Why the Cardinals Should Dominate the Trade Market

It’s been largely quiet from the Cardinals since the workforce inked longtime division rival Willson Contreras to a five-year contract, formally tabbing him as the inheritor to the franchise icon Yadier Molina. Filling the void left by Molina was clearly the prime precedence for the Cards this winter, though they had been additionally loosely tied to the marketplace for the prime obtainable shortstops and a few free-agent pitchers.

With Contreras now signed, a glance up and down the roster in St. Louis reveals a robust group that is more likely to contend for one more NL Central crown in 2023. The Cardinals may use one other left-handed reliever — Andrew Chaffin, Matt Moore, Zack Britton and Brad Hand are amongst the still-available names — and maybe they might stand to discover a stronger backup to Contreras. Broadly talking, nevertheless, it is a deep and gifted roster with a pleasant group of relievers, loads of rotation depth and a superb little bit of positional flexibility, because of the versatility of gamers like Tommy Edman and Brendan Donovan.

All that stated, it additionally does not really feel as if the Cardinals are accomplished this winter. For one factor, their total rotation, other than lefty Steven Matz, will attain free company subsequent winter. The Cards may additionally stand so as to add one other bat to the combine; whereas younger sluggers Juan Yepez and Nolan Gorman provide upside as candidates who can spend a while at DH, neither has fairly established himself as a confirmed large league bat simply but.

In left discipline, the Cardinals have a high quality possibility Tyler O’Neill — if he is wholesome. A shoulder impingement and two hamstring strains restricted O’Neill to 96 video games and fairly presumably contributed to a diminished .228/.308/.392 batting line. In middle, 24-year-old Dylan Carlson is a former prime prospect whose numbers had been strong in ’22 however not fairly what they had been in 2021. Lars Nootbaar had a breakout second half in proper discipline. It’s a gifted trio, however to not the extent of the Cardinals’ star-studded infield. Moveover, the Cardinals produce other younger outfield choices ready in the wings, with Alec Burleson already having made his debut, Moises Gomez all however prepared on the heels of an enormous minor league season, and uber-prospect Jordan Walker additionally looming in Triple-A.

It looks like, for all the younger expertise the Cards have, there’s room for not less than yet another notable bat to be plugged into the lineup. And, with so many beginning pitchers set to achieve the open market (or, in Adam Wainwright‘s case, retire) subsequent offseason, the Cardinals would most likely love so as to add some controllable pitching.

Looking by the Cardinals’ depth chart, there’s just about no participant who may each be conceivably obtainable and in addition unattainable for the Cards. The Redbirds have prospects and younger, MLB-ready expertise at just about any place, which units them up for innumerable commerce prospects, be it with the Marlins or one other membership.

Let’s run by a few of the expertise they might dangle when in search of an influence bat or high-end pitcher to fit into the rotation:

A Top Catching Prospect

Ivan Herrera was considered as the Cardinals’ catcher of the future for the previous a number of years, however with Contreras now signed for half a decade, a cloud has been solid on his position with the membership. Herrera may nonetheless perform as a high-quality backup to Contreras, and Contreras is an effective sufficient hitter that he may slot in as a DH on days he isn’t behind the plate. Perhaps that opens the door for Herrera to carve out a bigger position than most backup catchers may maintain, however this can be a 22-year-old who simply batted .268/.374/.396 in opposition to older Triple-A contest and ranks as the sport’s no. 84 prospects over at Baseball America. He’s a pleasant security internet and a probably very overqualified backup to Contreras… however he’d even be extremely interesting to any membership missing a long-term possibility behind the plate.

Outfielders Galore

As talked about above, any of O’Neill, Carlson or Nootbaar would maintain attraction to different golf equipment, albeit to various extents. O’Neill has simply two years of membership management remaining and is coming off a down season … however he additionally mashed at a .286/.352/.560 clip and clubbed 34 homers whereas taking part in sturdy protection in 2021. Plenty of groups are searching for a righty bat and may be intrigued to gamble on a rebound. Both Carlson (who was talked about in Juan Soto rumors) and Nootbaar (who was reportedly of curiosity to the Jays and A’s of their talks about catching trades this offseason) provide much more membership management and loads of long-term upside.

Trading anybody from that group would completely require the Cardinals to obtain large league expertise in one other space: be it a extra impactful, established offensive presence to fit into the outfield or maybe a high quality beginning pitcher with a number of years of membership management remaining. In both occasion, any of O’Neill, Carlson or Nootbaar would most likely be simply one in all a number of gamers moved as a part of the return for a longtime large leaguer.

Beyond their steady of present MLB outfielders, the Cards have Burleson, Gomez and Walker. Burleson, the No. 68 prospect on Baseball America’s Top 100 listing, struggled in 53 plate appearances throughout final 12 months’s MLB debut however posted an enormous .331/.372/.532 slash in 109 Triple-A video games. Gomez performed 60 video games apiece in Double-A and Triple-A, hitting a mixed .294/.371/.624 with 39 dwelling runs. Walker, a 2020 first-round choose who ranks amongst the sport’s prime ten general prospects on nearly any publication, is probably the most “untouchable” of all the Cardinals’ younger hitters. However, like Gomez and Burleson, he additionally presents a near-MLB alternative ought to the Cards transfer one in all their present large league outfielders in a commerce bundle. Walker was drafted as a 3rd baseman, however Nolan Arenado‘s presence means he’ll doubtless debut as an outfielder. After hitting .306/.388/.510 as a 20-year-old and one in all the youngest gamers in Double-A, he is most likely not far off.

Young Infielders

The St. Louis infield is generally set with Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt at the corners, Tommy Edman at shortstop and Brendan Donovan at second base. It’s unlikely the Cards would transfer anybody from that group, though should you needed to argue that Donovan, the third-place NL Rookie of the Year finisher, might be included in a bundle for an influence participant, that is not less than loosely possible. The A’s reportedly requested about him in talks for Sean Murphythough maybe the incontrovertible fact that the Cardinals balked at Oakland’s asking value tells us most of what we have to find out about Donovan’s availability (or lack thereof).

It’s a robust group, and each Edman and Donovan will be deployed just about wherever on the diamond. Each performed not less than 5 positions in 2022 alone. Perhaps Donovan will in the end settle into some kind of super-utility position, however that’d require a step ahead from one other younger infielder — which the Cardinals simply occur to own.

Nolan Gorman did not precisely explode onto the scene in his rookie marketing campaign, however he held his personal with a .226/.300/.420 batting line and 14 homers in 313 plate appearances. Much of his manufacturing got here early on and was adopted by a strikeout-laden stoop — he fanned in 32.3% of his plate appearances — however Gorman is one other former prime prospect who additionally tattooed Triple-A pitching in the type of a .275/. 330/.585 output, together with 16 dwelling runs in simply 188 plate appearances. Originally a 3rd baseman, he shifted over to second base due to Arenado. He now has a good bit of expertise at each spots.

Down on the farm, 20-year-old Masyn Winn occupies the No. 56 spot on BA’s Top 100 listing. Like Walker, he is already spent a full season in Double-A. He did not hit fairly as nicely, however his .258/.349/.432 output was league-average by measure of wRC+ (100), and like Walker, he was one in all the league’s youngest gamers. BA praises Winn for having “by far the strongest throwing arm in the minor leagues” and touts him as a plus-plus runner and offers him an opportunity to be an above-average defender at shortstop. Winn was drafted as a two-way participant, however he solely pitched one inning in professional ball.

Starting Pitching Prospects

It’s maybe counterintuitive to have simply talked about how the Cardinals want controllable beginning pitching after which tout a deep crop of high quality pitching prospects from which they might commerce. But attrition amongst pitching prospects is even larger than place gamers. That’s to not say these arms haven’t got worth — in fact they do — but it surely’s simpler to financial institution on these arms changing when hoping to fill one rotation spot. Hoping to fill three to 4 rotation spots with in-house prospects is nothing in need of madness.

The Cardinals aren’t brief on intriguing arms, with Gordon Graceff, Matthew Liberatore and Tink Hence all actively rating, or having lately been ranked on varied top-100 lists round the business. Hence (No. 57) and Graceffo (66) are just some spots aside on BA’s prime 100 at the second.

Both Liberatore and fellow lefty Zack Thompson (the No. 19 choose in 2019) have reached the Major Leagues already however haven’t but established themselves. Liberatore posted ERAs north of 5.00 in each Triple-A and in 34 2/3 large league innings final season, however he is nonetheless simply 23 years previous and has not less than six years of membership management — plus a pair of minor league possibility years remaining. Thompson threw an equivalent 34 2/3 Major League innings in 2022 however did so primarily out of the bullpen. He additionally pitched to a pristine 2.08 ERA, and whereas his 19.9% ​​strikeout charge and 10.3% stroll charge each go away one thing to be desired, he averages simply shy of 95 mph along with his heater and did rack up a formidable 53.7% ground-ball charge .

St. Louis has additional depth in the type of righty Dakota Hudson, who’s been pushed out of their rotation however is a ground-ball machine with two years of membership management remaining. Hudson has only a 4.31 ERA and 13.3% strikeout charge since getting back from Tommy John surgical procedure, and his once-blistering sinker averaged simply 91.6 mph post-surgery. Still, he is a ready-made fourth or fifth starter candidate with three possibility years remaining. Jake Woodford is lower from an identical material as a low-strikeout, ground-ball oriented pitcher who may slot into the again of a rotation, though he additionally posted a 2.23 ERA in 48 1/3 innings out of the St. Louis bullpen this previous season (albeit with some success on balls in play and a fluky-low dwelling run charge).

Some of those arms will likely be earmarked for alternatives in the 2024 rotation, and there is a good likelihood some will see their inventory dip after an damage or a step again in efficiency. Still, their present-day worth offers the Cardinals the alternative to condense a few of that expertise right into a commerce for a extra established participant.

Overall, the Cardinals’ wealth of younger expertise is outstanding for a perennially aggressive workforce that hasn’t drafted greater than 18th general in the previous 15 years and, inside the previous 4 years, has pulled off trades for in-their-prime stars like Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. It’s a superb place through which to seek out themselves as a company, but when there’s one “draw back” (and I’m utilizing that time period loosely), it is the timing of this surfeit of younger expertise.

The commerce market, usually, is kind of bleak proper now. Miami’s quartet of obtainable arms has dominated the headlines, however there’s little else of substance on the market. The Pirates reportedly have a sky-high asking value Bryan Reynolds that makes him unlikely to be moved in the first place, and one can solely think about they’d ask for much more from a division rival. There are definitely different names that would change arms between now and Opening Day, however the apparent candidates aren’t clear upgrades to the Cardinals. The Mariners have a pair of back-end starters (Chris Flexen, Marco Gonzales), whereas the Twins (Max Kepler) and A’s (Seth Brown) have some outfielders who might be obtainable. There’s simply not a ton to be enthusiastic about on the commerce market proper now.

That should not cease the Cardinals’ entrance workplace from making an attempt to pressure different groups’ arms and persuade them to half with beginning pitching assist or maybe a slugging bat which may not be a pure commerce candidate at first look. Failing that, the Cardinals are as nicely positioned as nearly any workforce in the league to swing a take care of the Marlins every time Miami lastly makes what looks like an inevitable commerce.

Leave a Comment