One article I try never to write is the “predicting offseason moves” article. Even if you think you know who the team is targeting and you think you know who is available, the things you don’t know are enough to fill a Facebook data center.
The other danger is, once you start predicting who they will sign, you start looking very closely at them... and then you fall in love. And friends, if I have one bit of offseason advice it is this: Never fall in love.
So with all those caveats laid out, I’m going to break my own rules and say this: The Cardinals are probably going to trade for Will Smith.
He is the best option available
We all know the Cardinals want a lefty for their bullpen. Most of the chatter has been about the two big lefty free agents, Zach Britton and Andrew Miller. And that’s not surprising, because those are big names. They have been CLOSERS and pitched well in the postseason and not pitched at all in the postseason but been a big story anyway...
But do you know who Steamer projects for more WAR and RA9-WAR than either of them? Will Smith.
He also leads them in another very important category: Youngness. Smith is 3 years younger than Miller and a negligible 6 months younger than Britton, but he still comes out ahead.
The other thing to keep in mind is that it is the LEFTINESS of these guys that the Cardinals are really after. They need somebody who can come in and shut down the Anthony Rizzos and Christian Yelichs of the world. And that is clearly Will Smith.
Will Smith is not only likely the best of these three options, and the youngest, he is clearly the best at the main thing they need out of this role.
He is the cheapest option available
Smith is a trade target, whereas Miller and Britton are free agents, so we’re not comparing apples to apples here, but all signs point to Smith being both the cheaper and the least-risky acquisition.
MLB Trade Rumors predicts Miller will receive a deal of 3-years, $27 million. They expect Britton to fetch 3-years, $33 million. Will Smith is entering his 4th year of arbitration, having earned $2.5 million last season. The crew at McCovey Chronicles predict he will earn $4.1 million this year.
Smith will earn less than half of the AAV Miller or Britton likely will, with no commitment beyond this season. And as we all should be painfully aware by now, multi-year contracts for relievers are very, very dangerous.
But hold on, you say: The real cost of acquiring Smith will be in prospects. And right you are, dear reader. The Giants will demand some player(s) in return should they trade him to the Cardinals. And as Mark Saxon tweeted just yesterday, the Giants say they are eager to hold onto him, so perhaps they will even ask a high price.
But like Paul Goldschmidt, Will Smith is entering his final year before free agency, which seriously mitigates the value he can bring back in trade. But unlike Goldschmidt, Smith is a reliever, and relievers are simply not worth much.
Steamer projects Goldschmidt to be worth 4.2 WAR next season. It predicts Smith to be worth 0.9. So take the value of the package the Cardinals sent to Arizona, divide it by four, and you’ve got about what it will take to get Smith. The Cardinals still have tremendous depth, so there should be plenty of options to give you that value.
I know Saxon reported that the Giants want to keep him... but why? They have clearly plunged into a rebuilding cycle. And expectations are that with the hiring of Farhan Zaidi, that is exactly what they are going to do.
In terms of dollars and prospects, especially when you factor in the danger of a long-term deal, Smith is by far the best of these three options, financially.
This is just, like, how the Cardinals do things, man
If you’ve been following this team for any time at all, it should be clear that something like trading for Will Smith is much more of a Cardinals Move© than signing the most expensive relievers on the market.
The signing of Goldschmidt and their subsequent comments make it clear that the team is willing to view 2019 as a bit of a “win-now” window, so there’s no reason to be hesitant about adding more one-year rental players. On top of that: All relievers should be one-year rental players. There is not a more volatile position on a major league roster.
Like many of you, I share your frustration that this organization is not more creative in terms of how it does business. There is a Cardinal Way, or at least a Mo Way or a DeWitt Way. This is very much the kind of move the Cardinals prefer to do, and for that reason, I think it is much more likely to get done.
So, how likely is this move?
Honestly, I have no idea. It’s crazy to try to predict these kind of things. But when I look at the landscape and what little we know about what’s going on, this looks like a pretty good and pretty likely move for the Cardinals.