Thursday, April 24, 2014

Should the Cardinals consider trading Matt Holliday or Allen Craig this winter?

If you read my article from the other day, you know that the current strength of the Cardinals organization is their outfield depth.  The Cards currently have 4 outfielders on the major league roster (Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Peter Bourjos and Allen Craig) who could start for most teams.

In addition, the Redbirds have two top prospects in Oscar Taveras (.299/.356/.493) and Stephen Piscotty (.353/.397/.515) tearing it up at AAA Memphis.  Its only a matter of time before they force their way onto the major league roster and then the team will really have a logjam.

So, with the abundance of quality outfielders in their system, one wonders what the Cardinals are going to do with all this talent?

One possibility is that the Cardinals could trade either Matt Holliday or Allen Craig this winter to make room for Taveras or Piscotty.  Let's look at some of the pros and cons of trading each.

Matt Holliday

Holliday is the oldest regular on the team and also the highest paid position player.  He is signed through the 2017 season at $17 million per year.  He also has a 2017 option worth $17 million or a $1 million buyout.  Thus, trading him could potentially save the Cardinals $35 million.

Holliday's defense is much maligned, and the advanced defensive metrics back it up, but he makes up for that by being one of the Cards best and most consistent hitters.  He has hit .305/.388/.515 in his 6 seasons with the team.

However, at 34 years of age, its likely that Holliday's best days are behind him and it might behoove the team to trade him while his value is still relatively high.

Allen Craig

Craig is only 29 and signed at a reasonable price.  He will make just $5.5 million in 2015, $9 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017, with a $13 million option for 2018 ($1 million buyout).

So why trade him?

Well, for one thing, because he is still relatively cheap, he could fetch more in a trade. 

In addition, like Holliday, he is below average defensively. 

Finally, there are some questions about his offense.  For instance, much of his success driving in runs last season was due to an abnormally high batting average with RISP (.454).  Can he possibly keep that up?

Also, his power has dwindled the last two years, with his homers dropping from 22 in 2012 to just 13 last year and just 1 so far this season in 80 at bats.  His isolated power has also dropped from .215 in 2012, to .142 in 2013 to just .075 this season.

But, what does trading either of these players accomplish?

Well, for one thing, it would help improve the Cardinals defense.  Replacing Holliday or Craig with a younger and more agile player would help the team cover more ground in the outfield.

In addition, trading either of these guys would free up money for the Cardinals to use to improve elsewhere (i.e. the bullpen), while the Cardinals could also use the trade to help improve their minor league depth and talent.

Overall, it might make sense for the Cards to make such a move this offseason.  Is it likely?  Probably not, but it should at least give us something to keep an eye on.

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