Peering through the outfielder trading smokescreen

Brian Walton considers what we believe and what they may want us to think.

With recent public comments affirming that the Cardinals can afford to add some salary to improve the team (what a surprise), and the mainstream media finally realizing that the addition of a younger, more dependable outfielder is the team's most pressing need, the rumor mills are going wild with credible and not so credible trade targets.

Our own Joe Mammy has lusted after the Reds outfielders for weeks and recently offered up the Pirates' Craig Wilson. Jason Scott is floating a Bobby Abreu idea. Your friends probably have their own favorites on their wish lists. Nothing wrong with having some fun speculating. But, that is all it is.

As has already been documented countless times, no one knows exactly what Walt Jocketty is doing, other than Walt himself. That is the way it has been for ten years and how it should continue to be. We'll all know soon enough.

In the meantime, at least two smokescreens have been put up. They are probably necessary with four weeks remaining until the trade deadline. As it is, the talk will turn into a fever pitch as August gets closer each day.

Smokescreen #1: "We don't have to make a trade now."

If for no other reason than the emotional need to show the players and coaches that ownership wants to win, especially when their competition will be improving their clubs, means the Cards will most certainly make a deal. This would be true even if they didn't have the glaring need they do.

The party line of "if we don't find the right deal now, we'll just wait until the off-season" makes sense on the surface, especially for a team with a potential double-digit lead going into the break.

However, upon further analysis, its motive is clear. Jocketty must do whatever he can to try to minimize the sense of urgency that is obvious to anyone, especially the Cardinals' prospective trading partners.

When the other guy knows you're desperate, the price is going to be higher. That is the same whether you're trying to buy a generator or bottled water after a hurricane or trying to acquire a right-handed hitting outfielder for your World Series contender.

Let's face it, each of the three Cardinal starting outfielders are aging and fragile. All three have missed time recently and half the season remains. So Taguchi has been helping while serving as the #4 outfielder, but John Mabry isn't doing anything. There is no help on the farm. Everyone knows the Cards' outfield needs reinforcement now and for next season.

Smokescreen #2: "The Cardinals have targeted David Dellucci and Austin Kearns."

Now, I am not attacking the credibility of those who reported these rumors, but I'd give serious odds in a bet against either of those players coming. As a result, I am not going to get into an analysis of these players' strengths and weaknesses and their potential fit with the rest of the Cardinals. Why bother?

Still, getting some names out there might help draw attention away from the real targets.

I am just as guilty of joining the chase as anyone else. Late last year, one of my inside sources told me the Cardinals were talking with the A's about Barry Zito, which I reported right here. Turns out, the two sides were talking all right, but as we all know (and some lament), Mark Mulder was the player eventually traded, as was Tim Hudson. Yet, Zito stayed on.

Last year at this time, I asked one of the Cardinals' senior officials about a trade rumor. His reply: "… just so you know I'm not a mole, and will only comment on events after they take place."

Sure, people talk informally. That is human nature. But, the Cardinals demand secrecy from their organization and I respect them for that.

So, between now and when the deal is done, enjoy the speculation. But, chances are, no one will be able to say "I told you so" next month, when the smokescreens are finally lifted.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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