Currently positioned at the third-best team in the National League Central division as the end of June grows closer and closer, the St. Louis Cardinals are keeping their postseason chances close enough to still see for now – but not close enough to actually grasp.
Having just found out that their fireballer closer Jordan Hicks was lost for the rest of the season and the first half of their 2020 season due to undergoing Tommy John surgery, this team is lacking a few pieces as they look to rebound from a very trying 2018 campaign that saw their long-time manager Mike Matheny get replaced before the team went on a wild-card hunt.
Even as they fell short, their postseason aspirations were still impressive, and their offseason showed their thoughts on how they felt about their chances to compete. Trading for slugging first baseman and new franchise cornerstone Paul Goldschmidt was their biggest move of the offseason, prying him away from the struggling Arizona Diamondbacks who were looking for a bit of a franchise reset.
Other moves include signing left-handed reliever Andrew Miller and backup catcher Matt Wieters, which capped off an offseason that saw the team trying to keep up with their two biggest divisional threats, who coincidentally both sit ahead of the Redbirds in the standings.
Both the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers have been struggling of late, as the Cubs have gone .500 across their last ten games and the Brew Crew have only won three games. To the credit of the Cardinals, their five wins have helped keep them within arm’s length of the second-place beer makers by two games, and currently, sit three games behind the Cubbies.
As the team currently looks, their chances at making the postseason are not super impressive. With Goldschmidt, infielder Matt Carpenter and outfielder Marcell Ozuna leading the charge on the offensive end, coupled with Michael Wacha and Miles Mikolas providing solid numbers out of the starting rotation, and this team has some stalwarts to look to in crunch time moments.
The bad part is the rest of their roster could use some upgrades, as their bullpen and their bench depth are the two biggest areas that should be looked at for upgrades as the July 31st trade deadline quickly approaches.
Only sitting a handful of games back of first place is a solid feat for this team, putting themselves in a good position to be a buying squad at the deadline. With their top-heavy farm system built around third baseman Nolan Gorman and outfielder Dylan Carson, the Cards do have some pieces that can be used in trades, albeit decimating their already-middling prospect outlook.
Here are three potential trade targets that the Redbirds should consider to help push them closer to a playoff appearance.
Marcus Stroman – SP, Toronto
As household of a name as any, Marcus Stroman has seemingly been on the trading block for the past few seasons, forced to bide his time on a struggling Toronto Blue Jays team that is looking for any sort of youth to help push this team out of mediocrity. While pitching to yet another solid season, Stroman’s time north of the border should be short, and he would be a fantastic addition for the Cards.
Not necessarily needing to shell out big-time prospects for Stroman, any sort of haul will take from the Cards prospect outlook, potentially needing to snag two top-30 prospects, including one that sits in the top 10. Sending someone like #8 prospect, LHP Genesis Cabrera, who was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays for Tommy Pham, along with RHP Daniel Ponce de Leon, who has been up and down with the Cards, would resemble starting ground for a deal.
Throw in a high-upside prospect and some cash, and this deal would be good to go for the Cards, as bringing in a solid piece to serve as the team’s ace would be a great get for this team.
Madison Bumgarner – SP, San Francisco
Similar to Stroman, Madison Bumgarner’s name has been thrown around the trade wire like a beachball lately, as every contending team seems to have some sort of odd infatuation with him. The Giants left-handed starting pitcher would constitute an upgrade for any team, but he does come with some red flags.
Temper and down stats, just to name a few, have plagued Bum so far in 2019, and while pitching for a struggling Giants franchise that is just looking forward to the draft at this point is difficult, Bum’s stats have just not looked like typical Bum-like performances.
However, this approach could play exactly into the Cardinals’ hands, as the price tag could be a bit lower due to the stigma that currently follows Bumgarner wherever he goes. However, any deal that would acquire him would still require big-name players, which for the Cardinals could potentially mean sending Gorman back the other way.
Losing Gorman would be a major blow to this team, but is quite young and has only played at A-level ball after being drafted last year, so his development timeframe still is a few years out. For the Giants, their play is for the future, and Gorman would be a great player that would represent a high-upside choice for helping hold down the hot corner in 2022 and beyond.
If giving up Gorman is almost too much to handle, then both Bum and left-handed reliever Will Smith could be packaged together to sweeten the deal, which would help address their bullpen issues and their starting rotation downfalls. Smith, whom the Cards are familiar with as he pitched for the Brewers for a few years, would be another good lefty in the pen that has closing experience and could help soften the blow of losing Hicks.
Of these two pitchers listed, Stroman has longer control and is better, but Bum has that second gear that kicks in during the playoffs, which would be an immense help for this team if they got back to the postseason.
Ian Kinsler – 2B/UTL, San Diego
One of the more seasoned veteran players that could very well be on the move before this season’s deadline, Ian Kinsler has become a very well-traveled infielder, currently starting at second base for the San Diego Padres. With that team sitting in fourth place in the NL West and 14 games back of the division lead, the Friars would be smart to sell off some expendable pieces, which should involve Kinsler.
While Kinsler’s role with the Cards would need to be fleshed out more, he could potentially start at second base, sending Kolten Wong to the bench to add a proven hitter to the pine. While Kinsler is past his prime, the 37-year old is putting some decent numbers and is a defensive guru who would help shore up the Cardinals defensive numbers.
Only needing to ship one or two low-level, not high ranking prospects to the Padres would probably be enough to snatch him up, and his veteran presence would be enough to improve this team.