The offseason acquisitions of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum by the Brewers and Matt Garza by the Chicago Cubs have changed the landscape of the NL central division for the 2011 season. Once a two horse race with the faltering Redbirds and the surprisingly effective Reds, the central now has four teams with a legitimate shot at the division. This poses an interesting question for the Cardinals regarding one of their aces: Should the Cardinals do the opposite and trade Chris Carpenter?
Pre-Pujols Decision: This offseason, the Cardinals and Albert Pujols are in ongoing negotiations that will define the next half-decade for the Cardinals. If Pujols opts to remain under the Arch, the Cardinals will be riskily allocating a significant amount of money to contending in the near future. Trading Carpenter would free up some money to pay for this, but it also might make Pujols less comfortable with the team's ability and intention to contend. It would also make the team less competitive in 2011. Decision: Wait and see.
Pujols Extends: Depending on the amount committed to Pujols, this may end up being solely the Pujols-Holliday pony show pretty quickly. If our outlook for 2011 is cloudy at best and 2012 looks only slightly better, is now the time to get the most possible return on Carpenter and free up some money to pay Pujols so we can watch him finish his career a lifetime Cardinal and first ballot HOFer? Or, are the next 2 years the team's best shot at winning an 11th World Series title? Decision: Trade him only if you get a premium package.
Pujols Elects Free Agency: This seems like the most extreme win now scenario, but given the strength of the division, the better bet might be sell now while your assets have the most value. What sort of package could the Cardinals receive by trading both Carpenter and Pujols? Decision: Trade him for an adequate package of prospects
The Market: The Cubs and Brewers just gave up an assortment of prospects to bolster their rotations for 2011, while the Rangers and Yankees have been left without the impact arm they have publicly desired. Both the Rangers and Yankees farm systems are stocked with premium talent.
Conclusion: Given the competitiveness of the central division, history surrounding Carpenter's health, and the market for pitchers, it is certainly worthwhile to explore a trade of Chris Carpenter to the Yankees or Rangers.