Obviously, this isn't good news for the rest of the NL Central, at least for 2009. The Cardinals are already 1.5 games up on the field in the division (and 2.5 up on the Brewers), and just added a major impact bat without weakening any other part of their current roster. Assuming Holliday plays like he did on the road in the NL (negating the Coors Field effect), he projects to be a .281/.351/.450 hitter for the Cardinals the rest of the way, a major improvement over the likes of Chris Duncan and Nick Stavinoha, who have been patrolling the outfield for the Cardinals much of the season.
On top of that, adding Holliday could actually significantly help Albert Pujols. Having an All Star caliber bat behind Pujols could force a lot more opposing pitchers to pitch to him instead of around him. Pujols is already, without question, the NL's most dangerous hitter, and this trade could actually improve his production down the stretch.
Simply put, the Cardinals are going for it this season. They've now shipped their #1 prospect and two other C+ prospects (as rated by John Sickels) for what could turn out to be a 2+ month rental of Holliday, plus Chris Perez (a B+ prospect) and a PTBNL already sent to the Indians for Mark DeRosa. The Cardinals are in a great position to win the NL Central and make a run in the playoffs in 2009, but getting there is costing them a significant chunk of their future.
So where does this leave the Brewers?
Well, for 2009, things don't look so good. The team is already on a bit of a downturn, and comes into play today just a game over .500 and behind three teams in the Central. Baseball Prospectus gave them a roughly 13% shot at the playoffs as of this morning, before the Holliday deal.
With that said, it's possible they could consider a counter-move. They're rumored to be players in the Roy Halladay sweepstakes, and had a scout watch Cliff Lee this week. If they think a move can get them the division title, they have the bargaining chips available to make one: Alcides Escobar, Manny Parra and J.J. Hardy are probably the most valuable commodities that could be put on the table. With that said, one or more of those three players is likely just the starting point in a blockbuster deal, and any move involving these three would seriously dampen the Brewers' hopes of contention down the road.
If the price for a counter-move is too steep, or the risk of making a move and falling short anyway is too great, the Brewers could stand pat. They're likely only a couple of weeks away from having Dave Bush back and their entire rotation intact again, and they could ride this team as far as Yovani Gallardo, Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun will carry them. Even without making a move, this team is on pace for roughly 85-87 wins and a 12-15% shot at the playoffs, a respectable finish, would return nearly all of their nucleus to give it another shot in 2010, and would also hang on to all of their top prospects, giving them an opportunity to continue to compete for the forseeable future.
Finally, in what might be the least likely option, the Brewers could sell. A year and a half of J.J. Hardy could be worth significant prospects or young pitching to someone in need of a shortstop. Mike Cameron is a free agent after the season and could plug a hole for someone in center field. A bullpen arm or two, including free agent-to-be Trevor Hoffman, could net a couple of mid to low-level prospects. The Brewers could auction off a few spare parts to strengthen their hopes for the future and still probably finish the season somewhere between 78-82 wins, which would be a disappointment overall but not a disaster.
So what do you think? Where do the Brewers go from here?