Wildly inconsistent during his two years in St. Louis, Cardinal fans have to wonder if Marcell Ozuna is worth the risk of a long-term contract. But if St. Louis let go of their incumbent cleanup hitter, who are they going to find to replace his lost power and production?
If we’re going to throw things against the wall to see what sticks, why not dream big?
Suppose the Cardinals replaced Ozuna with the guy they wanted in his role to begin with: Giancarlo Stanton.
Stanton rejected a trade to the Cardinals during the 2017 offseason, forcing a deal to the New York Yankees. Why would he accept a deal to St. Louis now? Well, possibly because Stanton’s time in the Big Apple hasn’t exactly been great for either him or the Bronx Bombers. Because of a series of nagging injuries, Stanton missed almost the entire 2019 season, and his team basically hasn’t missed him at all. The Yankees won 103 games while Stanton only appeared 18 times. The Yankees have seven players who hit 20 or more home runs, so they could definitely find a better way to spend the $240 million left on the outfielder’s contract. This is a fact that isn’t lost on the rough New York media which criticizes Stanton as being “soft.”
He got to realize his dream of playing in New York. It hasn’t been great. Maybe Stanton would like to play somewhere without as intense of a media spotlight.
Another factor is that the Cardinals were a lot less competitive in 2016-17 than they were in 2019 when the slugger decided he didn’t want to play here. Stanton saw St. Louis make it to the NLCS without him. Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Tommy Edman, Jordan Hicks and other have proven themselves to be major league talent. Stanton could really be the guy who puts the Cardinals over the top.
Stanton will be entering his age 30 season next year. His injuries weren’t really the sort of issues anyone should be worried about as long-term issues. Still, some might be concerned about the fact that he has nearly a quarter million left on the deal. But I would imagine that the Cardinals ought to be more comfortable taking on that money than they would have been two years ago when the player had about $295 million coming to him.
Let’s also not forget that the Cardinals stand to save a ton of money this year and next as they go through a change of the guard. Parting with Michael Wacha and Ozuna would save about $20 million. If Adam Wainwright decides to retire, that’s $10 million. Yadier Molina’s current contract will expire after the 2020 season.
What would it take to land Stanton?
I’m guessing that if the Cardinals are willing to eat the whole deal, it shouldn’t be a lot in terms of talent. The early chatter surrounding the hot stove league is that the Los Angeles Dodgers — who have a limited amount of payroll flexibility because of luxury tax issues — are focused on top free agent hitter Anthony Rendon of the Washington Nationals. I’m not sure if some of the other big spenders are shopping for outfielders this season. The Chicago Cubs have a full house in the outfield, the New York Mets don’t seem to have the money to burn. So, without a lot of competition to drive up the market, maybe the Birds could offer a mediocre prospect or two plus pick up the tab for Stanton. It would be a major coup if they could get New York to take Matt Carpenter’s contract to offset the money a little bit. If so, the deal would be a no-brainer for St. Louis.
If they could somehow make it happen, the spotty Cardinals offense would definitely get a major boost. Paul Goldschmidt and Stanton would be one of the best third and fourth hitter combinations in the major leagues.
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Scott Wuerz is a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan. The Cheap Seats blog is written from his perspective as a fan and is designed to spark discussion among fans of the Cardinals and other MLB teams. Sources supporting his views and opinions are linked. If you’re looking for Cardinals news and features, check out the BND’s Cardinals section.