The Texas Rangers will not be trading a shortstop this year. That’s by far the most directly relevant part of the Prince Fielder-Ian Kinsler trade for Cardinals fans; Jurickson Profar and Elvis Andrus will not be walking through that door. It’s also by far the most boring part of the trade. We knew they probably wouldn’t in the first place, and the analysis is about a sentence long, and the end result is basically indistinguishable from running an article every day on your thrift store blog headlined Mysterious Antique Wardrobe Still Doesn’t Lead To Narnia.
As baseball fans, then, who have nothing better to do for five months than look hopefully into closets, we were granted one additional takeaway: The challenge trade is not dead (although maybe the things being challenged are contracts.) Prince Fielder and In Kinsler are both stars with very confusing futures, and two general managers are willing to make themselves very nervous for the next year or so in exchange for the possibility of a season-changing acquisition.
The Cardinals have a GM willing to take those risks, even if they don’t have the desire, the pieces, or the need to make them right now. So could they? Can we build a trade as SportsCenter-defining as that one out of the Cardinals’current resources?
The first hurdle aimed at our shins is name-recognition, if we’re being strict about our reenactment. Prince Fielder has actual star power, even when he is not an actual star, and Ian Kinsler has three all-star appearances and some MVP votes to his name; if the Cardinals are going to compete with that the other team’s half of the trade must carry most of the jersey-selling weight. And it’s worth trying for verisimilitude there, because the money side is a lost cause; the Cardinals’ only nominally $100 million deal is Matt Holliday’s, and since this isn’t the NBA there’s no demand for Ty Wigginton’s expiring contract.
That means no prospect-for-prospect trades and no moves in which the Cardinals’ bounty is spread out over multiple problem areas.
Troy Tulowitzki, of course, remains the king of this thought experiment. Not only are there suddenly contact implications, the Herschel Walker-style care package the Cardinals would be expected to send along in return would go a long way toward making up for each player’s individual anonymity.
The reportedly tradable Matt Kemp, maybe, on the Jacoby Ellsbury plan?
Jose Bautista—no, wait there a minute, I’m not done yet —at third base?
You get the idea: Inventing blockbusters for the Cardinals grinds to a halt for the same reason forecasting free agent signings does; thete just isn’t a lot to imagine them chasing. (Though if they want to do that Jose Bautista thing I’m not going to stand in the way of it.)
Matt Adams, maybe, and Oscar Taveras theoretically, and here’s the other problem —after you exhaust the usual Tulowitzki ingredients, you’re in dangerous territory. Mulder territory.
That is, it’s trivial and a little intoxicating to find a position for a star non-shortstop; all you have to do is trade away one of the young guys sitting in his spot. Looking to pick up a front-of-the-rotation ace? If I can’t convince you to cultivate a winter hobby, just include Shelby Miller in the package. Kolten Wong can clear the path for any big-name infielder.
The only easy any of that seems plausible is subject to another trade. Trading Dan Haren for Mark Mulder is just inexplicable; trading for a pitcher because you traded Shelby Miller for a shortstop at least has some Rube Goldberg charm to it.
The Cardinals just don’t have the kind of roster you break up , at least not for the particular trade options available to them. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun to imagine ways in which they could, but it does make it somewhat less pleasant to imagine how things would look afterward.