The St. Louis Cardinals are in a tightly contested race a top the National League Central with the Milwaukee Brewers this season. The Cardinals sit three games behind the Brewers as the 2022 MLB trade deadline rolls around. This is important because the Cardinals are tied for the final NL wild card spot right now, so in a way, the team that comes up short in the Central division may miss the playoffs entirely.

For that reason, the Cardinals are expected to be aggressive as the trade deadline nears over the next few days. They have been heavily linked to a trade for Washington Nationals superstar Juan Soto, although if they make that move, it will probably be the only one they make at the deadline.

There’s a pretty good chance that Soto won’t get traded at the deadline, which means that the Cardinals will have to come up with another plan. With that in mind, here are three sneaky trade targets for the Cardinals as the trade deadline approaches.

3 sneaky trade targets for the St. Louis Cardinals

3. Brandon Drury

If the Cardinals can’t pull off a deal for Soto, they are going to need to find someone else to come and help out their lineup. Among the top hitters who will certainly be on the market is Brandon Drury. The versatile Cincinnati Reds infielder is having the best season of his career, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Reds, who will likely cash out on Drury while they can.

Drury’s numbers this season (.271 BA, 19 HR, 57 RBI, .843 OPS) are all mostly the best of his career, and there are still two months left to go this season. He can also play all over the field, as he’s played at each spot in the infield for the Reds this season, as well as a game in right field too. That means it will be easy for the Cardinals to keep his bat in the lineup if they were able to pick him up.

Whether or not Drury’s production this season is sustainable remains to be seen, making him a bit of a risk. But if the Cardinals want to win and can’t pick up Soto at the deadline, acquiring Drury could allow them to add another bat on a cheap cost, meaning they could potentially pursue Soto again this offseason if he ends up staying put at the deadline, which would be a win-win for St. Louis.

2. Nathan Eovaldi

The Cardinals desperately need starting pitching at the deadline, and that will probably be the area they target the most as a result. They have the assets to go big and acquire one of the bigger names available, but they could potentially swing a deal for one of the more under-the-radar starters available in Nathan Eovaldi of the Boston Red Sox.

Nobody really knows what the Red Sox are going to do at the trade deadline, as they have completely fallen apart since the start of July. That has made a guy like Eovaldi a likely trade candidate since he’s set to be a free agent after the season. Eovaldi has been a bit inconsistent this season (4-3, 4.43 ERA, 80 K, 1.25 WHIP), and has been pretty bad in his three starts since he came off the injured list early in July, which is a bit concerning.

Eovaldi offers a ton of upside as a potential ace if he can find his form again (he did finish fourth in the AL Cy Young race last season). But his injury concerns and contract status could weigh down his value, making him a potential low risk, high reward option for the Cardinals as they attempt to revamp their starting rotation.

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1. Pablo Lopez

Of course, the Cardinals could opt to land one of the best starters available at the deadline instead and try to make a run after Miami Marlins stud Pablo Lopez. Lopez has quietly emerged as one of the top starters in the MLB over the past few seasons, and the Marlins are reportedly listening to offers for him.

Lopez is such a tantilizing target, obviously becasue he’s good, but also because he’s only 26 years old and is under team control through the 2024 season. Whichever team adds him would get a front of the line starter on a fairly cheap contract over the next few seasons. The Cardinals should consider doing whatever it takes to land Lopez.

Lopez could be a fantastic starting option for the Cardinals not just in 2022, but for many future seasons as well. That should make him one of their top trade targets heading into the trade deadline, and potentially even a sneaky one given the Marlins mysterious status surrounding Lopez. If the Cardinals could add Lopez, they may just have the firepower to move past the Brewers in the NL Central.