I don’t know that we could see this coming from a mile away, but after the Cardinals lost out on Giancarlo Stanton, sticking with the Marlins was going to be one of the Cardinals better options to make themselves better in 2018. The buzz grew pretty quickly. Last night, the Cardinals sounded optimistic. Ken Rosenthal reported that the Cardinals were “making progress”, and Craig Mish was the first to report that a deal was done with MLB’s Jesse Sanchez reporting the same.
UPDATE: Jon Heyman is reporting that Sandy Alcantara is going to Miami in the deal. When and if there are more names, we will include them.
UPDATE 2: Joel Sherman is reporting that in addition to Alcantara, the Cardinals are sending three prospects “of less ilk”. Interpret that how you will.
UPDATE 3: Clark Spencer is reporting that Magneuris Sierra is in the deal, and the last two prospects are Zac Gallen and Daniel Castano.
If the trade had just been Alcantara and three non-top-10 prospects, this deal would basically be a steal. Hearing that Sierra is involved makes the trade considerably more fair. Sierra might have been overrated slightly upon his first call-up, but he was one of the Cardinals top-five prospects according to most services, and better than Alcantara according to a few.
This deal isn’t necessarily one that really hurts the Cardinals farm system. They’ve still got a bunch of great arms and a ton of depth in outfield. Zac Gallen made it all the way to Triple-A in his first full season, but Eric Lohenhagen recently wrote he projects as a fifth starter. Castano didn’t merit a mention among 50 or more prospects, but the 23-year-old lefty did have decent stats in Low-A last year.
The Cardinals now have one open spot on the 40-man roster.
Last season, Ozuna had a breakout campaign, hitting 37 homers with a .312/.376/.548 line good for a 142 wRC+. He was displaced in center field by Christian Yelich last season, but should be above average for a corner outfielder and has played all three positions. His line last year came with a .355 BABIP that isn’t likely to be repeated. Even so, the projections for the 27-year-old are good for next season with a 125 wRC+ and 3.7 WAR.
Marcell Ozuna is arbitration-eligible this year and next before he hits free agency. MLB Trade Rumors projects an arbitration salary at $10.9 million. That means, he is likely to get $15 million to $17 million in 2019 before becoming a free agent.
That projection is roughly a two-and-a-half win upgrade over what the Cardinals currently project for in right field, although Ozuna could still play left field with Fowler in right. Before this trade was made, the Cardinals were roughly an 85-win team. This gets them in the 87-88 range. It also doesn’t seem like the team is done, either.
#STLCards working multiple tracks in addition to Ozuna. Per sources, still talking with #Rays (Colome, possibly Longoria) and free-agent relievers (Nicasio). Other teams also on Colome with prices of free-agent relievers soaring.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 13, 2017
While adding another reliever isn’t going to make a big impact, that they are still out there searching for more is certainly intriguing. In any event, this deal seems likely to create a logjam in the outfield where Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk seem likely to be moved at some point. Ken Rosenthal reported the A’s were interested in Piscotty before this trade went down.
The current lineup probably looks something like this:
Matt Carpenter - 1B
Tommy Pham - CF
Marcell Ozuna - RF
Dexter Fowler - LF
Paul DeJong - SS
Jedd Gyorko - 3B
Yadier Molina- C
Kolten Wong - 2B
Last season’ offense was good, about 6% better than average, and this should make them even better, potentially having one of the best offenses in the National League.