St. Louis Cardinals

Forget Stanton’s snub, Cardinals still have some big-bat options

According to national baseball writer Bob Nightengale, the Cardinals are favorites to acquire Marlins’ outfielder Marcell Ozuna in a trade.
According to national baseball writer Bob Nightengale, the Cardinals are favorites to acquire Marlins’ outfielder Marcell Ozuna in a trade. AP

As any slugger of the millennial generation is wont to do, Giancarlo Stanton eschewed the two richest National League traditions for the allure of Yankee pinstripes and the Big Apple.

He wants it all — the big contract, a shot at a ring, the biggest stage in baseball — and he wants it now.

That’s why Stanton wanted a no-trade clause in the first place. It’s leverage and he made no secret about using it. Don’t be mad at him.

More importantly, Cardinals fans, don’t think Stanton’s snub spells disaster for this offseason.

Yes, the Redbirds still need a middle-of-the-lineup bat, and John Mozeliak and Co. are under pressure to deliver. But there are options if they can swing a deal.

Let’s have a look:

▪  Marcell Ozuna. He’s the next-best (available) thing to Stanton, he comes from the same team (Miami) and, according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, the Cardinals are the early favorites to get him.

Ozuna hit a career-high .312 with 37 home runs and 124 RBIs in 2017 and he just turned 27 a month ago.

The good news is the Cardinals’ and Marlins’ most recent negotiations were foiled only by Stanton’s no-trade. They still have what the other needs, know what the other has, and should be able to forge a deal for Ozuna in short order.

The down side is that Ozuna doesn’t make much — $3.5 million in 2017 and second-year arbitration-eligible now. That means the Marlins will ask a higher price in prospects since the Cardinals wouldn’t be taking on much payroll. And Ozuna could become a free agent with a hefty price tag in 2020.

▪  Manny Machado. It seems like a long shot and probably is. But the Baltimore Orioles have said the Gold Glove third baseman is for sale.

Machado averages a .279 batting average, 29 home runs and 86 RBIs over six seasons. But he’ll be a 24-year-old free agent at the end of next season. He’ll cash in on Bryce Harper proportions, meaning he’ll demand nothing short of a $350 million contract over 10 years.

Would the Cardinals really go there? And what will be the up-front costs to acquire him?

▪  Christian Yelich. This is another fire-sale outfielder placed on the market courtesy of the Marlins.

Yelich isn’t the slugger the Cardinals need. But many in the national and local media see a good fit with the Cardinals.

First, he’s a defensive upgrade in center field. Second, he’s just 25 and on a cost-controlled contract through 2022. And Yelich has some pop with some additional power potential — he’s hit 40 home runs over the last two seasons.

Basically, Yelich is what the Cardinals expect from Steven Piscotty, but has a five-year record of consistency.

But would he really be a difference maker?

▪  Evan Longoria. The Cardinals reportedly have been in on a possible trade for Tampa Bay closer Alex Colome and, possibly, starter Chris Archer. Jon Morosi of the MLB Network suggested that Longoria might come as a bonus or a throw-in, depending on how you look at it.

The third baseman won his third Gold Glove last year, but his 20 home runs, .313 on-base percentage were career-lows. His .424 slugging average and .737 OPS were second to his career-low.

And he’s due $94 million over the next six years.

▪  J.D. Martinez. Nothing has connected the Cardinals to the free-agent slugger, who had a career year in 2017, just in time to file for free agency.

He hit .303 with 45 home runs and 103 RBIs for the Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks, but he missed time with injuries in five of his seven full big-league seasons.

▪  Eric Hosmer or Mike Moustakas. Kansas City won’t likely be able to sign both their big-name free agents.

Hosmer, though quickly identified by media as a possible fit in St. Louis, apparently is close to a deal with the Padres, according to Yahoo’s Jeff Passon. Moustakas would be a defensive upgrade at third base and hit 38 home runs last year, but is not the impact bat the Cardinals need at his price point.

▪  Josh Donaldson. His name keeps popping up, though I can’t be sure why the Cardinals would entertain it. He’s a former American League MVP, but he’s 32 years old and will be a free agent at the end of next season. Besides, the Blue Jays aren’t shopping him.

Things have been quiet so far in Orlando at baseball’s winter meetings, but the Cardinals have the need, the prospects and enough available options to make some noise before things break up Thursday.

Stay tuned.

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