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Exploring the potential of an Evan Longoria trade

Could a Cardinals Plan B be a part of Plan A in acquiring Giancarlo Stanton?

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Tampa Bay Rays v St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The Cardinals have yet to trade for Giancarlo Stanton. No team has yet traded for Giancarlo Stanton. There seems to be momentum going away from the Cardinals, but as Ken Rosenthal says, the “situation remains fluid”. That applies to the Cardinals as well. They aren’t out on Stanton but the Marlins have other outfielders the Cardinals are interested in—I’ve advocated for Christian Yelich—and there are other opportunities out there. There is also the possibility that Plan B turns into Plan A.

Earlier this week, Derrick Goold reported on potential alternatives for the Cardinals and indicated there have been talks with the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Cardinals have also had discussions with Tampa Bay about its closer, Alex Colome, and a source confirmed those talks could shift or expand to include third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays are also reportedly looking to trim payroll, and the Gold Glove winner is due $86 million through 2022, $94 million if an option is exercised for 2023.

Less than two weeks into the coming season Longoria, 32, would achieve “10/5” no-trade rights after 10 years of service time, including the past five with one team. If the Rays wish to move him without the bind the Marlins are in with Stanton’s no-trade clause, now is the time.

This trade makes some sense on its face, but doesn’t present a significant upgrade for the Cardinals. Evan Longoria is a good player, but he isn’t what he once was. Last season, he was average on offense with a wRC+ of 96. With decent defense at third base and durability—he received 677 plate appearances last season and averaged 685 PA over the last five years—he was worth 2.5 WAR.

Last season, in fewer than 500 PA, Jedd Gyroko was worth the same 2.5 WAR. This season, Longoria is projected for a slight bounceback to 3.0 WAR while Gyorko is projected to do about the same and get to 2.2 WAR. Putting Gyorko in a super-utility role, getting his production plus that of Longoria’s is probably worth at least a win, maybe two compared to Gyorko full-time at third with Greg Garcia the primary infield backup.

Longoria is pretty cheap, and probably has a slight surplus on his contract, assuming you agree that the 32-year-old is a three-win player right now. He’s not the big bat the Cardinals have presumably been seeking, and he isn’t near as valuable as a player like Christian Yelich. Add in Alex Colome and you might argue the Cardinals see a 2.5 win improvement compared to the talent on hand.

As for what it might take in trade to acquire those two, Colome’s reputation as closer and Longoria’s reputation as one of the best players in baseball over the last decade and Tampa Bay’s franchise player would seem to make the cost of trading prohibitive, at least in terms of trading away potential talent. Is Dakota Hudson, Jose Martinez, and Randy Arozarena going to get a trade done? Probably not, but that is probably a fair offer given the present talent and contract situations. It would seem to make a deal like this unlikely, and it would certainly be a disappointing pivot for a team looking to make a big move.

There is one other wrinkle to this situation. We know that Giancarlo Stanton wants to go to the Dodgers, and we know that the Dodgers don’t seem eager to jump into the fray. Craig Mish has reported that Stanton is willing to waive his no-trade clause for four teams. Those four teams are the Dodgers, Astros, Yankees, Cubs.

What happened to all that West Coast talk? Maybe it is just a smokescreen by the Marlins to make Stanton seem unreasonable, but it just so happens that those are four of the very best teams in baseball. It’s not that Stanton doesn’t want to go to a rebuilding team, its that if he is not going to get his preferred pick of the Dodgers, he is only willing to go to a team that is almost assured of a playoff berth next season.

Acquiring Stanton would put the Cardinals in a great position for next year, but it isn’t likely to make them favorites over the Cubs. Stanton has earned the right to do whatever he wants with his no-trade clause and nobody should fault him for exercising his right. Stanton is willing to accept a trade to the Cardinals yet, but his mind might change.

In his latest piece for the Athletic, Ken Rosenthal combines some reporting with some speculation.

Stanton’s thinking is fluid, other sources say—he does not deal in absolutes. Perhaps the Giants could sway him if they landed Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani. Perhaps the Cardinals could build their own convincing case by trading for Rays closer Alex Colome and third baseman Evan Longoria.

As mentioned above, adding Longoria and Colome makes the Cardinals better, but not that much better considering the cost in trade and salary. However, the perception of trading for Longoria and Colome might have more of an impact than the one provided on the field. Adding a name like Longoria could make Stanton feel a little more comfortable about accepting a trade to the Cardinals.

This doesn’t feel like a likely scenario, but the Cardinals, the Marlins, and Stanton are certainly considering all of their options at this point. The Cardinals can certainly afford to take on all of the salaries involved. For the Cardinals, the better option would certainly be to hope Stanton eventually accepts a trade or that they can pull of a deal for Christian Yelich.

Adding Longoria doesn’t make a lot of sense on its face, there is a certain amount of reason behind the deal, even without Stanton. Without another accompanying move, it isn’t going to make a substantial dent in the gap between the Cubs and the Cardinals.