Given the disappointing seasons the Cardinals have had the last two years, there seems to be quite a bit of anticipation building as the offseason begins. There are Giancarlo Stanton rumors. As free agency dawns, the Cardinals have a lot of options to make their team better, though most are likely via a trade. Below, we’ll find three such trades the Cardinals could potentially make to make them favorites for the division.
Before, we start, I should mention I conducted a similar exercise last season. In that exercise, I had the Cardinals trading away Kolten Wong, Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver, Harrison Bader, Sandy Alcantara, Edmundo Sosa, Austin Gomber, and Matt Adams and receiving Jose Quintana and Andrelton Simmons. Then, I had them signing Edwin Encarnacion for roughly what he ended up getting from Cleveland and jettisoning Jhonny Peralta.
Had the Cardinals done so, it seems pretty reasonable that they would have won the division. Quintana put up a four-win season, Simmons got five, and Encarnacion was at 2.5 WAR. With Aledmys Diaz’s struggles, maybe Jedd Gyorko takes over at second base earlier in the season, or maybe Paul DeJong comes up and does the same. Perhaps the bullpen performs a lot better with Michael Wacha in it.
The Cardinals would lose three of their top 10 prospects right now plus expected 2018 contributors in Weaver and Wong, but Simmons is better than Wong and Quintana is better than Weaver, and the top prospects for the Cardinals would be Jack Flaherty, Carson Kelly, Tyler O’Neill, Jordan Hicks, Magneuris Sierra, Dakota Hudson, and Ryan Helsley which really isn’t too bad. The Cardinals would be better going into next season as well and would have been coming off a playoff berth, but who knows if those deals were even really possible.
On to this year’s ridiculous moves:
Cardinals trade Sandy Alcantara, Randal Grichuk, and Austin Gomber for Giancarlo Stanton, Brad Ziegler and $60 million to be paid from 2021 through 2027 if Stanton does not exercise his opt-out.
Honestly, I would prefer the Cardinals trade for Christian Yelich. He’s younger, nearly as good and has a much better contract, but Yelich might not be available and he would be more expensive in terms of prospects. In the scenario above, the Marlins get a top pitching prospect, a proven major leaguer with three years of team control, and another pitcher who could project near the back of the Marlins rotation fairly soon. They get nearly $35 million off the books for next year and a ton more after that even if they have to pay $8 million to $9 million per year a few seasons down the road. The Cardinals get Stanton and a bullpen arm on a one-year deal.
Cardinals trade Jedd Gyorko, Stephen Piscotty, Tyler O’Neill, Dakota Hudson, and Johan Oviedo for Josh Donaldson and Roberto Osuna
If the Blue Jays aren’t ready to pack it in for next year, they might move short term and potentially high-value assets like Donaldson and Osuna for major-league level talent in order to try and keep competing. In Gyorko, the team gets a two-win player to replace their MVP-level Donaldson.
The Blue Jays need outfielders desperately and they get a potential bounceback candidate in Stephen Piscotty, who has a team-friendly deal, and then a top-100 type prospect in Tyler O’Neill, who is powerful and Canadian. They also get another solid prospect in Dakota Hudson, and a potential project with a high-ceiling in Oviedo. In all, the team gets three years of Gyorko, plus potentially 24 years from the other four and reduces 2018 payroll by $20 million. The Cardinals get another MVP-type player, even if only for a year, and another bullpen arm without a long-term commitment.
Cardinals trade Jack Flaherty, Carson Kelly, Aledmys Diaz, Jordan Hicks, and Harrison Bader for Chris Archer
This one is going to hurt. Say goodbye to Yadi’s heir, a top pitching prospect and three other intriguing, top-100ish pieces. The Rays live on young, cost-controlled talent and getting a pitcher who can step in right away plus a catcher who is ready for the majors now, but could share the job with Wilson Ramos for one year helps them right now. The Rays middle infield situation isn’t great and Diaz could compete their for a starting job or at least play a utility role. Hicks has a ton of upside, and Bader might be able to compete for a spot in the outfield depending on how the team re-arranges first base and designated hitter.
Archer should command roughly the Quintana/Sale price with a contract that pays him just $33 million over the next four years, and maybe the package above falls a little short, but it is probably pretty close. You could sub out Weaver for Flaherty if that made the optics better.
So what did I just do?
Here’s the lineup:
Here’s the rotation:
Opening Day payroll goes up to around $180-$185 million in this scenario. Commitments for 2019—with the extra $40 million from Stanton, Osuna, and Archer added, but Wainwright, Piscotty, and Gyorko removed along with Donaldson—comes out to around $145 million.
As for the farm system, it still has Alex Reyes and Magneuris Sierra, but it would definitely need some replenishment. Of course, all three outfielders, plus Carpenter, DeJong, Wong and Molina are all controlled through 2020 so the farm would have some time before it needed to supply the big-league club with players.
Proposing made-up trades that might actually get both sides to say yes is difficult, and I gave it my best shot. Some of the parts above are interchangeable and maybe some of the relievers would need to get switched around or left out entirely. The moves above would make the Cardinals one of the best teams in baseball in 2018, and the addition of Archer and Stanton would move the competitive window out a couple seasons.
The Cardinals might make one of these moves, they might make none, but the team has the resources, both in players and finances to make multiple big deals this winter. They’ve entered the last two seasons with roughly 50/50 shots at making the playoffs and things didn’t work out. It’s time to move those chances upward.