The Cardinals Need a Legit 3-4 Hitter; Here Are 12 Potential Trade Partners

So many of us who cover/follow/root for the Cardinals have been talking about finding a legit 3-4 hole hitter for both the short and the long term, but finding one who is actually available will be a big challenge.

So where can the Cardinals find one? Let’s take a look.

Okay, first of all let’s establish which teams we’re dealing with here. Let’s break down the teams that could at least conceivably be interested in some kind of deal…

Not moving assets: Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, Twins, Astros, Nationals, Brewers, Cubs, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Dodgers

Might move assets but don’t have what you’re looking for: Rays, Angels, Braves, Phillies, Giants, Padres

Possible trade partners: Blue Jays, Orioles, Royals, Tigers, White Sox, Mariners, Rangers, A’s, Marlins, Mets, Pirates, Reds

Now we go through potential trade partners to see if there might be a match…

Blue Jays

Here’s the thing – they’re only 2 games out of a Wild Card spot so they’re not moving anyone right now. The only real fit here would be Josh Donaldson and I have a hard time seeing the Jays moving their MVP candidate. He’s the type of player the Cardinals are looking for but he would be really, really expensive to acquire and he only has one year left of team control after 2017 before he hits free agency.

Likelihood of a deal: 5%

Orioles

Also just 2 games out of a Wild Card. Manny Machado is the only true fit here even though some would like to see Chris Davis in a Cards uniform. The problem for me is that Davis is really expensive – more than $21 million a year from 2018-2022 and he’s already 31 years old. Plus he’s hitting in the .220’s for the second straight season and is on pace to strike out 220 times for the second straight season (was actually 219 in 2016). No thanks. Machado is struggling right now but I’d gamble on him…but he’s not going anywhere this season. Maybe in the offseason but if you’re not going to get him to agree to a long-term extension in advance of trading for him it may not be worth giving up a ton of assets for one season.

Likelihood of a deal: 5%

Royals

They’re only 2 games out of a Wild Card as well, which is a problem. Another problem is that the guys who fit this description – Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer – are all free agents at the end of the season. So not exactly ideal with this season being such a question mark for the Cardinals. I don’t really see a match here given the standings and the rental status of the players.

Likelihood of a deal: 10%

Tigers

The Tigers are 4 1/2 out of a Wild Card spot and behind a whole bunch of teams so they’re likely a seller at some point. The only real fit for the Cardinals here is J.D. Martinez but he’s also a free agent at the end of the season, complicating the possibility. Martinez has been one of the best run producers in baseball the last three years but he’s going to get paid as a free agent and unless you could agree to terms on an extension with him he won’t be worth the trade package. The Tigers and Cardinals actually match up very well – the Tigers need pitching and someone who can reasonably handle CF and the Cardinals have those players to trade – but the fact that Martinez hits the open market at the end of the year complicates this situation.

Likelihood of a deal: 20%

White Sox

They’re in “sell mode” in Chicago for sure but they really only have one hitter that fits this description – Jose Abreu. To make this move the Cardinals would have to move Carpenter off 1B but it just might be worth it for the big right hander. He’s hit 36-30-25 HR in his first three Major League seasons and has topped 100 RBI in each of those years – this year he’s on pace for 28 HR and 100 RBI. He hits for average and gets on base as well. He will be expensive the next couple of years because of arbitration but he is under team control through the end of the 2019 season. He would not come cheap, the Cardinals would have to part with some of their best young players – I’d guess this deal costs them a couple of their high-level pitching prospects plus Magneuris Sierra and/or Carson Kelly. But Abreu is the right kind of hitter for what the Cardinals need.

Likelihood of a deal: 40%

Mariners

Hey look, another AL team that’s only 2 games out of a Wild Card. Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano both fit what the Cardinals are looking for but neither seems likely to be moved. The Mariners are still in the mix now and they don’t have a ton of long term salary commitments. I don’t see either of these guys moving even if Seattle falls back a bit. Maybe Cruz – maybe – because he’s a free agent after 2018.

Likelihood of a deal: 20%

Rangers

They might be willing to part with one of their big bats to get some pitching help – and they’re also 2 games out of a Wild Card spot – but I don’t think anyone they’d consider moving would fit what the Cardinals need. Nomar Mazara and Rougned Odor aren’t going anywhere. Nobody else fits.

Likelihood of a deal: 1%

A’s

The A’s are out of it and they’re always willing to wheel and deal. The only player who fits what the Cardinals would be looking for is Khris Davis and while I’m sure he could be had, he’s not exactly the perfect candidate. Make no mistake, he has the 40 HR power you could fall in love with but he’s a career .248 hitter who strikes out a ton. He is better than the options you currently have for the middle of the order, so that’s something. He’s also under team control through 2019. The Cardinals have the pieces to get Davis, IMO. A definite “maybe” here.

Likelihood of a deal: 50%

Marlins

They’ll sell to get some pitching – and the Cardinals have that in abundance – but do they really have what the Cardinals need? Giancarlo Stanton isn’t going anywhere, IMO. Neither is Christian Yelich because of his team-friendly deal. Marcell Ozuna could be had if the Marlins are open to dealing – the fact that they’re for sale really complicates things – but is he a legit middle of the order guy or is he just having a career year? He could be worth the gamble. He’s still just 26 years old and has legit 30 HR power and is hitting .330 right now despite being a career .273 hitter. The ownership situation probably needs to clear up before a deal is possible.

Likelihood of a deal: 50%

Mets

Let’s be honest, the only possible fit here is Yoenis Cespedes and the Mets lineup is nothing without him moving forward. Jay Bruce is having a nice year but he’s never been a top tier guy, plus he’s a free agent at the end of the season. Curtis Granderson is also a free agent at the end of the season, meaning that the Mets don’t need to move Cespedes’ salary ($29 million a year 2018-2020). Cespedes in LF would look great for the Cards but I don’t see the Mets making this kind of move.

Likelihood of a deal: 5%

Pirates

There’s only one name here that would make any sense – Andrew McCutchen – and he’s probably going to be traded but I don’t see the Pirates moving him in the division. He would be really expensive and only has one more year of team control left after this year. Considering the knee problems he’s had, the fact that he’s not putting up the numbers he used to put up and the division rivalry I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

Likelihood of a deal: 5%

Reds

Joey Votto and maybe even Adam Duvall could fit what the Cardinals need but are the Reds going to do the Cardinals any favors? Doubt it. Votto is 33 years old and locked in at $25 million a year until his age 39 season so there may be some motivation for the Reds to move him but they’ve never seemed that into moving him in the past and they certainly wouldn’t want him in the division if they did move him. Duvall is cheap and under team control through 2021 so why would they trade him?

Likelihood of a deal: 5%

So there you have it…

You’re best options that would cover you for the rest of this season and beyond are probably Khris Davis and Jose Abreu. Abreu really fits but he’ll be costly and there will be other teams after him, plus you’d have to move Carpenter off 1B. Davis would slot in nicely in LF but he’s got some flaws in his offensive game, he’s not a great defender and he likely wouldn’t come cheap either.

The best long term fit is J.D. Martinez. That means you just might need to win the bidding war this offseason for a guy who has a .900+ OPS since Opening Day 2014. He’ll be the best bat out there this offseason as a 30-year-old and he would change the Cardinals lineup for sure. But with all of their other big, long term contracts do they have the stomach for another?

They’d better…or we’ll be looking at the same inconsistent offense again next year.

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