Cheap Seats

Should the Cardinals make the bold move or the safe one?

The Cardinals would have to give up several prized prospects to land Manny Machado, and the Redbirds would only be guaranteed one season of the superstar.
The Cardinals would have to give up several prized prospects to land Manny Machado, and the Redbirds would only be guaranteed one season of the superstar. AP

The St. Louis Cardinals lost their bid to acquire one of the most feared sluggers in the game when Giancarlo Stanton rejected a trade to Redbirds.

But could that closed door open another opportunity for the Redbirds?

Suddenly — and unexpectedly — the Baltimore Orioles are asking for trade proposals for their superstar, infielder Manny Machado, an imposing slugger who is also a slick fielder who plays shortstop or third base. In an “off year” in 2017, playing for a lousy team, Machado mashed 33 home runs and drove in 95. It’s not sour grapes when I say that if I could have the choice between Machado and Stanton, all things being equal, I would greatly prefer Machado.

But all things are NOT equal because, even with the opt out clause in his massive contract, Stanton’s new team is guaranteed three years of his services. Machado is a free agent at the end of the upcoming season. When he hits the market, it’s expected to spark a spectacular bidding war. The Cardinals don’t often win spectacular bidding wars, in case you haven’t noticed.

The bright side is, because Machado comes with only one year of control, his price is terms of a trade is expected to be reasonable. The Orioles are said to want two controllable pitchers to get him. The Cardinals are all about controllable pitching, with several appealing prospects including the principal of the Stanton trade rumors, Sandy Alcantara as well as hurlers Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Jordan Hicks and even Luke Weaver who has already established himself as ready to join a major league rotation.

The dark side, as one might say as we wait of the release of the new Star Wars flick The Last Jedi that comes out tomorrow, is the fact that the Cardinals would have to use some of the trade chips it planned to deal to fill other needs in order to land Machado.

So, the question is: Do the Cardinals put all their chips in and go for the superstar, or should they pull back and take the consolation prize, trading for the Miami Marlins second-most imposing slugger, Marcell Ozuna?

As of the time I am writing this, the Redbirds are said to be closing in on an Ozuna trade. So do they pull the plug on that deal to hope they can make a more spectacular trade? It depends on what their other plans are. There was a lot of speculation last night that the Cardinals were close to acquiring Tampa Bay closer Alex Colome — based on the fact that the hurler started to follow the St. Louis baseball team and some related accounts on social media. That’s an interesting development if it happens because Machado isn’t going to put this team over the hump by himself. If the Cardinals are going to swing for the fences, they need to have a win it all this year mentality. Because, barring the unlikely event that Machado would accept an extension before he arrives, the team is going to have to show its best side in a year-long audition if it hopes to keep him. If he’s going to sign a mega deal someplace that could run the length of his remaining career, Machado is going to have to be convinced that he’s going to a place where he’ll have a chance to compete every year.

I’m not willing, if the decision was mine, to give up top young pitcher Alex Reyes and a couple of other prime prospects for a one-year rental. But if the trade demand is reasonable, the Cardinals ought to go for it. After all, Ozuna is only under team control for two years. It’s not as if the choice is the guy with one year left or a guy with four or five years before he hits the market.

The other interesting thing about Machado is the fact that he has the same agent as former St. Louis superstar Albert Pujols. It makes me wonder if the Birds might have any sort of edge in retaining the young star. If he asked Pujols, I imagine he’d say that he had a wonderful time playing in St. Louis — and maybe even that he wished he hadn’t left for the bright lights of a mega city. Or... maybe Albert will be miffed that the Cardinals will likely offer Machado in excess of $300 million when they wouldn’t go to $200 million for him six years ago. Of course, the difference is that Pujols is about seven years older than Machado is now when he became a free agent.

Speaking of money: The Cardinals have never made an offer that high before. So, do they have the stomach to spend what it takes to keep Machado? If not, there might not be any point of considering it.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the next couple of days unfold.

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