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There's no way that Manny Machado ends up in St. Louis

The Cardinals wouldn't pay to keep homegrown superstar Albert Pujols, and it's not likely they'd spend the money to bring superstar Manny Machado to town.
The Cardinals wouldn't pay to keep homegrown superstar Albert Pujols, and it's not likely they'd spend the money to bring superstar Manny Machado to town. AP

The St. Louis Cardinals flirted with the Baltimore Orioles about a potential Manny Machado trade over the winter, but nothing came of it.

Suddenly, with the O's already in the tank after a horrendous start, the rumor mill has sprung to life with both the Redbirds and the Chicago Cubs appearing at the list of potential destinations.

I'd love to play along and list all the reasons I think Machado would be perfect for the Cardinals, how St. Louis lines up with the Orioles with a wealth of prospects who could play in the major leagues right now and so on and so on. But I just don't see any way this could work out right now.

The Redbirds weren't able to justify giving up top prospects for Machado over the winter because it wasn't worth it to the front office to give away controllable talent for only one season of the 25-year-old infielder's services. It seems even less likely they'd trade for only part of a season of Machado.

If I was in charge of the St. Louis front office, I wouldn't be interested in giving up a lot of prospects for one player unless Machado agreed to sign a contract extension. But I don't see that happening, either. First, Machado is rumored to be interested in signing with the Yankees when he hits the free agent market, and it's unlikely he's going to sell out if he thinks there is any chance that is an option. Why would he?

The only chance that the Cardinals would have to woo Machado out of his dream is if they broke the bank and offered him a $250 million contract. Maybe then he'd decide not to risk another free agency deep freeze like last year and take what's on the table. The thing I'd worry about if I was Machado is that teams would wait to see what Bryce Harper does before they turn to the infielder. And if Harper doesn't get the kind of cash people have been breathlessly predicting for the past two years, Machado probably won't get the top of the market, either.

If the Birds did make the bold move and sign Machado to a decade-long, quarter-billion-dollar deal, would they regret it? What if last year was no fluke and the free agent market as we knew it is gone forever? A guy with that sort of a deal could become an albatross that could never be traded without eating tens of millions of dollars.

If St. Louis President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak can somehow figure out all of those problems, then he still has to figure out what he's willing to give up to get a superstar.

It's probably easy on the Cardinals end. Jack Flaherty, Jordan Hicks, Alex Reyes and Andrew Knizner are untouchable. Guys like Austin Gomber, Carson Kelly, Oscar Mercado, Harrison Bader, Tyler O'Neill and others are excellent prospects — but, as has been noted all winter, the Birds don't have have a place to put all these guys. They almost have to trade some of them or face losing them. The problem is, the guys on that untouchables list are going to be the ones that the Orioles want for their young star.

It doesn't matter that Bader, Kelly and Dakota Hudson could start in Baltimore now and for better part of the next decade. They'll want the golden ticket. If they think there is a chance they could get it, they're not going to settle for anything less.