But it’s certainly circling the drain.
The Redbirds could save this season only one way — by making a blockbuster deal that could address several of the team’s needs at the same time. It’s not typically their nature to go outside the organization for talent. But they’ve made big deals from time to time when they’ve had to. And if they want to compete this year — or next — they’re going to have to come up with something big.
There are too many problems to think General Manager John Mozeliak could add a middle reliever or a spare outfielder and make an appreciable difference to this club. It needs a serious infusion of middle-of-the-order firepower, infield defensive help and additional pitching. They need to pull of one of those old-fashioned megadeals that sees 10 or 12 players trade uniforms in one day.
The Miami Marlins are said to be considering a fire sale. Going nowhere in the standings and trying to trim the payroll to facilitate a sale of the franchise, the Marlins might be the perfect trading partner for St. Louis.
If they could make one deal, the Marlins would probably like to trade their signature player, Giancarlo Stanton. But that may be impossible thanks to the outrageous contract the team gave him a couple of years ago. The deal runs from 2015 until 2027 and includes a whopping $325 million in money guaranteed to the player — unless he opts out.
The pact is heavily backloaded, paying just $6.5 million in the first year. It jumps to $25 million next season and $29 million in 2021. In 2023, Stanton would make $32 million a year. He’s only 27 years old. But Stanton has averaged only 87 games a year for the past three seasons because of injuries and is a .257 hitter over that span.
If I were Mozeliak, I would be willing to talk about a deal that would bring Stanton to the Cardinals. But Miami would have to eat so much of the deal it would never be worth it for the Marlins to trade him. Or else Stanton would have to be willing to decline his opt out and rework the deal. But what player in his right mind is going to take less money than he’s already got coming to him?
The Cardinals should consider left fielder Marcell Ozuna, who is hitting .326 with 19 home runs. But he makes only $3.5 million this season and is the sort of young, cheap talent Miami would probably prefer to keep. The team might, however, part with productive center fielder Christian Yelich. He’s not the flashy offensive player Ozuna is. But he’s batting .273 with a .357 on-base percentage and seven homers. Plus, he’s a stellar defensive outfielder and has good team speed. He also has a seven-year, $49-million contract that the Cardinals could easily afford — but that Miami might like to shed.
As far as the infield goes, the Marlins are openly shopping shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, and the Cardinals are reported to have expressed interest.
Hechavarria doesn’t have the offensive upside that Aledmys Diaz offers. But he is a much better glove man. He’s got a $4.35-million contract for this season and is arbitration-eligible for 2018 before becoming a free agent in 2019.
Another player the Marlins might be willing to part with is second baseman Dee Gordon, who signed a $50-million extension last year that runs through 2020. He’s guaranteed $38 million over the next three years, including a million-dollar buyout on a 2021 option, plus the balance of his $7.5-million salary this year.
For that, the Cardinals would get a .289 hitter who has 27 stolen bases in 30 attempts. Adding Gordon’s speed would be an asset. But I don’t know if they could find a place to put a third leadoff man in its batting order. Plus, while Gordon originally played shortstop, he’s settled in at second base. So if the Cardinals were willing to part with Kolten Wong to get him, would Miami be willing to take on Wong’s $25-million contract?
Unfortunately, Miami doesn’t have a lot to offer the Cardinals in terms of pitching help. Its bullpen and rotation are dreadful. But if St. Louis pulled off a major deal with the Marlins, it might be able to pay less in terms of prospects in exchange for absorbing some payroll. So, theoretically, the Redbirds would have some leftover pieces to fill in some of the holes.
Or the Cardinals could move Diaz to third base landed a better shortstop, allowing the club to sell high with Jedd Gyorko, who is enjoying a career year. If he didn’t bring a good pitcher, maybe he could fetch a prospect or two that could be flipped to another club for pitching help.
Of course, the St. Louis pitching staff might look a lot better if it had some fielders who were good at catching and throwing the ball. Addressing the infield and outfield would indirectly make the pitching staff better.
The Cardinals have the pieces to make a major. But do they have the will to part with a boatload of young players to make it happen? No one wants to see them sell off the farm for a Hail Mary shot at making the playoffs this year. But it would be smart to trade for controllable players who would make them better now — and for the next two or three years.