk about taking attention off the bullpen too. At the least would give the fans something else to boo at instead of the bullpen.

PHE July 28, 2008

Hey, I’ve come around on the topic – my feelings and timeline on Bonds are about identical to yours.

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