With incumbent Matt Carpenter suffering through a second sub-par season in a row, the position with the most room for improvement on the St. Louis Cardinals roster is certainly third base.
With a payroll choked with big new contracts for Carpenter, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and starting pitcher Miles Mikolas, it seems unlikely the Cardinals will be bidders for top free agent Anthony Rendon when the market opens for business in the coming days.
So, what can St. Louis do to try to improve the offensive production it receives from the hot corner? A trade seems like the best opportunity.
Here are three third base targets the Cardinals should consider if they don’t chase Rendon:
Nolan Arenado has been rumored to be on the block as the Colorado Rockies try to lighten their payroll load. But is he really available only one year after signing a contract that covers eight seasons? One look at the pact makes it obvious why the Rockies might be having buyer’s remorse. The deal calls for Arenado to receive $260 million overall, but he got “only” $26 million the first year. From 2020-2024, he’ll get a whopping $35 million a year, in 2025 he’ll get $32 million and in the last year of the deal, he’ll get $27 million. That big jump in annual pay next season might have convinced Colorado their superstar is just too darn expensive.
If Arenado is too expensive for the Rockies, isn’t he too expensive for the Cardinals, too? I’ve heard that the third baseman was a top target of St. Louis before he took himself off the market by signing an extension to stay in Colorado. If the team was willing to pay $300 million for Giancarlo Stanton, this deal might seem like a bargain. But, why not just bid on Rendon and save the prospects if the Cardinals don’t mind writing a check? If the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees get involved in the bidding, Rendon could cost a lot more than the $234 million Arenado is owed. St. Louis might be able to convince the Rockies to give it a little payroll relief by offering a package of more reasonably priced talent that is ready for the major leagues. What about new Gold Glove recipient Kolten Wong, pitcher Carlos Martinez and either Harrison Bader — who could cover a lot of ground in the Colorado outfield — or Tyler O’Neill, whose power would be intriguing in the mile high air.
In the end, I think it’s unlikely Arenado will be available. But he’s a franchise changing player and the Cardinals should be all in if he hits the trading block.
Justin Turner is a player I’ve liked for a long time. He’s likely going nowhere. But if the Dodgers were the winning bidder for Rendon, Turner might suddenly be surplus talent. Unlike Rendon, who is at the beginning of a mega deal, Turner wouldn’t break the bank, financially. He’s in the last year of a four-year contract.
He’d be a tremendous improvement both offensively and defensively at third base with the eighth-highest on-base plus slugging percentage among MLB third basemen. Because he’s only got one year of control left, should the Dodgers choose to part with Turner, I would guess the ask wouldn’t be outrageous.
The Dodgers currently owe St. Louis something of a favor after the Cardinals took on Tony Cingrani’s dead contract to save Los Angeles from payroll luxury tax penalties in the Jeff Gyorko swap.
Josh Donaldson is a name that’s been tied to the Cardinals quite a bit during the past three years. First, he was going to be traded to St. Louis by the Toronto Blue Jays, then he was going to sign with the Cardinals as a free agent. None of that turned out to be true. But he’ll surely be linked to St. Louis again after completing a one-year deal with the Atlanta Braves in 2019.
The problem is that Donaldson is another year older, soon to be 34, and even a two or three-year contract will take him into the past-his-prime danger zone. As we saw last year when he quickly signed with the team he grew up rooting for, the Atlanta Braves, it’s not his life’s ambition to play for the Cardinals. The only way he ends up playing his home games at Busch Stadium is if Atlanta decides to move on from the veteran infielder and he’s looking at his second or third choice to play with no multi-year deals on the table. But if the Cardinals are interested in improving their weakest position, Donaldson would only cost money as opposed to prospects because he is a free agent.
Neither Turner nor Donaldson are long-term solutions for the Redbirds’ problems at third base. But they wouldn’t block the position from top prospect Nolan Gorman like Rendon or Arenado would. If the Cardinals are confident Gorman is a franchise centerpiece of the future, the temporary solution route may be the best way to go.
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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.