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How much better could the St. Louis Cardinals be if they’d traded for Christian Yelich?

New Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna says he’s happy to be in St. Louis

Marcell Ozuna, acquired in trade from the Miami Marlins in December, made his first appearance before St. Louis fans and media at the Cardinals Winter Warm-Up.
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Marcell Ozuna, acquired in trade from the Miami Marlins in December, made his first appearance before St. Louis fans and media at the Cardinals Winter Warm-Up.

The St. Louis Cardinals are playing some great baseball right now, there’s no arguing that as they’ve stormed to the top of the National League Central Division Standings.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a little bit of revisionist history.

Imagine, if you will just for a moment, that the Cardinals could change one move: What if they insisted on Christian Yelich from the Miami Marlins two off-seasons ago in the wake of the failed bid to land Giancarlo Stanton.

I like Ozuna a lot and, if I was the person making the big decisions in the front office, I would be inclined to try to sign the left fielder to a contract extension. But Yelich is the best player in the National League right now. He is chasing 50 home runs, 30 stolen bases and a .325 batting average.

He’s the superstar the Cardinals lack at the foundation of their club.

If St. Louis had Yelich, they might be eight or 10 games in front of the Chicago Cubs instead of in the vicinity of 2 1/2 games ahead. He’s the sort of guy who could put a team on his back and carry it for a couple of weeks or a month when other players are slumping.

With him on board, the Cardinals dreadful May and June might not have ever happened. Milwaukee wouldn’t even be in the conversation about who will win the Central Division. Better yet, while Ozuna might be tough to re-sign at a price the Cardinals are willing to pay, Yelich is under control through 2022 on a team-friendly deal. He’s signed for a total of $26.5 million for the next two years and has an option for $15 million for a third year. That’s a pretty good deal for a guy who will be back-to-back NL MVP when he reports to spring training in 2020.

Ozuna is a very good player. Yelich is a great player.

I still believe St. Louis has the offensive firepower to go all the way in 2019. But I think it would be the best team in baseball if it had Yelich instead of Ozuna.

Just a thought (that I can’t get out of my head.)

St. Louis Cardinals first-round draft pick Dakota Hudson talks Saturday after receiving a $2-million signing bonus to begin his professional career as a pitcher.

Hudson, Flaherty developing into elite starting pitchers

With six innings of one-hit ball Thursday, Dakota Hudson notched his 15th win of the season, good for third in the National League behind Stephen Strasburg and Max Fried of the Atlanta Braves.

Jack Flaherty only has a 9-7 record. But he’s got a better earned run average (3.14) and he’s allowed only 199 hits in 160 1/3 innings. Flaherty has also struck out 186 while walking only 48.

Those two could be great for years to come. Imagine if somehow Alex Reyes can get healthy and join them as a young and economical big three starters. Plus, Carlos Martinez, if he is healthy, it likely to end up back in the rotation along with Miles Mikolas.

After a shaky start to 2019, St. Louis might finally be the proud owner of an elite starting rotation just entering its prime.

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