In the winter of 2018/19 I decided I would try my hand at rebuilding a MLB franchise....albeit a fantasy one. Having inherited the worst fantasy team arguably ever complied, follow my progress of rebuilding the St Louis Cardinals within a 24 team Fantrax league. I have no idea if this team will ever see the light of competing ever again but what I do know is that Cockney Theo will leave absolutely no stone un-turned in trying to win a championship. Here is to a fun diary entry style series. Follow its progress on twitter - @JoelFourBases
Thursday 10th January
St. Louis Cardinals receives:
• Kevin Newman (SS- Pittsburgh Pirates)
• Chaz Roe (RP- Tampa Bay Rays)
• 2019 1st year draft – Round 2 Pick 18
• Raimel Tapia (OF – Colorado Rockies)
New York Mets Receives:
· Nelson Cruz (OF- Minnesota Twins)
· Tyler Wade (2B- New York Yankees)
· Charlie Tilson (OF- Chicago White Sox)
When I first inherited the team back in the winter of 2018, one of my first thoughts was that I needed to deal Nelson Cruz sooner rather than later. With an aging body and a new team, I was unsure what to expect from Cruz and his typically awesome power numbers. Finding myself in a position with minimal trade chips, I couldn’t afford to gamble on Cruz increasing or at the very least maintaining his high performance. As a result I had to shift Cruz before Spring Training where his aging body could easily be the victim of an injury or setback.
Having decided to deal Cruz, I went about looking for the type of player I should target in return. After a couple of weeks of scouting and looking at the majority of the teams Major League farm systems, I came down on Kevin Newman, the Pirates 2015 1st round pick. Seen by many for a long time as one of the future faces of the Pirates franchise, Newman has all the tools to succeed at the Major League level, but just hadn’t quite put it together as of yet. In 2016 he absolutely tore up A-Ball slashing 366/.428/.494 before hitting .274/.328/.368 across both AA and AAA.
I liked Newman and decided he had to be part of the deal when the Mets came knocking for Cruz. As we were approaching the first year player draft, I managed to get the Mets 2nd round pick at 18. Although it was a currency I wasn’t massively concerned about cashing, I took the pick with the idea it could be a valuable asset to have in dealing to someone else for a cog to improve my roster. This pick would later be used in the deal I sent Castellanos to the Blue Jays in exchange for premier prospects Nick Gordon & Triston McKenzie.
From here it seemed a case of who else can I get? As a Tampa Bay Rays fan in real life I knew all about Chaz Roe and his exceptional strike out rates. With Tampa likely to continue to utilise the ‘opener’ in the 2019 season, Roe’s value seemed to be high. Finally Raimel Tapia was the last piece of the deal I liked. Unlikely to be a regular piece of the Rockies 2019 outfield with Charlie Blackmon, David Dahl & Ian Desmond owning the three starting spots, I liked the chances of Tapia getting regular AB’s whether it is in a platoon roll or in wake of an injury.
Away from giving up Cruz, a piece I was determined to move with his age and potential decline; I needed to clear roster space for the incoming players. I would add two prospects- Tyler Wade (New York Yankees) and Charlie Tilson in the deal, two players I had relatively no big plans for and inevitable trade bait.
Sunday 13th January
St Louis Cardinals receives:
· Randy Arozarena (OF- St. Louis Cardinals)
· Chad Sobotka (RP- Atlanta Braves)
· Logan Warmoth (SS- Toronto Blue Jays)
Cincinnati Reds Receive:
· 2019 1st year draft – Round 2 Pick 2
Having acquired a second 2nd round pick in the 1st year player draft (in the deal containing Nelson Cruz), I was more than open to dealing the 2nd pick of the 2nd round. If I am being a little critical, I maybe could have demanded a higher price, particularly with the second and third pieces of the return. That said, I am totally in love with Randy Arozarena. Originally the 19th ranked international prospect, he signed for $1.25m out of Cuba in July 2016 with the Cardinals. Currently slashing .367/.439/.374 with the Cardinals AAA affiliate, the Redbirds- Arozarena’s is seemingly very close in his promotion to the MLB team.
With a cycle to his name this year, as well as 32HRS over his last 3 seasons to match his 59 stolen bases, Arozarena could be a very useful fantasy hitter if he can provide average, power and speed within an always competitive St Louis Cardinals team. In my eyes, I am absolutely chuffed that I was able to prize him away for a 2nd round 1st year draft pick, which would have been spent on a roll of the dice prospect 4 years from playing in the bigs.
In addition to Randy Arozarena, I managed to get Logan Warmoth also, one of the top college shortstops from last year's draft class. Given his age, Warmoth planned to skip low A entirely. Despite a log jam of premier middle infield prospects in Toronto, Warmoth posts supreme speed and contact. He has slashed .260/.359/.374 in 2019 having spent time with both the Blue Jays A+ & AA teams. Notably he has converted 10-11 stolen base opportunities.
Sunday 13th January
· Nick Gordon (2B/SS- Minnesota Twins)
· Triston McKenzie (SP- Cleveland Indians)
Toronto Blue Jays Receive:
· Nicholas Castellanos (OF- Detroit Tigers)
· Magnerius Sierra (OF- Miami Marlins)
· 2019 1st year draft – Round 2 Pick 18 (Acquired from New York Mets 01/10)
Nick Castellanos was one of my big trade pieces that I had in my pocket when looking to rebuild the Cardinals. Unsure whether to wait to the trade deadline and look to deal him then but risk him regressing within a bad Detroit team and getting less than anticipated or nothing at all the deadline delaying my rebuild, I decided to bite the bullet and move him.
With only Brendan McKay (SP- Tampa Bay Rays) and Alex Faedo (SP- Detroit Tigers) as my only pitching prospects, I was desperate to acquire at least one future arm of high quality. I dangled Castellanos in the group chat and the Blue Jays came knocking, and when they did – the price was clear, Triston McKenzie- the Cleveland Indians top pitching prospect and second overall. Rated as the 42nd best prospect in the country, McKenzie has a 95mph fastball- a product of his big 6-5 lanky frame. Baseball America touted McKenzie as “Capable of handling a starter's workload, he should fit near the front of Cleveland's rotation of the future”.
On top of the McKenzie, I was keen to acquire Nick Gordon, the Twins number 14 prospect. A former first round talent in 2015, Gordon’s progression through the minor leagues has been somewhat stunted. His lack of power has often been seen as a real negative of his Major League potential, but his ability to learn and adapt has lead his transformation into a prospect with a real ability to hit and get on base. He could be the future leadoff hitter for the Twins in the not so distant future. At the time of writing, Gordon has 299/.342/.460 slash line with the Minnesota AAA affiliate.
In terms of what I gave up asides Castellanos, who was always surplus to my plans, I was pleasantly surprised it only cost me Magnerius Sierra, the 4th outfielder for the rebuilding Marlins. Sierra has just a .227/.263/.242 line, and his Triple-A numbers (.260/.287/.341) aren't much better giving me hope that my original plan to DFA him would have been the right one.
I also managed to flip the 2nd round pick I gained in the trade where I acquired Kevin Newman from the New York Mets in exchange for Nelson Cruz.
Wednesday 6th February
· Socrates Brito (OF – Arizona Diamondbacks)
· Ronald Torreyes (2B- Minnesota Twins)
· Chad Sobotka (RP- Atlanta Braves)