The Cardinals enter the offseason as defending NL Central champions, a good season in the rearview, and a future that is uncertain. With the 5 year-extension signed by Paul Goldschmidt in spring training and to a lesser extent, the two-year contract extension of Matt Carpenter, the Cardinals have rather severely limited their potential range of outcomes for this offseason. Anthony Rendon and Xander Bogaerts, who were theoretically potential moves, are no longer options. And unless the Cardinals decide to go over their self-imposed budget, hard to see signing any elite free agents either, which again in theory would have been easier without the two extensions.
However, the Cardinals are likely to trade at least one player, possibly multiple players during the offseason. The outfield situation is too convoluted, too crowded and if for no other reason, they need to at least get value from guys they have no intention of playing. And unless they pony up for a free agent starter - see above - it would be ideal to trade for a starting pitcher over the offseason as well. So they’ll probably make a trade. Hence this post. So what follows is a list of the least likely players to be traded to the most likely. Free agents like Marcell Ozuna are obviously not included in this list.
#1 - Yadier Molina
I think this one pretty much goes without saying.
#2 - Jack Flaherty
If Flaherty makes the same stand he did this year, he will be making league minimum in 2020. While the return would be drool-worthy, you don’t trade Jack Flaherty for guys you hope will be Jack Flaherty.
#3 - Paul Goldschmidt
Even if the Cardinals were interested in trading Goldschmidt, it would make no sense to trade him now. I fully expect a bounceback season from him in 2020, though not quite to his old self.
#4 - Miles Mikolas
With his salary rising from $8 million to $15.75 million, he’s no longer the value he was, which means trading him would not net the return necessary to make it worth trading him. Plus, along with Flaherty, he’s the only guy in the rotation with some modicum of stability (Dakota had too much of a high-wire act going on for me to trust that guy until he’s maintained that for a few years)
#5 - Matt Carpenter
Carpenter, for better or worse, has entered into the Wainwright/Molina class where the Cardinals top brass have no interest in him playing for another team. They want him to be a lifelong Cardinal. Not saying that’s what’s going to happen - it will depend largely on Matt’s performance and if he’s interested in extending his career at 36 or 37 or whether he even can - but I believe that’s why he got the premature extension. I don’t think there’s any chance he’s traded.
#6 - Andrew Miller
Yeah being high on this list is not inherently a good thing. The odds anybody gives you anything of future value for Andrew Miller’s 1 year, $13 million deal (buyout included) is less than the odds Andrew Miller becomes a good reliever again. Hopefully he doesn’t allow a home run for every fifth ball hit in the air this year (which was combined with his career low GB%)
#7 - Paul DeJong
Take a 4.1 fWAR season, add in being in year three of a 6 year, $26 million deal, and you have yourself a player who isn’t getting traded.
#8 Giovanny Gallegos
Gallegos still has five years of team control left, and two more years until he makes millions. I could see an argument for trading him at his highest value, but it’s just not a trade any contending team would make.
#9 Andrew Knizner
Knizner will be 25 next year, has two MLB options remaining, and had a good but not great season in both AAA and the MLB. A little high on this list perhaps, but with uncertainty regarding Yadi’s post-2020 plans, you just don’t trade his potential replacement.
#10-11 Daniel Poncedeleon, Austin Gomber
The Cardinals pitching depth is suspect, both these guys have MLB options remaining, and neither would return really anything in a trade. I just can’t see a trade involving these guys here.
#12 Tommy Edman
We’re still in the “I just can’t see this guy getting traded” territory, so he’s probably a little too low, but unlike the above players, here we finally have a situation where the broad strikes make a trade possible - guy blocked at two positions he plays or he plays out of position. But the specifics - namely that he’s Carpenter insurance - make a trade highly unlikely.
#13 Dakota Hudson
In years past, it would perhaps make sense to trade Hudson - he has pretty terrifying peripherals! - but teams are not so easily fooled by a 3.35 ERA anymore. Might as well hope the 3.35 ERA is more indicative than... every other advanced stat (4.93 FIP, 5.08 SIERA)
#14 Harrison Bader
You’ll notice there are no outfielders in the top 13. I’m uncomfortable even placing him this high, but I think he’s pretty easily the least likely outfielder to be traded.
#15-17 John Brebbia, John Gant, Tyler Webb
The Brebbia/Gant type relievers are not typically traded. Which yes, Gant was traded, but that was when he was a SP prospect. Gant is more likely to be DFA’d than traded.
#18 Carlos Martinez
Something weird went on with Carlos last year and if whatever happened means he’s staying in the bullpen for good, that’s a guy you trade. It seems like they still want him in the rotation and that is absolutely not a guy you trade. So consider this ranking an in between of those two states, since that’s where we’re at.
#19 Yairo Munoz
Munoz got worse as a hitter and he’s already a guy with poor defense. I don’t foresee a trade since Munoz will still be just 25 next year and still has an MLB option.
#20 Dexter Fowler
Now we’re starting to enter into plausible trade territory. Fowler ranks the highest of the plausible trade candidates, because he has a no trade clause, which would complicate any potential trade.
#21 Alex Reyes
Hypothetically, the Cardinals could trade for someone valuable for “valuable prospect” and Alex Reyes and they might not believe in his ability to stay healthy anymore. He’s still 25, so this is probably the last year you’d be able to extract value from a trade. They’ll probably stick with him and hope he’s healthy.
#22 Kolten Wong
Wong is a stealth trade candidate. I would not do it. But if you don’t want Edman to play RF, and you want Edman to play, well this is the way to do it. I don’t like it and I don’t think it will happen, but it’s possible.
#23-26 Randy Arozarena, Lane Thomas, Justin Williams, Tyler O’Neil
I think O’Neill has a greater chance the other guys - he just hasn’t gotten the playing time of a guy the Cards want for the future, but I also think it will depend on who the Cardinals are trading for, which player(s) the other team prefers, etc.
#27 Jose Martinez
I will operate under the assumption that Jose Martinez is getting traded until he takes an AB on Opening Day. For what I have no idea, but I just don’t think there’s any reason for him to be on the 2020 roster with the limited upside he has while the Cardinals have 15 OFers in AAA ready to knock on MLB’s door.
Other - Rangel Ravelo
Ravelo was formerly a prospect and formerly added to a 40 man roster twice without ever appearing in an MLB game. So when the Cardinals added him to the 40 man and then called him up in July only to send him back down in August - they burned his last option. So he’s probably done in the Cardinal organization unless the Cards DFA him and put him on the Memphis roster again. I can’t see him them keeping him on the 40 man honestly cause then they need to keep him on the now 26-man.
So basically I expect an outfielder to get traded, I’m just not sure who and what for. I can’t see no outfielder getting traded, though I have been surprised before.