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ESPN: Cardinals strongest MLB team for the next five years

Depressed about how crummy the Cardinals have been playing lately?

Well, I can't tell you how this season is going to play out. But nurse your wounds while knowing that ESPN has projected that the Redbirds are the best set up team in Major League Baseball for the next five years.

The Cardinals score 86.9 on ESPN's 100-point scale. The Boston Red Sox check in at second at 83.4. The Texas Rangers are third at 77.7 with the Los Angeles Dodgers fourth at 73.7 and the Tampa Bay Rays clocking in with 66.6 points for fifth. (Maybe Tampa needs to restore the "Devil" in "Devil Rays" with that showing.

Despite the recent stumblings of the Cardinals, ESPN says the club is chock full of young talent and, by next season anyway, the franchise will be completely devoid of lousy contracts with Jake Westbrook, Rafael Furcal and Chris Carpenter's deals expiring. So the club ought to have plenty of money to spend to fill its relatively few holes.

ESPN says the Cardinals are expected to make a big push to land a shortstop over the winter, likely dealing from their talent surplus in the minor leagues. And it names the Rangers as a potential trading partner, possibly for top prospect Jurickson Profar.

Last spring there was much speculation that the Redbirds would swap their top prospect Oscar Tavares for Profar. Since then a lot has changed. Tavares missed half the Class AAA season with a severe ankle injury and Profar didn't make the Rangers out of spring training after making his debut with the club in 2012.

When he was eventually called up, Profar struggled to a .238 batting average with one stolen base in five tries. He's hit five homers and driven in 24 in .292 plate appearances. He's walked 25 times and has a .315 on-base percentage while he's struck out 54 times.

If I was the Cardinals GM, I don't know that I would give up Taveras for Profar. Taveras is a slugger who could be a star in the middle of the Redbirds' batting order for a decade. Profar is a talented player. But most reports I have read about him say that Profar doesn't really have superstar potential. He's just a solid guy across the board who ought to have a nice, long and productive major league career. That sounds like someone who could be landed in exchange for a lot less than Taveras.

I wonder if the Rangers would have interest in a guy like Lance Lynn who has shown flashes of being able to get things done at the MLB level. But Lynn doesn't seem to mesh well with skipper Mike Matheny and he might have a better chance to make it to the next plateau in a greener pasture. Texas has been desperate for pitching help the last couple of years. And Lynn offers a lot of production for a guy who doesn't yet make much money.