Column: Carlos Martinez is not an ace… yet

There’s been a lot of discussion this year about Carlos Martinez and whether he is the Cardinals’ “ace.” And it’s a difficult question because ace means different things to different people. The basics of the criteria are pretty similar though. They are looked at as the guy to “right the ship” every five days. They should consistently give their team a chance to win. And, in my opinion, this is not a year-to-year position. This is sustained success over a few years before you can truly take the mantle of “ace.”

Going into this season, I spoke often about how in 2016 Martinez showed us everything we would want to see to be able to call him a future ace. There were games where he blew it past hitters and there were games he made his opponent look silly with his offspeed stuff and he seemed to get a sick satisfaction from doing it.

The Cardinals agreed with that assessment and gave him a 5 year, $51 million contract during spring training that could end up being a 7 year, $85 million contract if they use both option years.

And so far in 2017 there has been more time spent discussing Martinez’s hair than his performance on the mound because for whatever reason, Martinez’s season seems to be flying under the radar. So in case you’ve missed it, here are some highlights of his season.

He has thrown nine innings with no runs allowed 3 times. Three times this season Martinez has taken the mound and thrown 9 innings and allowed no runs, which is tied for the most in baseball alongside Ervin Santana and Corey Kluber. No other pitchers in baseball have done it more than once.

And here’s a fun fact, the other two guys who have done it are 3-0 in those three starts. Martinez is just 2-0 because the offense couldn’t score in one of his and the team actually lost in extras.

Martinez has 20 quality starts. A quality start is going at least six innings while allowed three earned runs of less. That is tied for third in Major League Baseball. Chris Sale leads the Majors at 22 with Gio Gonzalez in second place with 21. The other guys Martinez is tied with? You know them. Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber, and Gerrit Cole.

Martinez has thrown 194.1 innings. His first 200 inning season seems like a slam dunk at this point. He is third in baseball here too. Only Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija have thrown more innings. Only three pitchers in the top-10 of innings pitched have a better ERA (Sale, Ervin Santana, and Zack Greinke). He also leads the league in games started.

So, for all the talk about how Martinez isn’t consistent enough, here are three numbers that are essentially the gold standard for consistency. He’s taking the ball every fifth day, he’s throwing more innings than almost anyone else, and he’s turning in a quality start at the end of the day as often as anyone else.

But let’s look at that consistency a little more.

Martinez has a 128 ERA+ since becoming a full time starter in 2015. That 128 ERA+ is good for 11th in baseball among starters who have thrown 500 innings since the start of 2015. The names ahead of Martinez on this list are pretty much all recognizable, but it’s not just about the names. Martinez is the youngest name on this list. Yes, at age 25, he is the youngest pitcher in baseball to have thrown 500 innings since 2015.

Let’s see how those ten guys ahead of Martinez on the list fared during their age 25 season.

And Martinez still has two to three starts remaining this season depending on how desperate the team is at the very end.

Looking at that list you have four guys who clearly outperformed Martinez at age 25 in Kershaw, Greinke, Sale, and Bumgarner. But those guys are special. And three of those four are also left handed. But the other six guys? Martinez is as good or clearly ahead of them at age 25.

This just drives home the point of “yet” to me. He is not an ace yet, but don’t let that distract you from the fact that he is still very, very good right now.

Will he be an ace some day? I think the odds are good. He’s shown you everything you need to see to reasonable believe he will be. But is he completely there yet? No. And that’s okay.

At 25, Adam Wainwright had a 3.70 ERA in his first full season in the rotation. At 25, Chris Carpenter had a 6.26 ERA and led the league in earned runs allowed in just 175 innings. At 25, Bob Gibson had a 3.24 ERA and led baseball in walks, but he turned out alright.

I have confidence that Martinez will get there.

Looking at the names I’ve mentioned in this article and knowing that Martinez is in the same breath as them is outstanding. I firmly believe that this is one of those situations where the quote, “the grass is always greener on the other side” comes into play.

In reality, the primary difference between Martinez and the rest of the pitchers in this article is that he’s the youngest and the others have had the benefit of time to grow into elite pitchers. We quickly forget that a guy like Max Scherzer wasn’t even an ace level talent until his age 28 season. The Diamondbacks gave up on him at age 24 for Ian Kennedy and Edwin Jackson.

As Cardinals fans we should know better. We said many of the same things about Dan Haren back in 2004. He wasn’t good enough. Not consistent enough. And then he went on to throw 215+ innings in each of the next seven seasons at a 3.49 ERA.

Even Lance Lynn. At age 25 in his first full season in the rotation he was too inconsistent and an emotional head case who spun out of control when something went the wrong way. We all know what a “Lynning” is. But over his last three seasons from age 27 to 30, Lynn has a 2.92 ERA.

Let’s not make the same mistake by counting all the ways Martinez hasn’t lived up to the expectations we’ve projected in on him. Instead, let’s look at all the ways he is a very good pitcher with all the tools to grow into one of the best pitchers in baseball right in front of our eyes.

News: Cardinals recall Magneuris Sierra

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals recalled outfielder Magneuris Sierra from Triple-A Memphis and optioned infielder Breyvic Valera to Memphis.

The story. With the returns of Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong to the Cardinals’ lineup this weekend there was a reducing need to have Valera on the roster in St. Louis, but there was still the potential that he could get playing time and help the Redbirds pursue the Pacific Coast League title. But with the knee injury to Dexter Fowler this weekend, the Cardinals elected to add some outfield depth in the form of Sierra.

The numbers. Breyvic Valera made his big league debut last week for the Cardinals as a veteran of 800 minor league games. Overall in three games for the big league Cardinals, he went 1-for-5 at the plate with a walk while playing nine innings at second base.

On his way up is 21-year-old Magneuris Sierra who returns for his fourth stint with the Cardinals this season. After starting the season in single A, he had been on Triple-A Memphis’ playoff roster but had yet to appear for them. Sierra has hit .365/.400/.365 in 13 Major League games this season. He holds the franchise records for the most consecutive games with a hit to open up a big league career at nine games.

The impact. 4/10. With Tommy Pham, Harrison Bader, Stephen Piscotty, and Randal Grichuk in the St. Louis outfield, there just isn’t much opportunity for Sierra to elbow his way into some playing time here. Where he stands to see the most utility for the Cardinals and Mike Matheny is as a late game defensive replacement and pinch runner. Matheny has previously used guys like Pete Kozma and Adron Chambers very effectively in that role and Sierra is an even better option than them.

Column: Cardinals should just let Grichuk run

Randal Grichuk has long been a bit of an enigma for the Cardinals. So much potential, but can he ever reach the point where he makes enough contact that all that scout swooning power becomes worthwhile?

Yesterday, Grichuk hit his 20th home run of the season to give him back-to-back 20 home runs seasons. Perhaps the most impressive part of all this is that he has spent parts of those last two seasons in Triple-A, yet still accomplished the feat.

Despite Grichuk’s struggles that have sent him back to Memphis for midseason tune-ups, he still has been able to maintain his home run rate. Here’s a look at the percentage of his plate appearances that have ended in home runs over his first three seasons as a St. Louis regular.

2015: 4.86% of plate appearances
2016: 5.02%
2017: 4.95%

That’s pretty steady in the grand scheme of things. If you look at all of the baseball players who have had a minimum of 1,200 plate appearances since the beginning of the 2015 season, only 23 players hold a higher home run rate than Randal Grichuk.

Also among players with a minimum of 1,200 plate appearances since the beginning of 2015, Grichuk’s 12.18% extra base hit rate is the fourth highest in baseball. Only David Ortiz, Nolan Arenado, and Giancarlo Stanton have been better at turning plate appearances into extra base hits. And one of those guys is retired.

Imagine if the Cardinals left Grichuk alone in the 8 spot everyday this season. In 2016 the #8 spot in the Cardinals’ lineup had 636 plate appearances. For Grichuk that would translate into 40 doubles, 6 triples, and 31 home runs. Imagine that batting behind a Kolten Wong who is hitting .295/.386/.429 this season.

So imagine 40 doubles, 6 triples, and 31 home runs from a guy who also plays plus defense at all three outfield positions. You have to ask yourself why isn’t he playing more often?

Grichuk’s final numbers will end up within shouting distance of the numbers he put up last season, but will not have played nearly as much.

2016: .240/.289/.460, 5.0% HR rate, 11.7% XBH rate
2017: .235/.285/.474, 5.0% HR rate, 11.6% XBH rate

It’s the dark side of Grichuk. The strikeouts and the lack of walks. But even there, those numbers are in line with last year’s numbers. Identical even.

2016: 29.5% K rate, 5.9% BB rate
2017: 29.5% K rate, 5.9% BB rate

I do think it’s interesting that a guy like Grichuk, who I’ve suggested should bat third in the Cardinals lineup to bet on his power, has struggled to break the lineup while Paul DeJong strikes out just as often and walks less has gotten that job and found success there at least for now. They are essentially the same player, though Grichuk has more power.

If a team were to simply unleash Grichuk and let him play I think we would see him be able to take some development steps. The last two seasons the Cardinals have sent him down to work on his plate discipline and approach. As we can see, nothing has substantially changed when it comes down to the numbers.

In my view, that’s because pitchers in the minors pitch differently than pitchers in the Majors. We talk about it all the time with pitchers who ride one pitch through the minors, but get to the Majors to find that they really need two or three good pitches to continue to be effective. So you just see different pitching in the minors than you do in the Majors.

The Majors is where the polish should be applied and that only comes from exposure, learning, and adjusting. Something Grichuk has already proven he can do.

People call him the Stallion. And it’s time to just let him run.

News: Cardinals acquire Juan Nicasio from Phillies

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals have acquired RHP Juan Nicasio from the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for infielder Eliezer Alvarez.

The story. It’s an interesting story there actually. The Pirates had Juan Nicasio just a week ago and after placing him on waivers to trade him earlier and being blocked by another team (reading between the lines of Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington’s quotes on the move leads me to believe it was another NL Central team, perhaps the Cardinals) and the blocking team low-balled them on their trade offer. So they pulled him back.

Then, late in August the Pirates tried to slip Nicasio through again, this time on “irrevocable” waivers since once you’ve been pulled back from waivers once you can’t be pulled back again. Their gamble was that either someone would claim him and they would save $600,000 or he would go unclaimed and they could then trade him to an American League club.

But the Phillies, with the NL’s worst record and first crack at claiming Nicasio, put in a claim. So the Pirates saved their $600,000 and the Phillies traded him to the Cardinals.

The numbers. Juan Nicasio, 31, joined the Pirates before the 2016 season and posted a 4.50 ERA over 12 starts and 40 relief appearances. In 2017, he signed a 1 year, $3.65 million deal in his final year of arbitration and has worked exclusively out of the bullpen for the first time. He has responded with a 2.79 ERA and 1.09 WHIP over 67 appearances and 61.1 innings of work between his two Philadelphia teams.

Eliezer Alvarez, 22, joined the Cardinals as an international free agent in 2012. This season, after being placed on the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, he has spent the bulk of his time with Double-A Springfield, posting a .247/.321/.382 slash line with 4 home runs in 54 Double-A games.

The impact. 6/10. This trade is typical John Mozeliak (will we ever call something typical Mike Girsch?) low hanging fruit. Nicasio, as a pending free agent, is a one month rental and he will not be eligible for the postseason with the Cardinals since he was not in the organization on August 31.

Nicasio’s 156 ERA+ puts him third in the Cardinals’ bullpen this season to Tyler Lyons (166 ERA+) and John Brebbia (191 ERA+) and gives manager Mike Matheny a proven late inning option as he has worked mostly in the 8th inning this season with a 1.87 ERA.

The fact that he will not be postseason eligible does made me scratch my head a bit, but he could still be an important part of this club getting to the postseason as they stand just three games out of a wild card spot.

As far as what the Cardinals gave up, I think it’s a fair cost. Alvarez is a good prospect, but still has plenty of questions too. Much of his early time in the Cardinals’ organization was spent injured or recovering from injury, so we very much don’t know what kind of player he could be.

He blew away A ball last year, batting .323 in 116 games in Peoria which got him protection from the Rule 5 Draft on the 40 man roster. But struggled on the promotion to Double-A and has missed significant time as well. He is generally considered a plus defender at second base with plus speed. The question, as it seems to be with most players, is will the bat develop into one that’s worth playing at the MLB level? He’s still young, so the Phillies have time to figure that out.

Also, with many 40 man questions to come for the Cardinals this winter, they needed roster space, so it’s probable that he was on their list of players they intended to remove in the winter, so why not get something for him now?

And in reality, the Cardinals minor league system is fairly deep right now, especially with the way Kolten Wong and Paul DeJong have played this season. Middle infield is not a massive need for the club right now.

The long game would have to be that they intend to resign Nicasio though, right? The Cardinals have been interested in him for awhile and he could be a good bullpen option for a club that has more questions than answers there when it comes to 2018. And generally much cheaper than a reliever with multiple years of setup or closing experience would be.

News: Cardinals call up Breyvic Valera

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals promoted IF Breyvic Valera from Triple-A Memphis.

The story. With the public admission last night that Matt Carpenter‘s shoulder has bothered him all season, the Cardinals looked to add some depth to help cover potential absences from the lineup.

The numbers. Valera, 25, was signed as an international free agent back in 2010 and has now played in 800 minor league games over 8 seasons with the club. He was added to the team’s 40 man roster last winter to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft and has put together his best minor league season this year with Memphis. He has hit .314/.368/.450 with 8 home runs over 117 games with Memphis. This season he has set or tied career highs in doubles, triples, and home runs.

Valera’s best tool might be his versatility. If you include the Arizona Fall League, Valera has appeared at every position on the diamond except pitcher and catcher in his minor league career. This year he has starts at Memphis at second base, third base, left field, and right field.

The impact. 7/10. The impact is more in the admission that Carpenter has been dealing with an injury most of the season than the call up of Valera.

Carpenter told reporters after an unexplained early exit yesterday that he had been managing shoulder pain much of the season and that a recent flareup, suggested to be due to the recent decision to mix him in at third base with the absence of Jedd Gyorko, might keep him out of the lineup.

He added that the sensation is a sharp pain on pretty much every throw and on most swings. It might help explain why Carpenter has a career low .241 batting average and second-worst slugging percentage of his career. He has hit .188 since August 1st.

As I tweeted last night, for an established player to play through an injury to the potential detriment of his team is one of those selfish acts that I will never understand. If you’re fighting for a position, I get it a little more. But a guy like Carpenter is secure in his job and has a commitment from the organization.

Let’s just think about this. Rather than get the injury looked at and potentially dealt with earlier in the year, Carpenter played through it and forced the trade of Matt Adams. Since that trade, Adams has outplayed Carpenter, 117 wRC+ to 110 wRC+. Then later this season, Carpenter’s every day play forced the demotion of Luke Voit who has never gotten traction.

Also how different does this season look if Carpenter gets it treated earlier in the season and is healthy today and is the 130 wRC+ player he’s been in his career over the 100 wRC+ player he’s been since August 1? That’s why I think playing through and grinding through injuries is generally short sighted. Especially when you can’t perform up to your own personal standard while doing it.

News: Jack Flaherty leads September callups

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals purchased the contract of RHP Jack Flaherty, RHP Sandy Alcantara, and C Alberto Rosario as well as called up OF Harrison Bader and IF Alex Mejia. To make room on the 40 man roster, LHP Sean Gilmartin was outrighted.

The story. The Cardinals made their first wave of September callups today. We already knew about Flaherty, as he had already been announced as today’s starting pitcher against the Giants, however, the rest were unknown but not unexpected additions.

The numbers. Jack Flaherty, 21, is a former first round pick of the Cardinals from the 2014 MLB Draft. Through the minors, he has been dominant, holding a 2.77 ERA over 400 innings in four seasons and five different levels of the minors. This season, he started the year posting a 1.42 ERA in 10 starts for Double-A Springfield before a promotion to Triple-A Memphis where he posted a 2.74 ERA in 15 starts.

He has thrown 149 innings so far this season and is likely going to be pushed as far or a little further than the club would like to, but it is a heavier workload for a minor league starting pitcher than I can remember in recent years. For comparison, the most Carlos Martinez ever threw in a season in the minors was 104 innings. For Alex Reyes it was 109.

Sandy Alcantara, 22 next week, was an international signing by the Cardinals. He had a 4.31 ERA in 22 starts and 3 relief appearances for Double-A Springfield. Alcantara boasted a 11.2 K/9 in two stops last season, but it has tumbled to 7.6 K/9 this season. The Cardinals are hoping he can be 2017’s Alex Reyes and turn that electric fastball into a quality bullpen arm.

Alberto Rosario, 30, has hit .247/.291/.279 in 50 games in Triple-A Memphis. He joined the club as a minor league free agent in December 2014. He spent time on the club’s 40 man roster last season, hitting .184 in 20 games with the big league club.

Alex Mejia, 26, will be the fourth member of the Cardinals’ 2012 draft class on their roster this September. The shortstop is up for his second stint with the big league club, having spent a couple weeks with the team hitting .214 in 10 games with the club including almost single-handed winning a game by himself. He has hit .291/.341/413 with 7 home runs in 118 games between Springfield and Memphis this season.

Harrison Bader, 23, was a third round pick of the Cardinals from the 2015 draft. He spent a week with the big league club earlier this season and hit .286/.348/.381 including scoring the walk off game winning run in his MLB debut. He hit .283/.347/.469 with 20 home runs in 123 games for Triple-A Memphis this season.

The impact. 8/10. Normally I wouldn’t consider September callups to be all that important to the club, but this is a unique place for the Cardinals to be.

They traded away Mike Leake to create an opportunity for Flaherty in the rotation. He is penciled into the 2018 rotation at this point and a good showing will go a long way towards helping the Cardinals made a run at this wild card.

Additionally, Alcantara could be an intriguing boost to the bullpen. He has the electric fastball, but also struggles with command. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. If, like Trevor Rosenthal and Alex Reyes before him, he can harness it and put in some quality innings, that can be a big impact for a bullpen that has struggled in important innings most of the season.

The addition of Bader could be intriguing for an offensive mix that really only has Tommy Pham as a consistent contributor. Dexter Fowler has a nagging injury, Randal Grichuk is streaky, and Stephen Piscotty has had a rough season. But he will have to hit the ground running in his early starts to elbow his way into additional playing time.

I don’t foresee Mejia or Rosario in a position to give the club much impact, but those three, if the club makes an unlikely run at the Cubs or a Wild Card spot, the three guys I mentioned probably played a big role.

News: Cardinals designate Kevin Siegrist for assignment

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have activated LHP Kevin Siegrist from the 10 day disabled list and designated him for assignment. They have also recalled RHP John Gant from Memphis to fill Mike Leake‘s spot on the 25 man roster.

The story. The Cardinals had 24 hours to fill Leake’s spot per the collective bargaining agreement, so that is what led to Gant’s return to the club. His 40 man roster spot is being kept warm for Jack Flaherty, who was announced as Friday’s starter against the Giants.

Meanwhile, Kevin Siegrist has been on the disabled list since August 6th with left forearm tendinitis and was designated for assignment which will remove him from the 40 man roster immediately and open up a spot for a September call up tomorrow.

The numbers. John Gant, who was one of three players the Cardinals acquired in exchange for Jaime Garcia over the winter, has a 3.83 ERA in 18 starts for Memphis this season, including a 2.97 ERA over his last five. This will be his second stint in the big leagues this season. He made one relief appearance during his stint in June where he allowed two earned runs in 3.1 innings of work. He has a career 4.89 ERA over 53.1 MLB innings over the past two seasons between Atlanta and St. Louis.

Kevin Siegrist was once upon a time one of the best relievers in baseball, but problems staying healthy had turned 2017 into a tough year for the left hander. In 2015 and 2016, Siegrist combined to post a 2.44 ERA in 136.1 innings, but he struggled this year to a 4.98 ERA over 34.1 innings. He had an earlier DL stint this season for a neck issue and now for an arm problem and the club elected to designate him for assignment.

The impact. 2/10. Today was mostly procedural for the Cardinals, but I do find it surprising that they elected to designate Kevin Siegrist for assignment considering how good he has been when healthy the past few years. I suppose he was too much of an injury risk to invest in for next season. And with Tyler Lyons, Brett Cecil, and perhaps Ryan Sherriff out there, it was getting crowded in the bullpen for left handers.

Five things about the Brewers Series

It was a short two-day set against the division rival Milwaukee Brewers and the Cardinals successfully(?) split it, winning the opener 10-2 before falling in the finale 5-6. With the loss, the Cardinals fall now 6 games back in the NL Central behind the Cubs. It is the furthest back they’ve been since July 16th when they finished play 6.5 games back.

Wham, Pham

Tommy Pham went deep twice in the series finale, driving in four of the Cardinals’ five runs on his 18th and 19th home runs in the 1st and 8th innings, respectively. Pham went 4-for-8 in the series with 2 walks and 4 RBI. He is hitting .316/.423/.525 since the All Star Break. His 4.6 fWAR in 103 games ranks him the 20th best position player in baseball and all except Mike Trout (5.8 in 87 games), Carlos Correa (4.7 in 84 games), and Bryce Harper (4.7 in 106 games) have played 20+ more games than him.

The shut down bullpen

In both games against Milwaukee, the bullpen brought it. On Tuesday they threw 3.1 innings and allowed just one hit. On Wednesday, they threw 2.1 perfect innings. If, and granted it is a big if, the Cardinals still have some hope of making a run at this thing, they’ll need performances like this out of the bullpen.

Weaver looks good

Luke Weaver made his fourth start of the season and went 5.2 innings and allowed 2 runs. He became the first Cardinals rookie pitcher to strike out 10 batters in back-to-back starts since Rick Ankiel, which isn’t bad company for a rookie. In his four big league starts this season he has a 3.00 ERA in 24 innings. That goes nicely with the 2.55 ERA he had in 15 starts in Memphis.

Homers for Houston

Matt Carpenter, who went to high school in Missouri City, TX, a suburb of Houston, said that he would donate $10,000 for each home run he hit the rest of the season to relief efforts. Adam Wainwright said he’d match it and so did the Cardinals. Carpenter would go deep for his 18th home run of the season in the 5th inning off Carlos Torres.

I can’t even be mad

Two out in the top of the 9th and Randal Grichuk gets a hold of one to center field, but there’s Keon Broxton jumping at the wall to rob the would-be go ahead home run. It would have put the Cards on top at least 7-6 headed to the bottom. But a game saving, home run robbing catch? I can’t even get mad.

News: Cardinals trade Mike Leake to Mariners

What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals have traded RHP Mike Leake, cash, and international cap money to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for minor league SS Rayder Ascanio.

The story. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale first reported last night at the Cardinals were close to trading Leake and it was confirmed this morning by both Nightengale and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal that Leake had waived his no trade clause to complete the trade. Both clubs confirmed the deal around noon.

The numbers. Mike Leake is in the second year of a 5 year, $80 million deal that he signed before the 2015 season and, except for a stellar start to this season, Leake’s nearly two year stint with the Cardinals can only be considered a disappointment.

He will end his time with the Cardinals with a 4.46 ERA in 56 starts. After posting near career bests in all the fielding independent pitcher metrics last season, Leake came out strong in 2017 posting a 2.97 ERA over his first 16 starts. But this summer the wheels fell off as he managed just a 6.94 ERA over his final 10 starts, culminating in a 7 inning, 4 run performance this weekend as the Cardinals won.

Rayder Ascanio, 21, was signed by the Mariners as an international free agent out of Venezuela at 16. In 111 games between low A, high A, and Triple-A this season, he has hit .217 with 9 home runs. Based on the scouting reports I could find, he seems to be a defensive whiz with very little bat. Which is what the stats tell me as well.

The impact. 9/10. Mike Leake was one of the few Cardinals that they had signed to long-term deals and it appeared like he was poised to be a crucial piece in that rotation for the duration of it.

Before Leake signed with the Cardinals in 2015, there were reports that Leake preferred to play on the west coast to be closer to his family that lives in Arizona. It was suggested as one of the top reasons he would not sign with the Cardinals, but he ended up here anyway. It sounds like the Cardinals had been trying to trade Leake for awhile too, which makes me wonder who initiated the desire to trade him.

This deal makes you wonder what the angle is for the Cardinals. They free up some room in their payroll budget. Are they going to make a play for a star closer like Wade Davis? Are they going to go after re-signing Lance Lynn? Is it to free up space to acquire another pitcher by trade? Or could it be to do none of the above and just cash out in distributions to ownership?

This spring I made my case about bringing back Lynn because the Cardinals will need to fill innings in their rotation. Relying on young arms wasn’t going to make this team better in 2018 than they were in 2017 and this trade would seem to make it an even more pressing matter. Consider that the Cardinals have no starting pitcher penciled into their 2018 rotation that I would be willing to bet money on making 32 starts next year.

Immediately, this will provide a good opportunity for a young pitcher, most likely Jack Flaherty, to get some starts at the big league level until Adam Wainwright is ready to come off the disabled list. That would line them up for an opportunity next season.

In the future, Ascanio is the definition of a lottery pick type prospect. If his bat could ever develop well enough so that his glove deserved to play, an Adeiny Hecchavaria-type shortstop seems to be a good comp for his ceiling.