While bringing in Dexter Fowler helps the team in 2017, he doesn’t get the Cardinals a whole lot closer to the Cubs. For those purposes, the Cardinals will have to get creative, and maybe make some painful moves in giving up prospects to get themselves closer to contention. Here are three that would cut the current gap between the Cubs and Cardinals in half.
- Trade Alex Reyes, Harrison Bader, Edmundo Sosa, and Sandy Alcantara for Jose Quintana
Of the trades I am proposing, this one is probably the most painful. Alex Reyes is currently slotted into the Cardinals rotation. He is one of the best prospects in baseball, and performed very well in his debut this past season. Bader is a top-100 prospect close to the majors, although currently blocked by Dexter Fowler, Stephen Piscotty, and Randal Grichuk, perhaps for the next four years. Alcantara is a bit further off, but he throws hard and has potential. Sosa also has potential, but he also has considerable work to do before he makes the big leagues.
In Jose Quintana, the Cardinals would get a cheap ace for the next four seasons. Everything the team is hoping Reyes can be, Quintana already is. He has been a five-win pitcher the past three seasons. It’s possible the package above might not even be enough given the White Sox asked the Astros for three pitchers in the top-50 of BA’s midseason top 100, although none at the level of Reyes. This would add about two wins for the Cardinals next season.
2. Trade Kolten Wong, Luke Weaver, Austin Gomber, and Matt Adams for Andrelton Simmons
The Cardinals have made defensive upgrades a priority this offseason, and Kolten Wong is supposed to be a part of those upgrades. Also in his favor, Wong is signed on a team-friendly deal through 2021. Wong would certainly be a downgrade for the Angels this season, but the team did just bring in Danny Espinosa to play 2B and he could easily move to shortstop to make room for Wong.
Weaver is a top-100 pitching prospect who would add some depth and control for a rotation with question marks. Gomber has performed well over the last two years, and would help provide a little more depth to a weak farm system. Adams isn’t worth much, but the Angels have right-handed hitters at both first base and designated hitter and Adams could get some playing time there. The trade brings back more than the one the Angels made in getting Simmons, sending Erick Aybar, good pitching prospect Sean Newcomb and now-Cardinals pitching prospect Chris Ellis. While people talk about how important defense is, on the trade market, and in free agency, players like Simmons haven’t been valued too highly.
For the Cardinals, Alex Crisafulli previously wrote on why Simmons should be a target. Aledmys Diaz could slide over to second base to make room for one of the greatest defensive players of this generation. The Cardinals then improve by one win at shortstop, and one win at second base. With Simmons at shortstop, if the Cardinals wanted to, they could probably withstand moving Matt Carpenter back to third, which could lead to:
3. Sign Edwin Encarnacion
I’m not a big fan of signing Edwin Encarnacion, but if his price has fallen and the Cardinals could get him for $60 million or less, he might provide a decent value. Moving Matt Carpenter to third probably increases his value, and any defensive dropoff is completely mitigated by the Simmons move above. Carpenter adds probably two wins at third base over Peralta, and Edwin Encarnacion provides little to no dropoff by stepping in at first base.
In this scenario, Jhonny Peralta’s contract is probably moved and Jedd Gyorko remains to get close to 100 plate appearances at every infield position. Salary-wise, the team ends up paying a little bit over last season’s $148 million payroll.
The rotation now looks like this:
The lineup now looks like this:
The bullpen, which should be a strength, remains untouched. Wacha remains the Cardinals sixth starter and while Luke Weaver is removed as a depth option, the ceiling for the Cardinals next season has increased by quite a bit. I thought about adding something around a Grichuk for Cain deal, though signing a center fielder and then trading for someone else at the same position seems far-fetched, even for these scenarios.
The Cubs are about 10 games better than the Cardinals right now, even after the Dexter Fowler signing. Making these three moves would cut that decifit in half, and put the Cubs one or two unlucky surprises even with the Cardinals. While the moves above technically do sacrifice some of the future, the major players acquired via trade are cheaply controlled for four more seasons.
Perhaps I’m not giving up enough to get the players listed above. Perhaps the trades I proposed would be too painful for the Cardinals to make when it comes to future value. I fully admit this is more thought exercise and backseat GMing than putting forth completely realistic moves for the Cardinals though I have done my best to make the trades fair.