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Hypothesizing a St. Louis Cardinals' trade for Carlos Carrasco

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David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Third time's the charm, right? Up to this point (and this could still change this season), St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak has whiffed on two trades with the Cleveland Indians: the first being James Ramsey for Justin Masterson in 2014 and the second being Rob Kaminsky for Brandon Moss just last season. As winter meeting have officially commenced in Nashville, Tennessee, a hypothetical third trade would involve Indians' staff ace Carlos Carrasco, who is under guaranteed contract through 2018 (3 years, $19 million left on his contract) with super team-friendly club options for 2019 and 2020 at $9 million and $9.5 million, respectively (semi-regular reminder: Rich Hill signed for one year, $6 million earlier this offseason).

Not often can you trade for a pitcher of Carrasco's quality and be handed the predetermined opportunity to retain his services for up to five seasons. That being said, the Indians are quite aware of the value of probably their most-prized asset, and they have already shown that they will be shopping him accordingly. Just ask the San Francisco Giants as the Indians asked about San Francisco's 25-year-old second baseman Joe Panik and 27-year-old first baseman Brandon Belt. Understandably, the Giants balked at such asking price. Now, before getting into what the Cardinals may have to offer, let's first take a look at 2015 statistics, 2016 projections, and a brief PitchF/x comparison.

2015 Statistics (stat leader is italicized)

Pitcher GS IP K% BB% ERA FIP xFIP fWAR
Carlos Carrasco 30 183.2 29.6% 5.9% 3.63 2.84 2.66 4.8
Carlos Martinez 29 179.2 24.4% 8.3% 3.01 3.21 3.28 3.4
John Lackey 33 218.0 19.5% 5.9% 2.77 3.57 3.77 3.6
Lance Lynn 31 175.1 22.2% 9.1% 3.03 3.44 3.90 3.1
Michael Wacha 30 181.1 20.1% 7.6% 3.38 3.87 3.88 2.3
Jaime Garcia 20 129.2 19.0% 5.9% 2.43 3.00 3.36 2.8

The Cardinals had a historically good pitching staff in 2015 (largely by ERA), and yet, as you can see, Carrasco would have led the rotation in strikeout percentage, walk percentage (tie), FIP, xFIP, and fWAR. Sure, Carrasco's ERA was not nearly as shiny as the rest of the Cardinals, but one must remember that he pitched in the American League (AL) last season, where the league average starters' ERA was 4.14, as compared to 4.05 in the National League (NL).

2016 Steamer Projections (courtesy of FanGraphs)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP fWAR
Carlos Carrasco 31 188 9.67 2.30 3.04 2.96 4.8
Adam Wainwright 32 211 7.22 1.95 3.51 3.48 3.7
Carlos Martinez 29 175 8.86 3.18 3.49 3.37 3.3
Jaime Garcia 23 136 7.29 2.31 3.39 3.38 2.5
Michael Wacha 28 163 7.99 2.77 3.69 3.72 2.3
Tim Cooney 13 73 7.00 2.50 3.93 4.00 0.8

While one should never put too much stock in preseason projections, it is a good starting point when discussing the future performance of players in the month of December. Using Steamer, Carrasco is once again projected to be the most effective pitcher among those in line for the Cardinals rotation next season. Plus, for the "innings eater" crowd, with a projected 188 innings pitched, Carrasco will do a solid job replacing the innings lost by Lynn's Tommy John surgery.

Side-by-side PitchF/x comparison between Carrasco and Martinez

Remember: Regarding horizontal movement for right-handed pitchers, a negative value means arm-side movement and a positive value means glove-side movement.

Pitch CC % CM % CC MPH CM MPH CC Horiz. Mov. CM Horiz. Mov. CC Whiff/Sw CM Whiff/Sw
Fourseamer 44.93% 36.95% 95.11 97.37 -7.00 in. -4.48 in. 11.46% 15.22%
Sinker 12.31% 24.82% 93.92 96.02 -9.46 in. -8.44 in. 15.13% 19.35%
Changeup 16.4% 13.08% 87.89 87.97 -5.87 in. -8.09 in. 33.63% 42.2%
Slider 16.21% 25.03% 87.43 85.72 -0.11 in. 5.73 in. 45.91% 38.25%
Curveball 10.09% N/A 81.56 N/A 5.69 in. N/A 38.81% N/A

This is one of those instances where I will let the numbers tell the story. Frankly, I don't need to put it into words for one to see that Carrasco has a filthy array of pitches.

So, what would it take to land Carrasco?

Generally, I do not like hypothesizing trades (especially ones the Cardinals haven't even been linked to), but with past discussions between other teams already leaked through the national media, there is at least a foundation in which I can work with. If the Indians asked the Giants about Panik, they would almost certainly ask the Cardinals about 25-year-old second baseman Kolten Wong. Unfortunately, Panik's 2015 significantly outpaced Wong's, and going forward, despite still small sample sizes for both, Panik projects to be a more productive player. Thus, the Cardinals would have to still sweeten the offer considerably before tempting the Indians to bite. Would adding Matt Adams be enough? Maybe, but probably not. What about Kevin Siegrist, instead? In either instance, throwing in a B/B- prospect may be just enough to move the needle. Would you be interested in such a trade? Answer below.

Credit to BrooksBaseball.net and FanGraphs for information used in this post.