Flaherty deal caps eventful Deadline for Cards

St. Louis receives three Orioles prospects, restocks farm system with 2024 in mind

August 2nd, 2023

ST. LOUIS -- When the Cardinals continued the teardown of a 2023 roster they thought would contend for a title, they did so with the desire to make the necessary moves to put themselves in a position to bounce back and be playoff contenders again in ‘24.

When St. Louis was unable to land the kind of proven, MLB-ready pitching talent needed for next season before Tuesday’s 5 p.m. CT Trade Deadline -- and instead had to settle for a haul of nine Minor Leaguers and one middle reliever -- it heaped even more importance and pressure onto an offseason that figures to be a critical one for a Cardinals club that might be closer to rebuilding than contending.

Cardinals receive: INF César Prieto (Orioles' No. 16 prospect), LHP Drew Rom (Orioles' No. 18 prospect), RHP Zack Showalter
Orioles receive: RHP Jack Flaherty

In dealing right-hander to the Orioles and shortstop to the Blue Jays, the Cards got four more Minor Leaguers. Combined with the haul they received from dealing away left-handed starter Jordan Montgomery, closer Jordan Hicks and relievers Chris Stratton and Génesis Cabrera, St. Louis restocked its farm system with seven pitchers (five starters) and three position players.

Cardinals get: RHP Matt Svanson
Blue Jays get: SS Paul DeJong and cash

John King, acquired on Sunday from the Rangers in the trade for Montgomery and Stratton, is the only player ready to compete at the Major League level. Three pitchers and one position player are headed to Triple-A Memphis, and Cardinals president John Mozeliak said some of those newcomers could make their MLB debuts later this season as the club focuses on development.

Still, the Cards will most likely head into the offseason with only two starting pitchers under contract: Miles Mikolas and Steven Matz. Needing to add three starters, whether via trades or free agency, figures to be a rather daunting task.

“It’s going to be work,” Mozeliak said with a sigh.

In dealing Flaherty to Baltimore, St. Louis received infielder César Prieto and left-handed pitchers Drew Rom and Zack Showalter.

Prieto will slot in at the No. 9 ranked player in the Cards’ system, per MLB Pipeline. Right-handers Tekoah Roby (No. 4) and Sem Robberse (No. 6) and infielder Thomas Saggese (No. 8) -- prospects acquired on Sunday -- are newcomers to the Top 10 rankings.

Prieto is heading for Triple-A Memphis, along with Robberse and No. 22 prospect Adam Kloffenstein, who was acquired for Hicks.

For DeJong, the Cards got back 24-year-old right-hander Matt Svanson, who is bound for Double-A Springfield.

All five players the Cardinals traded in the past three days will be free agents at season’s end, limiting what the club could command in return.

Asked how St. Louis could expect to still be a contender in 2024 after getting a crop of Minor Leaguers in return, Mozeliak pointed to the team’s new organizational depth -- something that could come into play in trades for MLB-caliber pitching.

“That’s a very fair question and I would say two things,” Mozeliak said. “One is, the depth that you’ve added to our Minor League system that we didn’t have four days ago has changed dramatically. When you’re looking to fill three rotational spots, obviously we know that’s either going to come through the trade market or free agency, and we’ll prepare ourselves.

“But we didn’t feel those [transformational] types of deals existed. We looked at what path we could go down and we decided to go down the path of adding as much depth to our system. I feel like we accomplished that. Next year’s roster is going to look different, and we know that.

“We weren’t at the competitive level we wanted to be, so change has to happen.”

One place where next season’s roster will almost certainly change is in the outfield after the Cardinals held onto players squeezed out of the regular rotation for long stretches this season.

Dylan Carlson, Tyler O’Neill and Alec Burleson remained with St. Louis and they will continue to push Lars Nootbaar and Jordan Walker for playing time in a crowded outfield.

Last season, Carlson received word from Mozeliak prior to the Trade Deadline that he would not be dealt. This season, no such call came, Carlson told MLB.com on Tuesday before the Deadline. He was linked to several potential deals with the Yankees.

“Virtually half our roster, people asked about,” Mozeliak said when asked about the glut of outfielders. “But, as you can imagine, when players aren’t performing at the level we expect them to, it’s probably not the ideal time to be … looking to trade.

“We really felt like guys are going to get a lot of opportunity in the next two months, and let’s see what we have. Then, we can use this offseason to rethink that, reorder it and reprioritize.”

Unable to land MLB-ready starters at the Deadline, Mozeliak and the Cardinals now turn their focus to an offseason that will be extremely critical if the team has any hope of contending in 2024.

“We already know we’re going to have yeoman’s work to do to fill our rotation,” Mozeliak said of saving assets to use to acquire pitching in the offseason. “We didn’t want it to be even more difficult [by trading middle infielders or excess outfielders].”