Sometimes, a player needs a change of scenery in order to get back on track. That may prove to be the case with St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong.
It’s not about the money. It’s about winning. The Los Angeles Dodgers recently designated Carl Crawford for assignment (DFA) though they owe him $35 million on his current contract. The Boston Red Sox Triple-A affiliate has Allen Craig ($9M) and Rusney Castillo ($11.2M) on their roster. Big market teams are not willing to keep someone on the roster who is not producing, no matter what they make. When Jhonny Peralta was activated from the disabled list on Monday for the St. Louis Cardinals, Kolten Wong found this out first hand when he was demoted to Triple-A Memphis.
Kolten Wong is remembered in baseball circles as the guy who Koji Uehara picked off first base to end Game 4 of the World Series in 2013 with postseason superstar Carlos Beltran standing at the plate as the tying run (Wong was pinch running for Craig, strangely enough). The 2011 first round draft choice bounced back from that disappointment to post a .680 OPS in 113 games for St. Louis, placing third in the Rookie of the Year voting.
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After starting 140 games at second base in 2015, the Cardinals locked up Wong with a five year, $25.5 million deal though he wouldn’t have been eligible for arbitration until after this season. Wong’s contract is actually back-loaded so he is making $1.25 million this year, about two and a half times more than a rookie, so it is not nearly as extreme as those other cases.
What would certainly get Wong back in the majors would be if he was traded to the Atlanta Braves for Julio Teheran. Both are 25 years of age. Teheran is in the midst of a six year $32 million deal that will lock him up through 2019 with an option for 2020. He has $26.3 million left on the deal after this season (Wong has $24 million left on his deal). The option for 2020 is for $12 million which is more than reasonable for a front line starter. Wong has slumped of late but he has to be a better option for the Braves than 34 year old journeyman Kelly Johnson and his .580 OPS this season. Wong would be out of the St. Louis spotlight and be able to flourish again in a low pressure environment.
The Cardinals are obviously looking to win games now as it is the first week of June and they are ten games out of the division lead in the National League Central. They are willing to keep Diaz at short, a guy they DFA’d last July, because of his hot start (.328/.359/.547 with eight homers and 30 RBI), to move Peralta to third, where he hasn’t played in six years as well as move Carpenter to second base where he hasn’t played in three years.
While Carlos Martinez could be moved back to the bullpen where he could ramp up his fastball to triple digit levels. He hasn’t pitched out of the bullpen since 2014, but clearly where guys have played lately isn’t a big concern to the Cardinals. They need wins right now however they can get them.
What the Cardinals might have to do to get this deal done is part with highly touted minor league pitcher Alex Reyes. This would give Reyes a chance to break into the big leagues or the Braves could simply develop Reyes further since he has only three starts above AA. In those three starts, he has struck out 26 batters, sparking fans to call for his call-up to the Cardinals struggling rotation.
This trade could work for all parties. Would the Cardinals make such a bold move?