Why haven’t the Cardinals called up Oscar Taveras?

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Clearly the Cardinals are not pleased with their center field situation, cycling through Jon Jay, Peter Bourjos, and now Randal Grichuk while getting terrible combined production from the position. So why haven’t they called up top prospect Oscar Taveras, who in addition to thriving at Triple-A right now also has quite a bit of center field experience in the minors?

General manager John Mozeliak explained to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post Dispatch:

We’d still like him to play a lot more center field, but there’s no doubt he’s playing well. I know a lot’s being made out of Oscar … coming to St. Louis, but right now I don’t even think it’s a logical thing to do.

There are a lot of question marks going on in the outfield to begin with, and I think that would muddy it up. He needs to do what he’s doing and that obviously will make it a very difficult decision at some point. But when you look at some of the guys we have here playing center field, a couple of them are pretty good players.

So it could be partly that the Cardinals aren’t ready to give up on Jay or Bourjos, the latter of whom was just acquired from the Angels for David Freese this offseason. And it’s also possible that they have questions about whether Taveras is still capable of being an asset defensively in center field following ankle problems. He’s only played four games in center field at Triple-A, so the Cardinals don’t appear to be grooming him to take over anytime soon.

Combine those factors and keeping Taveras in the minors a bit more makes some sense, but at some point it’ll be tough to keep down a 22-year-old stud prospect hitting .312 with power at age 22.

Yankees acquire James Paxton from Mariners

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The Yankees announced that the club has acquired starter James Paxton from the Mariners in exchange for three prospects: pitcher Justus Sheffield, outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams, and pitcher Erik Swanson.

Paxton, 30, has been among the game’s better starters over the past few years. In 2018, he went 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA and a 208/42 K/BB ratio in 160 1/3 innings. The lefty has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining after earning $4.9 million this past season.

Sheffield, 22, is the headliner in the Mariners’ return. He made his major league debut in September for the Yankees, pitching 2 2/3 innings across three appearances. Two of those appearances were scoreless; in the third, he gave up a three-run home run to J.D. Martinez, certainly not an uncommon result among pitchers. MLB Pipeline rates Sheffield as the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect and No. 31 overall in baseball.

Thompson-Williams, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. This past season, between Single-A Charleston and High-A Tampa, he hit .299/.363/.546 with 22 home runs, 74 RBI, 63 runs scored, and 20 stolen bases in 415 plate appearances. He was not among the Yankees’ top-30 prospects, per MLB Pipeline.

Swanson, 25, was selected by the Yankees in the eighth round of the 2014 draft. He spent most of his 2018 campaign between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Overall, he posted a 2.66 ERA with a 139/29 K/BB ratio in 121 2/3 innings. MLB Pipeline rated him No. 22 in the Yankees’ system.

This trade comes as no surprise as the Yankees clearly wanted to upgrade the starting rotation and the Mariners seemed motivated to trade Paxton this offseason. To the Mariners’ credit, they got a solid return for Paxton, as Sheffield likely becomes the organization’s No. 1 prospect. The only worries about this trade for the Yankees is how Paxton will fare in the more hitter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium compared to the spacious Safeco Field, and Paxton’s durability. Paxton has made more than 20 starts in a season just twice in his career — the last two years (24 and 28). The Yankees are likely not done adding, however. Expect even more new faces before the start of spring training.