St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals have what it takes to swing a deal. But does Stanton want to come to St. Louis?

Put Giancarlo Stanton in the middle of the Cardinals’ lineup and suddenly an offense that stalls every 90 feet becomes one that can put a crooked number on the board with a single swing of the bat.

Imagine the likely National League MVP and his 59 home runs parked behind guys who reach base like Matt Carpenter, Dexter Fowler and Tommy Pham. Now think back to those nearly seven runners the Redbirds left on base every night.

Tell me Stanton doesn’t take the Cardinals offense from exasperating to explosive.

Can it happen? Only if the conservative Cardinals are willing to part with a few of their cost-controlled prospects and, more importantly, if a West Coast guy like Stanton will accept a trade to flyover country.

The latter seems to be the bigger question.

According to Chad Jennings of the Boston Herald, “a baseball source said yesterday that he’s been told Stanton will not accept a trade to either the Red Sox or the Cardinals ....”

His source is far from water-tight, but this isn’t the first time we’ve heard rumblings that the biggest prize on this year’s trade market will leverage his no-trade clause with great prejudice and that the Cardinals, apparently, are not on his short list.

That is, unless you believe Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston, who says Stanton’s mind remains wide open.

The mixed signals could add sticky nuance to an already complicated negotiation.

Stanton is still owed $285 million over the next 10 seasons and the Cardinals are widely viewed as the team most able to swing a deal. With a new billion-dollar television contract falling due in 2018, they have the money. With a wealth of young outfielders and pitching prospects, they have exactly what the Marlins need to reboot.

But any deal will have to factor in the remainder of Stanton’s record contract, how much of it the Marlins are willing to pay, and how that influences what they can reasonably expect to get in return?

Yet, in the end, Stanton still holds all the cards. There aren’t enough young arms to bring him to St. Louis if he doesn’t want to be here.

And how long can the Cardinals wait on Stanton before moving to Plan B?

They still will have to find a thumper for the middle of the order or limp into 2018 with the same anemic lineup that’s whiffed on the postseason each of the last two years.

So what is Plan B?

Rumors suggesting the availabilty of Toronto’s slugging third baseman Josh Donaldson are apparently nothing more than that.

National baseball writer Buster Olney says the Blue Jays aren’t shopping him. Even if they were, he’ll be a free agent at the end of 2018. Should the Cardinals invest a prospect for a one-year rental?

Royals free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas and his 38 home runs would be a good fit that allows the Cardinals to leave Matt Carpenter at first. Eric Hosmer, who hits for a better average, would be a good fit, too, though he would push the defensively challenged Carpenter to the hot corner.

Both are left-handed hitters which is a bonus. But National baseball writer Jon Heyman reported yesterday that the Royals are still considering bringing both back.

That would leave free-agent outfielder J.D. Martinez, who hit .303 with a career-best 45 home runs between the Tigers and Diamondbacks in 2017. He’ll likely command a $200-million deal, too, and at 30, is the oldest of the Cardinals’ options.

General Manager meetings in Orlando close Thursday night, then we’re on to the Winter Meetings next month. Let’s hope there’s still a deal left to be made.

And let’s hope it’s for somebody who either doesn’t have a no-trade clause or who really likes toasted ravioli.

Sports Editor Todd Eschman: 618-239-2540, @tceschman