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St. Louis Cardinals trade deadline scenarios and possible targets

St. Louis Cardinals trade deadline

The Cardinals trade deadline should be an interesting one, no matter how they are playing by the end of July. One way or another, changes will need to be made to make the playoffs either this year, or in the future.

If the Cardinals go back to playing like they did during the first half of June, John Mozeliak could look to sell at the deadline. However, if they continue to play like they have in the last four games, Mo and company may be interested in picking up some pieces to potentially help them reach the postseason.

If they are out

At times this year, the Cards have looked like a 65-win team. They are not going to be that bad no matter what, but they could very well be out of the race by the end of July. If that is the case, the front office should think about getting ready for next season.

They have a few players who could be sold off this season for a good return. With a plethora of talent in the minor leagues, it makes it easier to let go of some guys. These are some of those players that St. Louis could part ways with, should they find themselves out of contention at the deadline.

Michael Wacha

Michael Wacha has pitched really well so far this season. He even avoided his annual DL stint until recently when he was placed on the 10-day. This could be the best time to trade Wacha regardless of the playoff situation. However, it is definitely the time if things go south.

Everyone who saw Wacha pitch in his first year back in 2013 knows he has the potential to be a great pitcher. He was even an All-Star in 2015, going 17-7 with a 3.38 ERA. Since then, it has been a little rougher sailing for the big righty.

2016 was plagued by a shoulder injury, but he was not pitching well anyway. He started just 24 games, going 7-7 with a 5.09 ERA and a WHIP of nearly 1.500. He showed signs of how good he could be again in 2017, but he was not very consistent, and his overall body of work was not impressive. Last year, he was 12-9 with a 4.13 ERA in 30 starts.

This year, Wacha has not had many hiccups. He has only allowed four or more runs twice, posting an 8-2 record with a 3.20 ERA despite the highest FIP of his career at 4.16.

Wacha could bring some interest from a contending team looking for starting pitching outside the division. Now could be the time to trade him before he goes back to the guy with an ERA over 4.00 he has been for the last two years. If Mo could find the right trade partner, they may be able to get some good controlled bullpen help that they are still going to need next season.

Dexter Fowler

This one is tricky. It is going to be difficult to find anyone to take on all of Fowler’s remaining contract with the way he has played. Also, if there was that much interest in him, the Cardinals probably would not have landed him in free agency.

The Redbirds don’t have much use for him though. He plays poor defense, has not hit well and is not the base-stealing threat they thought he would be when they signed him. Harrison Bader has proven to be a better option this year, and there are plenty of minor league outfielders who will likely do the same in the next few years.

If there is anyone willing to take on the majority of his contract and give up a decent starting pitcher or an infield prospect, Mo should pull the trigger. It would be mostly a salary dump, but he would not have to get fleeced either. Then, if they decide to pursue a big free agent this next offseason, they have that much more money to play with.

Matt Carpenter

Carpenter has been very good for the Redbirds over the years. Unfortunately, he will be 33 years old this offseason, and it is hard to see him progressing as a player as he ages.

He had a rough start this season, but has since turned things around. In June, Carpenter has eight home runs, 15 RBIs and is slashing .319/.404/.659. He now has 15 home runs, 36 RBIs and an .873 OPS on the season. Those numbers make it hard to part ways with Carp, but they also make him valuable to postseason contenders.

A team like Boston stands out as one who may be interested in Carpenter. They have the third baseman of their future in Rafael Devers, but he is not producing this season. If Mo could get a deal going with someone like Ty Buttrey at the center in return, plus maybe a player like C.J. Chatham, Carp might be packing for Fenway.

Jedd Gyorko

Jedd Gyorko has proven to be a valuable player when used correctly. He provides good pop and defense off the bench and in spot starts. Gyorko could even make a solid everyday option at second base for the right team.

A good partner for a Gyorko trade could be the Diamondbacks. They are not seeing a lot of production out of the second base spot at the moment. That is something they are going to need in order to fend off the Dodgers.

Los Angeles could also make a good landing spot for Gyorko. Their current best option at second is Chase Utley, and he is not getting them any closer to the playoffs.

If Micahael Girsch and Mozeliak offered Gyorko to both teams and started a bidding war, they might be able to come away with good prospects in return.

If they are in

The Cardinals trade deadline could be a very fun one for the fans and everyone surrounding the team. That is, if they still find themselves in the playoff hunt when it rolls around. It will also give the front office a chance to redeem themselves after another big talk, little action offseason.

St. Louis has plenty of young talent to use to make the team better right now. The way they have played in the last five games, a big bat and a bullpen arm may be all they need to get back to the postseason.

These are a few guys that should be considered and have enough value to bring a return that could get the Redbirds a playoff spot.

Luke Weaver

Luke Weaver would be tough to let go for some. At times, he has shown really good signs for the future. At other times, he has looked pretty bad. Regardless, his potential alone is enough to make him very valuable to the right team.

Carson Kelly

Carson Kelly has been touted over and over as the best catching prospect in baseball. He has yet to prove that he is though. Even when Yadier Molina went down for a month, he was outplayed by the fourth best catcher in the Cardinals’ system.

Regardless of his .150 career average and his inability to hit a home run in 107 at-bats, Kelly’s potential still holds a lot of value, especially to a team that thinks using him every day could be what he needs. If that is the case, it is not going to do him any good to stay in St. Louis, because Molina is not showing any signs of slowing down. The Redbirds also have Andrew Knizner in Double-A, and he is looking really good.

Kolten Wong

Kolten Wong has been a point of controversy with the Cards ever since he signed his five-year contract in 2016. Whether it’s been because of his playing time or lack of production, it always seems to be something with Wong.

He does play stellar defense though. Kolten struggled early in his career with his glove. One play he looked like Robinson Cano, the next like Daniel Murphy. He seems to have it figured out this year though and has played like a Gold Glove candidate at second.

His defense, along with his youth and club-friendly contract, make him valuable to a team that is in a rebuilding mode. Wong also has potential to be a good contact hitter and base-stealing threat if he can give up on the long ball and change his approach.

Oscar Mercado

Mercado had a rough spring training. He hit just .172 in 19 games and did not impress many people around the team.

It has been a different story in Memphis this year though. Mercado is hitting .295 with 17 doubles and a .361 OBP. He is by no means a centerpiece in a difference-making trade, but he would be a good sweetener. The Cardinals already have a number of outfield prospects on his level or better, making him a good candidate to be thrown into a package deal.

Yairo Munoz

Another guy likely to be thrown into a package deal is Yairo Munoz. Yairo had a great spring, hitting .323 with three homers and 10 RBIs. He is also having a nice year filling in for the injured Paul DeJong at the big league level. Munoz has had his struggles defensively, but he could turn out to be a very good major league shortstop later in his career.

He makes a good trade candidate because the Cardinals won’t need him after DeJong comes back, and he is only 23 years old. Greg Garcia and Gyorko can both play short behind DeJong if needed. If needed, he could be a good complimenting piece in a big trade.

Trade partners if they are in the hunt

Cincinnati Reds

The Cincinnati Reds have been on a tear lately, but it likely won’t last, and they will be looking to sell at the deadline. That is where Luke Weaver and the Cardinals come in.

Cincinnati is constantly without good pitching to back its offense. They don’t need someone to help them this season necessarily, but a good young pitcher would definitely peak their interest. The Reds also have just what the Cards need: a bat and relief help.

Scooter Gennett is having a monster season at second base. He leads the NL in batting average at .334 and has 13 homers, 52 RBIs, a 143 wRC+ and a .907 OPS. He has been the kind of hitter the Cardinals are missing, especially at second base. It would be nice to see more home runs, but the OPS and wRC+ speak for themselves. He is also controlled through 2020, which would make Mo happy.

On the relief side, Amir Garrett would really benefit the Cards’ pen. Over 41.2 innings this season, he has 49 strikeouts to 13 walks and a 2.59 ERA. The big lefty is not what you would call a specialist either. He has been getting hitters out on both sides of the plate. Right-handed hitters are hitting just .184 against Garrett this season.

This deal makes the Cardinals legitimate playoff contenders if they are within striking distance. If Luke Weaver is not enough, Wong or Mercado could also be of interest to the Reds as they look to build for the future.

Toronto Blue Jays

During the offseason, there was a lot of chatter linking Josh Donaldson and the Cardinals. The Blue Jays are already out of the playoff picture and might be looking to get some value out of Donaldson while they still can.

Mozeliak already did some dealing with Toronto this offseason in search of relief help. He got Dominic Leone as part of one deal, who might be making a difference right now if he were healthy. There was nothing more than talk on the Donaldson front though.

Unfortunately, Donaldson has struggled in the first half. That could be a good thing too, depending on how you look at it. The fact that he is hitting just .234 with only five home runs may mean that he won’t come with as big of a price as he would have otherwise. He also still has the potential to hit 25 home runs in the second half and carry a team to October. That makes him intriguing for the Cardinals.

Luke Weaver may be enough alone to get Donaldson at this point, or even someone less highly touted like a John Gant, along with a sweetener.

Baltimore Orioles

This is the one that nearly all Cardinals’ fans, players and media want to see at the deadline. The Orioles have already been effectively eliminated from the postseason and they have the biggest trade target on the market: Manny Machado. Not only should Machado interest the Cards though, the Orioles also have a reliever that St. Louis has had their eye on: Brad Brach.

Machado is destroying baseballs again this year. He has 19 home runs, 55 RBIs, a .301 average and a .923 OPS. Unfortunately, the move to shortstop has not gone so well for him. He has -17 defensive runs saved at short this year and a UZR/150 of -14.6. The bat makes up for that though and the Cardinals might be able to talk him into going back to third for at least the rest of the season.

Brach is the other guy that should be a part of any deal with Baltimore, Machado or not. Brach has a 3.86 ERA this season, 10 saves and 33 strikeouts in 30.1 innings this season. He has had better years, like in 2016 when he had a 2.05 ERA and struck out 92 batters in 79 innings, but he has still been solid in 2018. On top of that, a change of scenery might push him back over the edge to the lights-out guy he was in 2016.

A deal including these two guys would be an absolute blockbuster. It would likely take Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly, an outfielder and maybe even another young pitcher to get these guys, but it would put them back in the playoffs. St. Louis may not be able to take three straight years without October baseball, and bringing Machado in for a half season could be the only way the Cardinals could have a chance at signing him this offseason.


Featured Image by Jeff Curry – USA Today Sports

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