As probably all Cards’ fans know by the now, the Cardinals are pursuing a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays for their ace, David Price. With Tampa Bay in St. Louis for the next three days and the deadline only nine days away, there is no better time for this trade to happen. However, one of the biggest road blocks to this deal is management’s reluctance to give up the star of their farm system, Oscar Taveras. The other road block is Price’s contract but assuming that can be worked out, the Taveras dilemma is certainly problematic.
Oscar Taveras is the top rated prospect in the Cardinals’ farm system and in the top three of prospects in all of the MLB. Taveras is seen widely as a can’t miss prospect who can turn a struggling team around or be the capstone for a contender for years to come. Basically, Taveras is the guy that should be untouchable in any organization, but the Cardinals should give him up and here’s why.
Of the Cardinals’ top 10 prospects, four are outfielders not even considering Charlie Tilson who’s in the top 20. Also, the Cardinals currently have four everyday outfielders on their Major League roster in Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Allen Craig, and Peter Bourjos. In his limited time at the pro-level so far this year, Taveras has played mostly in right or center at the expense of Jay or Craig. While neither of those guys are of All-Star caliber, both are solid bats in this already weak lineup so taking time away from them for an unproven prospect is risky.
Ultimately, Taveras is expected to be Matt Holliday’s replacement as Craig can move to left and Taveras will play right. However, Holliday shows no signs of slowing down over the next two to three years while Taveras is ready for the pros right now. Thus it makes sense for the Cardinals to alleviate their overcrowding problem in the outfield by jettisoning Taveras to Tampa in favor of a more pressing need. By losing Taveras, Matt Holliday will continue to hold his current job for as long as he’s productive and the Cardinals can continue to groom James Ramsey or Stephen Piscotty to take over for him.
2. Lack of Production
First things first, this is Taveras’ rookie season so his numbers this year have little meaning for the long run. That being said, betting on a prospect to blossom into an All-Star is usually a losing bet. There is too much uncertainty in prospect rankings and long-term estimates of production for too much stock to be invested in them. Taveras could very easily become the next Willy Mays, but he could just as easily turn into Dominic Brown. There’s no telling what Taveras will be in five years so arguing to keep him based on projections is foolhardy.
With projections aside, Taveras is not helping this team in 2014. He’s hitting .190/.226/.266 which is just miserable for a professional baseball player. After the home run he hit in his debut, Taveras has not launched another dinger and has only managed three doubles.
On the other hand, David Price is a proven ace who won the Cy Young last year and would give the Cardinals a fearsome one-two punch to rival that of the Dodgers. For the 2014 season, David Price is vastly more important to the Cardinals than Oscar Taveras.
The Bottom Line: Oscar Taveras is potentially a franchise-building prospect, but in no way is he the guaranteed thing. For the Cardinals to contend this season, they need more starting pitching, and David Price would instantly put the Cardinals at the top of the National League with the Dodgers. The Cardinals also have potential replacements for Taveras in Stephen Piscotty and James Ramsey.
Overall, giving up Taveras is not going to be as large of a detriment to the Cards as many people are saying. If David Price signs a long-term contract and is dealt to this club, we will be so much better off than having Taveras try to figure out Major League pitching over the next year or so. Hopefully John Mozeliak can get the deal done, and David Price will be holding that trophy high in October wearing Cardinal red.