St. Louis Cardinals

Cardinals, Lynn on collision course with trade deadline

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Lance Lynn delivers in the first inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh, Saturday, July 15, 2017.
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Lance Lynn delivers in the first inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh, Saturday, July 15, 2017. AP

With the trade deadline looming at 3 p.m. Monday, the St. Louis Cardinals are still holding.

The Cardinals have no shortage of players that could be targeted by opposing teams, including Lance Lynn, who is supposed to get the start at 1:15 p.m. Sunday against Arizona.

Lynn, 30, probably is the player most likely to be traded, but the Cardinals and other teams could be waiting for the market to unclog after the Oakland A’s deal pitcher Sonny Gray.

Once that occurs, the dominoes could fall.

Lynn, who is 8-6 with a 3.21 ERA in 21 starts this season, still doesn’t believe he will be traded. He hasn’t had talks with the Cardinals about a contract extension.

So what are the possibilities?

▪ Trade Lynn.

If that happens, the Cardinals likely will receive prospects and turn over Lynn’s spot in the rotation to rookie Luke Weaver. The Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and Washington Nationals could be interested in renting Lynn for the remainder of the season.

▪ Let Lynn play out his contract.

Choosing this route would risk that Lynn leaves St. Louis as a free agent. The Cardinals would almost certainly make a one-year qualifying offer, and Lynn might accept at a price of about $18 million. If he rejects the offer, the Cardinals would receive a compensation pick in the draft.

▪ Let Lynn finish the season, then negotiate a new deal.

Lynn might not be fond of a proposition like this, figuring the Cardinals have had ample time to express their interest in retaining him for next year and beyond.

▪ Retain Lynn through the trade deadline, then approach him about an extension.

Lynn may take more kindly to the idea of contract talks before the season is over. He is happy in St. Louis and might be eager to reach an agreement on a four- or five-year deal.

2020 David Wilhelm (2)

For me, trading Lynn makes the most sense. The Cardinals (51-53) aren’t performing like a playoff-caliber team, and stockpiling young talent for a reboot is a worthy strategy.

Even if Lynn bolts, the Cardinals’ pool of starters for next season would be Weaver, Carlos Martinez, Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Mike Leake and Alex Reyes. Younger prospects like Dakota Hudson, Jack Flaherty, Sandy Alcantara and Austin Gomber aren’t far behind.

Mike Leake lost a 7-1 decision to Arizona on Saturday.

Several other Cardinals could be on their way to another team, although the market for outfielders Tommy Pham and Randal Grichuk, third baseman Jedd Gyorko and reliever Trevor Rosenthal might not be as defined.

The Nationals had scouts attend the Cardinals’ recent series with Colorado, and they might be interested in Rosenthal and Pham, which could infuse more young talent into the Cardinals’ farm system.

This would be a more difficult call for the Cardinals. Rosenthal finally seems to be settling in, and he still is young enough to reclaim his former role as closer. That’s clearly been one of the primary weaknesses of this team.

Pham, meanwhile, has emerged as the Cardinals’ MVP this season. His vision issues have been resolved and his leg injuries have subsided.

But could it be a good idea to deal Pham while his value might be at its highest?

The Cardinals’ outfield has too much depth at this point. Pham, Harrison Bader and Grichuk are logging most of the playing time now, but what happens when Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty return from injury? There’s five outfielders, and that’s not even counting Jose Martinez and the speedy Magneuris Sierra.

One final thought: Why not seek a trade for first baseman Matt Carpenter?

Carpenter has to have value to a team seeking on-base skills. He’s the Cardinals’ leadoff hitter and a popular player, but defensively, he is a liability. The Cardinals could use Luke Voit and Martinez for the rest of the season, then pursue free agent Eric Hosmer in the offseason.

Moving Carpenter would reinstate Fowler at the top of the order, which is the reason the Cardinals signed him as a free agent in the first place. Fowler is misplaced as a No. 3 hitter, and having Carpenter around is going to block him from filling that role.

David Wilhelm: @DavidMWilhelm

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