I waited a long time to start this article. I thought about sitting down and getting something started at least a few times before now (with now being Saturday afternoon) but I didn’t want to waste my time writing something that wouldn’t be relevant by the time this article posted. The deadline moves fast and I was hoping for something more substantial to write about, but, alas, here we are.
Recently I’ve gotten myself to a point where I’ll start my articles earlier than the day before but I reverted back to my school days for this one. And let’s just say that I’m very well practiced in accomplishing things the day before their due.
I hope the St. Louis Cardinals are the same way.
The trade deadline is on Tuesday and yet the Cardinals, with plenty of tradeable assets and no shortage of motivation to make deals, have yet to do anything. In fact, there’s been more smoke than substance and plenty of negative press for fans to stew on while awaiting moves that will shake up the roster.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t any urgency. Rest assured, the Cardinals will make deals and they will make them soon. That is what the deadline is for after all.
This is an organization that has shown itself willing to wait until literally the last second to finalize trades. Take the Harrison Bader/Jordan Montgomery swap of last year as an example. That deal wasn’t even announced until after the trade deadline. In a time of urgency, patience can still be a virtue. That’s a bit paradoxical, isn’t it?
But enough of that. Since the Cardinals still haven’t made a deal, now is a good time to take a look at the teams that they might make a deal with. Really, that could be any team but I’m only going to examine the teams that have been linked with the Cardinals, and I’m not considering teams that have popped up in trade rumors on twitter or even make sense on paper. Instead, I’m only going to consider the teams we know about that to the excellent reporting of the beat writers who cover the Cardinals.
I may miss some teams so feel free to correct me in the comments if I do. There’s a lot to keep track of this time of year. I’ve really seen 7 teams in reports, so I’m going to rank those 7 and bring up some potential pitching prospects to target for each.
Let’s get started with number 1.
#1 - Texas Rangers
Yes, I know. The Rangers just traded for Max Scherzer. I don’t think they’re done. The team hasn’t been shy about their intent to boost their pitching staff and they should still be heavily interested in the reliever market and could still be looking for another starter.
The Rangers are pretty clearly the top option for me for a few simple reasons. They’re aggressive, they want pitching, and they’ve been linked to the Cardinals. According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Rangers have expressed interest in Jordan Hicks, specifically, and have also had a scout following the Cardinals.
I wouldn’t be shocked if that interest in Jordan Hicks turned into a blockbuster that included both Hicks and either Jordan Montgomery or Jack Flaherty.
Sources: Rangers are looking at available starters and relievers, with the possibility of filling both needs in a single trade.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 27, 2023
The White Sox (Lynn, Kelly) and Tigers (Lorenzen, Foley) are examples of teams that could furnish a 2-player package. @MLBNetwork @MLB
Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly have obviously gone off the market since Morosi tweeted this, which means that there’s one less option on the board for Texas. The good news for the Cardinals is that packaging Hicks and a starter would mean a bigger return, and by “bigger”, I mean that the Cardinals would have a better chance at getting a high end prospect or two in return.
So now the question is, who might the Cardinals ask about? We know they want pitching, and Texas isn’t likely to give up major league pitching, so what their farm system look like?
Well, if we take a look at MLB Pipeline’s rankings, the Rangers have 4 pitchers ranked in the top 10, with a 5th at number 12. Of the 5 pitchers in their top 12, one has reached the majors but was recently optioned back to Triple-A (Own White), and two are in Double-A (Jack Leiter, Tekoah Roby). The other two are still in the A-ball levels, which makes me think they wouldn’t be primary targets for the Cardinals.
Still, this makes the Rangers a viable trade partner, if they’re willing to give up pitching prospects for established, albeit rental, major league pitching.
On MLB Pipeline’s top 100, Owen White ranks 43rd and Jack Leiter ranks 88th, meaning they would be the highest profile pitchers the Cardinals could target. White has some really good secondary pitches with a sweepy slider, a good cutter with a lot of cut, and a high spin curveball but his fastball doesn’t have good shape and his pitch usage probably needs some tweaking to use more breaking stuff. He’s also struggled to miss bats this year after previously posting high strikeout rates and he’s seen his control falter.
For as good of a pitcher as White can be, I don’t know if he’s a great fit with the Cardinals. I’ll preface my next statement but saying that this is an incredibly lazy comparison and I hate myself for making it because it sells both pitchers short but I could see White having some of the same issues as Liberatore if he joined the Cardinals system.
Namely, like Liberatore, White’s biggest issues seem to be fastball shape, pitch usage rates, and spotty command (despite having a history of pretty good command). The Cardinals haven’t been able to fix any of those things for Liberatore (and they don’t have a great record of improving fastball shape specifically) as he’s still throwing the same ineffective fastball way more than he should and not throwing the good breaking stuff nearly enough.
Now, I’m probably wrong and I should watch more of White before I make such an assessment, but that’s just something that I’m wary of. Don’t read into this comparison too much though because it’s not a prophecy of doom for either Liberatore or White. Both are impressive arms with really good breaking balls and great prospect pedigree, it’s simply a similarity that I noticed.
Leiter has a better fastball but his command has been terrible in pro ball and he’s really struggled in Double-A for the second straight season. He’s definitely a good prospect due to the sheer stuff but probably not someone Mozeliak would feel comfortable penciling into next year’s rotation.
I would be perfectly fine with Leiter or White but Tekoah Roby is the one who’s really intriguing to me. He has a combination of a good riding fastball, good secondary offerings (especially his big , high-spin curveball), good strikeout numbers, and minor league success. His 5.05 ERA in Double-A is a bit ugly but he has a much nicer 3.85 FIP, paired with a 25.6% strikeout rate and a 6.2% walk rate. That doesn’t jump off the page but I like the arsenal a lot and he’s doing all that as a 21-year-old in Double-A. That’s impressive.
Teams value and rank prospects a lot differently than the national publications and I wouldn’t be shocked if the Rangers and other teams were on higher on Roby than MLB Pipeline is. The Cardinals would need more than Roby if they packaged Montgomery and Hicks and I don’t know what a package could even look like but I’ve spent enough time on the Rangers so I’ll move on now. If the Cardinals do indeed make a trade with the Rangers then I’ll go much more in depth on whoever they acquire.
#2 - New York Yankees
The Yankees were one of the first teams that came up as the trade deadline approached and we know from Goold’s reporting that the Yankees have interest in Dylan Carlson and Jordan Hicks.
To be honest, I’m not expecting the Cardinals to trade Dylan Carlson. I could be totally wrong about that but I’m really expecting the Cardinals to trade all their soon-to-be free agents and then wait for the offseason to decide which of the controllable young bats will get traded for pitching. That might not be the deadline that everyone wants but it works the same as long as the Cardinals get the arms they need. Plus it gives players like Tyler O’Neill and Dylan Carlson to rebuild some of their value.
So, suffice it to say that I doubt the Cardinals send Carlson to the Yankees (though it’s certainly still possible), but Jordan Hicks is a distinct possibility. Clayton Beeter is a name that’s been associated with the Cardinals and that’s an exciting possibility considering the strikeout stuff (28.2 K%) and the proximity to the majors (AAA).
There are more options than just Beeter, though. The Yankees have 6 upper level pitching prospects ranked between 7th and 14th in their system. A 7th, Drew Thorpe, who ranks 6th in the system, should be up in Double-A soon.
This is a system ripe with upper level starters who can miss bats and that makes them a really good match for the Cardinals. Goold threw out Randy Vasquez (12th ranked prospect) as another name who would be similar to Beeter so I’ll throw out a different name that looks interesting to me - Double-A right-hander Yoendrys Gomez
I should note that Gomez had Tommy John surgery last year and is already in his last option year, which isn’t ideal but maybe that limited flexibility next year makes him someone the Yankees are more willing to deal. It shouldn’t matter too much to the Cardinals since they’re looking for MLB arms next year anyways.
Gomez could start in the ‘pen and work his way into the rotation if necessary.
#3 - Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays are a really interesting potential trade partner because they’re reportedly in the market for pitching and also have a lot of pitching depth at the top of their minor league system. In fact, the team’s top 3 prospects are all starters but the Blue Jays also have pitchers ranked 7th, 9th, 10th, and 11th.
Ricky Tiedemann is probably untouchable and second ranked prospect Brandon Barriera has only reached Single-A so that leaves third ranked prospect Yosver Zulueta who hasn’t been able to find the strike zone above Double-A and is probably a reliever going forward. None of those arms seem like a great match for the Cardinals.
Sem Robberse (#7) could be a target despite his modest strikeout rate and average-at-best fastball because he’s a high probability starter with good secondaries and solid command and is already having a solid year in a hitter-friendly Double-A league as a 21-year-old. He may not be the most exciting option but he projects as a pretty stable back-end starter which could appeal to a Cardinals team looking to rebuild it’s staff.
On the other hand, the Cardinals are looking to add more swing-and-miss to their pitching staff so Robberse’s 23.1% strikeout rate might be a little lower than what they’re looking for.
On paper this looks like a decent trade partner but under the surface, things aren’t exactly as perfect as they may seem despite the abundance of pitching prospects at the top of the Blue Jays system. In terms of interest, we do know from Derrick Goold that the Blue Jays have scouted recent Cardinals games so at a bare minimum they likely have some kind of interest in someone.
#4 - Philadelphia Phillies
It’s easier to see the Phillies as a trade partner if the Cardinals push for a big deal as 3 of the top 4 Phillies prospects are Double-A pitchers. The Phillies are almost assuredly in the outfield market and probably in the pitching market too, meaning the Cardinals could look for a blockbuster if they do have their sights set on one of the Phillies’ top prospects. We also know that Dave Dombrowski isn’t afraid to be aggressive or trade prospects for immediate help, so the Phillies are probably a team to keep an eye on.
I have to imagine that top pitching prospect Andrew Painter is untouchable and Mick Abel (#2 prospect) and Griff McGarry (#4 prospect) are probably tough sells too. For any more high level pitching, the Cardinals would be reaching into the middle to back half of the top 30 and that’s possible in a smaller deal.
Basically it seems like this is a go big or go home scenario but the Cardinals could also gauge interest in someone Stratton or VerHagen or Gallegos by themselves.
The Phillies are also a team that has scouted the Cardinals recently.
#5 - Miami Marlins
It’s no secret that the Marlins are looking for starting pitching and that’s exactly what the Cardinals happen to be selling. Marlins manager Skip Schumaker would also have familiarity with any Cardinals starter that goes to Miami.
According to Goold, the Marlins interest level isn’t known but they did have a scout present to watch Flaherty’s last start against the Diamondbacks. The Marlins are also reportedly in the market for outfield help, which is something the Cardinals could provide if they’re willing.
The Marlins do have a few high-end, upper-level pitching prospects who could be of interest to the Cardinals. Dax Fulton (3rd ranked prospect) is an interesting bat missing lefty but he’s lost some command this year and struggled with walks. Jake Eder (4th) is actually the pitching prospect that I like more as he throws a nasty sweeper from a low arm slot and looks to get pretty decent ride on his fastball despite the arm angle it comes out of.
He looks devastating to lefty hitters but needs to improve his feel for his changeup to prevent himself from having pretty significant platoon splits. He also missed the 2022 season after getting Tommy John surgery and has thrown just 33.2 innings this year since returning.
So if the Cardinals go big game hunting, those are the options. Further down, there’s Sixto Sanchez (10th), who hasn’t pitched in a game since 2020, Karson Milbrandt (15th), a 19-year-old who’s at least a few years away from the majors, and then some upper level relief arms in the 20s. This isn’t really a great system to get pitching from, unless the Cardinals stick to the top which is why I have the Marlins at 5th in my ranking.
If the Cardinals do trade with the Marlins, I would really be looking for Eder to come back. How possible that is, I have no idea.
#6 - Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays probably aren’t a great fit with Mason Montgomery (5th ranked prospect) and Cole Wilcox (8th ranked prospect) their only pitching prospects in MLB Pipeline’s top 30. Both have struggled a bit this season, though they do have plenty of promise.
Wilcox is yet another pitcher who dealt with TJS recently and Montgomery has a bit of a funky delivery that helps him miss a lot of bats, though his control has taken a step back this year and he’s also had a bit of a home run issue.
If the Cardinals are looking at upper level pitching, they don’t have too many options here which could make it difficult to find the right deal. The Rays are another team that has scouted the Cardinals in recent days.
#7 - Seattle Mariners
I’m really not high on the Cardinals making a deal with the Mariners but they’re worth a mention here towards the end of this article. Logan Gilbert would require quite the haul to acquire, and that haul would probably have to include Nolan Gorman. That’s probably a non-starter.
Bryan Woo could be available for less but he’s also missing bats and keeping his walk rate down in the majors and has 5 more years of control after this season. If he’s the cheaper option, he’s not cheaper by much. I really don’t expect the Mariners to shop these guys nor do I expect the Cardinals to match whatever their asking price is. At least not at the deadline. There could be some traction for more discussions in the offseason but generally teams that have pitchers like Woo and Gilbert aren’t jumping to trade them.
Getting either of them is probably a pipe dream, though anything is possible at the trade deadline.
I want to reiterate that I only included teams I’ve seen concretely linked to the Cardinals. There may be others that I didn’t mention but I’m working from the excellent reporting of the Cardinals beat writers. I also left off the Dodgers because they aren’t getting Nolan Arenado and after trading for a pair of infielders in recent days, I’m skeptical that Paul DeJong is on their radar.
I’ve covered 7 teams in this article but there are plenty more that I could have talked about, such as the Diamondbacks and the Orioles, who were recently mentioned as Jordan Montgomery suitors. I also only discussed pitching prospects but the Cardinals may not limit themselves to just that pool of players.
The Cardinals have a lot of potential trade partners so I want to hear your thoughts too. Who do you think matches up best with the Cardinals? Are their any players you think the Cardinals could be targeting? Are there any players you hope the Cardinals are targeting? Hit the comments and discuss. All we can do right now is speculate but that should change soon.
Thanks for reading, VEB. Have a great Sunday.