Cardinals Focus On Present And Future

Deals made for now and road ahead





ST. LOUIS—The trade deadline offers a handy annual referendum on the state of the Cardinals minor league system, as they are often contending and in pursuit of major league additions if they have the prospects to pull off a deal.

This July was no different.

But instead of swapping the future for the now this year, the Cardinals found their cupboard relatively bare and took an interesting approach for a contender—they traded the now and accelerated the future. The Cardinals dealt all-star Ryan Ludwick in a three-team deal that netted righthander Jake Westbrook from the Indians and turned right field over to two rookies, Jon Jay and Allen Craig. The club's plan for the position in 2011 suddenly became the look for 2010.

Jay and Craig, both considered top 15 prospects at various times in their career, played peripheral roles to the deal because of their recent performance. Jay hit .371/.418/.557 in his first 56 games with the Cardinals and seized the No. 2 spot in the order. Craig, Jay's righthanded-hitting complement, had 76 RBIs and a .558 slugging percentage in 77 games for Triple-A Memphis.

While the duo's performance helped ease the immediate punch of Ludwick's departure, the root of the deal was deeper in the minor league system. The pool of prospects the Cardinals had to deal was limited, thinned by 2009.

"In fairness, we did move a lot of young players last year," general manager John Mozeliak said, referencing deals for Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa and Khalil Greene that cost the Cardinals seven prospects, including Brett Wallace and Chris Perez. "Where our minor league system is right now it has room to get stronger. But with that said, we still have talent below that people have interest in."

REDBIRD CHIRPS

• A shuffle at the major league level freed up a spot at Triple-A for righthander Francisco Samuel, just as Double-A coach Dennis Martinez had hoped. Martinez had been lobbying for a promotion for Samuel, one of the top power arms in the system. Martinez recalibrated Samuel's mechanics, allowing him to throw with enhanced command in the high 90s instead of sacrificing velocity for control.

• Double-A catcher Steven Hill leapfrogged Triple-A for a sudden promotion to the majors on Aug. 11. Hill hit .280/.352/.543. The 25-year-old's bat vaulted him over Triple-A options to give the Cardinals' protection as backup Jason LaRue recovered from injury.