With the Miami Marlins taking formal bids on National League Most Valuable Player Giancarlo Stanton, the St. Louis Cardinals should use a three-front attack when they submit their offer.
Let the Fish choose the offer that they can’t refuse.
St. Louis has the most flexibility when it comes to preparing an offer for Stanton. The Redbirds have a wealth of young starting pitching, the most valuable commodity on the trade market plus a number of ready for prime time — yet cost controlled — young position players to offer, especially outfielders. On the other hand, while the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox are limited in how much more salary they can take on without absorbing steep penalties in the form of luxury taxes. The Cardinals could easily absorb all of the $295 million remaining on Stanton’s contract without compromising the rest of their roster.
President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak shouldn’t guess whether the Marlins prefer to shed payroll while hoarding prospects or to retool on the fly with cheaper players. He should give Miami a menu of options and let their front office pick the one it likes best.
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Option 1, The Easy Way Out: St. Louis offers a couple of prospects off the bottom half of its Top 10 list in exchange for taking on Stanton’s entire remaining contract off the books of the Marlins. A lot of folks seem to think that Miami will have to eat at least a portion of Stanton’s contract to be able to move him. But why? If Stanton was a free agent, he’d probably get at least as much money, as the defending MVP and a 28-year-old player capable of leading the majors in home runs, as he is already owed. I could easily imagine him getting more.
Option 2, Restocking the Shelves: If it is a wealth of young talent the Marlins prefer, the Cardinals could handle that, too. St. Louis could offer the best catching prospect in the game, Carson Kelly, two top prospect pitchers from a group that includes Luke Weaver, Sandy Alcantara, Jordan Hicks, Dakota Hudson and Jack Flaherty and one or two outfield prospects in Harrison Bader and Magneuris Sierra, Tyler O’Neill or Jose Aroldis Garcia. St. Louis could pretty easily put together a five for one deal that would be difficult to pass up. Of course, the Marlins would have to kick in $50 million or so to get that kind of a return.
Option 3, The Big Deal: If the Marlins want to reload on the fly — and to save a bunch of money in the process — the best option might be to make a blockbuster trade. The Cardinals could offer affordable, controllable major league-ready talent in exchange for both Stanton as well as fellow well-compensated veteran Dee Gordon, highly regarded center fielder Christian Yelich and grizzled reliever Brad Ziegler. Miami, which wants to shed $50 million from it’s payroll, would subtract $53 million for 2018. In return, the Fish could get Weaver into their starting rotation for the minor-league minimum as well as a couple of minor-league hurlers off the previous list plus cheap power source Randal Grichuk and either Bader or Sierra.
Supposing the Cardinals are outbid for Stanton or that he rejects being traded, I wonder if it would be worth it for St. Louis to accept Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria as part of a deal to land top end starting pitcher Chris Archer and closer Alex Colome.
Longoria, who is 32, wasn’t the superstar last year that he’s been in seasons past. But he’s still a solid offensive player who earned a Gold Glove in 2017 He’s owed $13.5 million for 2018, $14.5 million for 2019, $15 million for 2020, $18.5 million for 2021 and $19.5 million for 2022. It’s a lot of money on the back end. But it’s actually pretty reasonable for the next couple of years — and it’s mitigated by the fact that Archer and Colome would fill key positions for only about $10 million between them next season. So the Cardinals could take them on and afford to add another power hitter like first baseman Carlos Santana or outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. In fact, it’s arguable that the Cardinals could afford to make both the Stanton trade and the Tampa trade, especially if the Cardinals don’t give up the entire farm system to get Stanton.
Hopefully, something is going to happen soon so we can start to see what we have to look forward to next year.