On July 12, Mozeliak sent Cardinals fans (and Twit-ahem, X) into a frenzy with just six simple words:
“We are going to trade people.”
Fast forward to less than three weeks later: Cardinals management have made that statement incontrovertible, as starting pitcher Jack Flaherty and shortstop Paul DeJong became the latest on a laundry list of top Cardinals players shipped off to new squads in nothing short of a total fire sale of the 2023 Redbirds, some mere minutes before the MLB trade deadline.
DeJong, in a contract year and just a day short of his 30th birthday, finishes his stint in a Cardinals jersey this season with 13 home runs, 32 RBI’s and a slash of .297/.412/.710. DeJong spent his entire career with the organization, posting 338 runs and 115 dingers in just shy of 700 games.
An All-Star in 2019 and second in NL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors that season, DeJong’s recent years in St. Louis saw him yo-yoing quite a bit between Memphis, Palm Beach, and the Bigs, mostly due to slumping at-bats and little fielding improvement between options.
Now, after the deadline, DeJong was finally shipped to the AL-East contending Toronto Blue Jays, just one night after Bo Bichette left the Blue Jay’s game with injury. Coming back from the Jays is top RHP prospect Matt Svanson, per the team’s official announcement.
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) August 1, 2023
Meanwhile, Flaherty, 27, went 7-6 this season for St. Louis, with a 4.43 ERA, 1.550 WHIP and 106 strikeouts in 20 starts. Flaherty heads to another AL-East contender, this time the division-leading Baltimore Orioles, per Ken Rosenthal.
Flaherty has likewise spent his entire career in St. Louis, debuting in 2017, and also saw a career year in 2019, finishing 4th in NL Cy Young voting after recording a 2.75 ERA, 231 SO’s, and a league-best .968 WHIP.
The Orioles made a move right at the trade deadline, acquiring Jack Flaherty from the Cardinals, a source tells @Ken_Rosenthal.
Flaherty is 7-6 with a 4.43 ERA and 1.550 WHIP through 109.2 innings pitched. pic.twitter.com/uQYtnyNHN4
— The Athletic MLB (@TheAthleticMLB) August 1, 2023
In return, the Cardinals receive LHP Drew Rom and infielder Cesar Prieto. Prieto has thrown down in both AA and AAA ball as Baltimore’s 16th-ranked prospect, with an .868 OPS and 49 RBI’s in 335 plate appearances. Rom has posted 100 strikeouts in just over 86 innings with the Norfolk Tides, but a 5.34 ERA could use some slimming in order to get him to the Majors.
This was the final deep cut into a Cardinals album of irrelevance that has seen the team spiral into sellers, fast approaching a losing record for the first time in 16 years. Just last week, fans were outraged to see electric fastball slinger Jordan Hicks also traded to Toronto, then the team’s best starter in Jordan Montgomery and reliever Chris Stratton shipped to the Texas Rangers all in exchange for more pitching and infielding prospects.
Even with a younger, hopeful rotation next season, are there really any bright spots to see amongst a selling deadline? “No, no no no,” President John Mozeliak said to USA Today. “I don’t find it enjoyable at all. I wish we were winning, and I wish we weren’t going down this path”.
While this a trade deadline rife with expiring deals, exciting pitching prospects, and valuable rentals to maximize trade returns, this is rare, uncharted territory for the Cardinals, who have been a dominant force in the NL Central for almost three decades. At least with next season we’ll still see Nolan Arenado in Cardinals attire, despite a Dodgers ballclub that pushed hard for the All-star third baseman.
With the Flaherty deal complete, it would seem the organization has fully realized the “down to studs” rebuild of the Cardinals starting rotation they envisioned for 2024. Despite hearing for offers on Dylan Carlson and Tommy Edman, most of the infield and outfield remained intact as the deadline came and went. Edman and Carlson are both arbitration eligible next year, and after the deadline provided not enough return for either player, the 2023 offseason could prove to get dicey with contract negotiations.
“I just hope I’m never in this position again”, Mozeliak concluded.