Was Brandon Moss Really What the St. Louis Cardinals Needed?
When Matt Holliday was placed on the 15-day disabled list after strained right quadriceps, the St. Louis Cardinals needed to make a move for more offense. So the Cardinals traded left-handed pitching prospect Rob Kaminsky for Cleveland Indians' outfielder Brandon Moss
What does this trade mean for both teams? Let's take a look at the numbers to find out.
Why the Indians Traded Moss
Last December, the Indians traded a prospect of their own, Joey Wendle, to the Oakland Athletics for Moss. The Indians had high hopes for Moss, as the Tribe ranked ranked last in the AL in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) at both right field and designated hitter in 2014. Moss was supposed to fill the void in the Indians lineup, bringing power to a team that very much needed it.
After hitting .234/.334/.438 with a .339 wOBA and posting a 2.3 WAR in an injury-plagued year, Steamer projections pegged Moss to hit .241/.328/.448 with a .340 wOBA. But unfortunately for the Indians, Moss has failed miserably. This season, Moss is hitting .217/.288/.407 with a .302 wOBA and 94 wRC+. With a 0.8 fWAR, Moss wasn't performing as an above-average hitter like he had in year's prior, rather Moss was barely performing above average.
Further, Moss' strikeouts were up from 2014, striking out 28.3 percent of his plate appearances compared to 26.4 percent, while his walks were down from 11.6 percent of plate appearances to 8.5 percent.
He wasn't performing as the Indians has hoped, and heading to arbitration for his final year next season, he became expendable for the Indians.
Sitting at last place in the AL Central -- 15 games back of the division leading Kansas City Royals -- the Indians weren't going anywhere this year. While ranked as the 12th-best team in numberFire's power rankings, the Indians have just a 5.3 percent chance of making the playoffs. So they decided to sell, and after trading away probable free agent David Murphy, Moss was the next to go.
And when St. Louis offered Kaminsky, the number-three prospect in the Cardinals system and the 88th overall prospect according to MLB.com, the Indians couldn't refuse. Kaminsky, one of the top lefties in the minors -- and the Cardinals 2013 first-round pick -- projects as a starter down the line for the Indians. He immediately becomes the Indians number-three overall prospect and could see the majors within the next two to three years.
Kaminsky has a 2.09 ERA and 2.53 FIP with 7.51 K/9 and 2.66 BB/9 in 17 games starter for the Cardinals Advanced A affiliate. For the Indians, it makes sense to trade Moss for Kaminsky, so much so that some called the trade a robbery by Cleveland.
Why the Cardinals Traded for Moss
Desperate times call for desperate measures. And when Holliday went down with a quadriceps injury, the Cardinals, with first baseman Matt Adams also on the disabled list, needed an infusion of offense, and fast.
The Cardinals have been among the worst teams offensively at first base this season, hitting just .237/.299/.369 with a .293 wOBA and 86 wRC+, posting just a 0.2 fWAR at the position. And while the Cardinals have had relatively good production from Holliday, Jason Heyward and Randal Grichuk in the outfield, there's nobody behind them.
The Cardinals needed to find a replacement for Holliday in the outfield and possibly an upgrade at first base. Moss plays both first base and outfield, so he fits the Cardinals needs.
However, Moss has been performing very poorly this year, and even with some BABIP regression upwards, he's not projected to be that valuable. ZiPS projections predict Moss to hit .230/.310/.451 with a .329 wOBA and 112 wRC+ the rest of the season, posting a 0.7 fWAR. Our numbers for Moss are even worse, as his rest-of-season wOBA is projected at .326, with a .228/.329/.429 slash. And while that's an upgrade over what the Cardinals had on their bench, there were plenty of better options out there.
Gerardo Parra, Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton all are on the trade block for their respective teams and projected to perform better than Moss the rest of the season. The Cardinals, with their farm system, could easily have found a better outfielder than Moss to trade for.
And further, to give up their third best prospect for a guy hitting .217/.288/.407 with a .302 wOBA and 94 wRC+? That just reeks of desperation. The Cardinals are hoping Moss can return to his 2014 form where he hit .234/.334/.438 with a .339 wOBA and 121 wRC+, but that doesn't look like a remote possibility. He might perform better than what the Cardinals had on their bench, but not only did they overpay, there were better options available.
The Cardinals got their guy, we'll just have to see whether it was worth it. Because right now, it doesn't look like it. Especially considering their World Series chances didn't change at all with the move, per our algorithm.