St. Louis Cardinals: Outfielders
Last week, the president of the St. Louis Cardinals stated, "We're going to trade people". This week, we'll look at some targets:
The Background of the Comment:
(Note: This section is the same as our previous articles this week)
In 2022, the St. Louis Cardinals handedly won the NL Central, though the season had been another in a stream of recent disappointment. Not only did they see two homegrown future Hall of Famers retire in Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols (though Pujols did take a 10 year vacation away from St. Louis), but they lost in the NL Wild Card game/series for the 3rd straight season.
In the 11 seasons since their World Series win in 2011, the Cardinals had made just 1 other World Series, 3 NLCS series, 1 NLDS series, 3 wild cards, and missed the playoffs all together in 3 other seasons. For being the 2nd most winning franchise in the sport with 11 championships of their own, the last decade had shown promise with few results. In their last 7 years from 2016 to 2022 they made it to the NLDS once. During that stretch they saw a fellow NL Central team win the World Series (Chicago Cubs, 2016) as well as a former division rival in the Houston Astros win 2 (2017, 2022) and make 2 others (2019, 2021).
Luckily for the Cardinals, however they still had one of the best teams in baseball- on paper- coming into the 2023 season. They had the reigning 2022 NL MVP in Paul Goldschmidt, another yearly MVP contender and 6-time platinum glove winner in Nolan Arenado returning. They took an All-Star catcher in Willson Contreras from their division rival Cubs, and had a plethora of promising young talent to fill in with the likes of Lars Nootbaar, Nolan Gorman, Jordan Walker, and Brandon Donovan to name a few.
On the pitching side of things they had another homegrown and potential future Hall of Famer return with Adam Wainwright, as well as guys like Jack Flaherty (returning from injury), Jordan Montgomery, and Miles Mikolas for the rotation. The bullpen also looked okay, but with the abundance of other talent the team looked poised to make another great run.
Going into the 2023 All-Star break, the St. Louis Cardinals instead have a 38-52 record (.422 winning percentage) and are 5th in the NL Central. They hold the 6th worst record in the MLB, have a less than 1% chance to make the playoffs, and are 11.5 games back in their division.
It's so surprise that the president of the team, John Mozeliak stated, "We're going to trade people".
Could any of those people be of interest to the Yankees?
The St. Louis Cardinals have a lot of assets on their team that could be useful for re-tooling on the fly. This is especially true of their outfield. Last year they traded away the often injured Harrison Bader and already had his replacement ready. This year the Cardinals have a slew of 6-7 outfielders who could be considered trade pieces.
To start, I'm going to knock-off 3 outfielders from the list.
The first is Jordan Walker, who is their 21 year old center fielder, who coming into the year was a consensus Top-5 prospect across the MLB. He's a piece that the Cardinals are hoping can fix his defense miscues at the MLB level and be a player to build around in the short and long-term.
Next is Alec Burleson, who was a near Top-100 prospect who also just made it to the big leagues this year. He's an interesting player, though he has shown a below-average bat so far and loses points as a right-handed hitter.
Finally we have Tyler O'Neill who has 6 years of MLB service, is a 2-time gold glover, and finished in the Top-10 in 2021 NL MVP voting. However, he is coming off a stint on the 60-Day IL with a lower back strain. I'd be very hesitant to trade for an outfielder with back problems.
That leaves us with 4 names. Let's discuss each with a little more detail.
Tommy Edman has 5 years of MLB experience, won a Gold Glove in 2021, and is a career average hitter with a .265/.319/.408/.727 quadruple slash, a 100 OPS+/101 wRC+, 536 hits, 47 home runs, and 204 RBI's over 543 games. In his career, he has accumulated +15.8 bWAR/+14.5 fWAR. He was in the midst of a sub-par offensive season in 2023 with a .237/.303/.391/.693 quadruple slash, an 89 OPS+/91 wRC+, 65 hits, 7 home runs, and 29 RBI's over 84 games. This season he has accumulated +0.8 bWAR/+1.2 fWAR. He also just recently went on the IL with right wrist inflammation. He has also mostly been an infielder in the MLB with 411 games split between second base and shortstop compared to 112 in the outfield. He's under control via arbitration 2 and 3 through the 2025 season.
Brendan Donovan has 2 years of MLB experience with a combined .283/.385/.398/.783 quadruple slash, a 122 OPS+/127 wRC+, 192 hits, 15 home runs, and 78 RBI's over 210 games. In his career he has accumulated +6.0 bWAR/+4.8 fWAR. So far in 2023, he has a .286/.372/.425/.797 quadruple slash, a 119 OPS+/124 wRC+, 82 hits, 10 home runs, and 33 RBI's over 84 games. This season he has accumulated +1.8 bWAR/+2.1 fWAR. He's played mostly at second base with 72 games, but has another 63 across the outfield. He's arbitration eligible for the first time going into 2025.
Dylan Carlson has 4 years of MLB experience with a combined .246/.326/.401/.728 quadruple slash, a 103 OPS+/103 wRC+, 308 hits, 34 home runs, and 143 RBI's over 369 games. In his career, he has accumulated +6.0 bWAR/+5.6 fWAR. So far in 2023, he had a left ankle sprain and has been a just around average at the plate with a .237/.343/.367/.710 quadruple slash, a 96 OPS+/103 wRC+, 40 hits, 5 home runs, and 20 RBI's over 57 games. This season he has accumulated +0.8 bWAR/+0.5 fWAR. He is a full-time outfielder and is arbitration eligible for the first time in his career going into 2024.
Lars Nootbaar made a huge name for himself while representing Japan during the 2023 World Baseball Classic. He is in his 3rd year of MLB experience and has a combined .242/.344/.422/.766 quadruple slash, a 114 OPS+/116 wRC+, 153 hits, 25 home runs, and 82 RBI's over 229 games. In his career he has accumulated +4.3 bWAR/+5.0 fWAR. In 2023, he has had two IL stints including a lower back contusion. At the plate he's had a .262/.360/.391/.751 quadruple slash, a 107 OPS+/111 wRC+, 61 hits, 6 home runs, and 27 RBI's over 63 games. This season he's accumulated +1.5 bWAR/+1.7 fWAR. Another full-time outfielder, he's going to be first time arbitration eligible going into the 2025 season.
Trading for An Outfielder:
There are a lot of options to consider with the Cardinals outfield (and somewhat outfield) pieces that I highlighted above.
Tommy Edman has the longest track record, though this comes against him by having his salary be higher and showcasing that his offensive stuff is just about average. He's all about what the Yankees are currently overly involved with as another super utility player. (He won his gold glove at second base.) He's an interesting player to consider and his BaseballTradeValues number is at a +16.2 MTV through the remainder of his control.
Brendan Donovan is another infield/outfield-lite player, though so far in his short career he's shown high proficiency with the bat. He seems to be a player that the Cardinals would highly favor themselves to keep around to build with and his value reflects that with a +38.3 MTV, which is the 3rd highest on the team.
Dylan Carlson seems to be the full-outfield version of Tommy Edman, though without any awards at the MLB level. His offensive stats are just about average and he has had time to showcase himself at the MLB level long enough for this to be the expectation going forward. His value is at +18.2 MTV, which makes him another potential get with another year of control over Edman.
Lars Nootbaar may have the best name in baseball and would be the hardest get to pry from the Cardinals. His playing in the WBC helped turn him into a name to know as a young budding star and his overall game is very good. He's nearly proven himself to be a consistent above-average hitter and his defense is solid while being a full-time player out there. The problem is his status and prominence that have elevated himself along with his game makes him the 2nd most valuable player on the Cardinals at a whooping +57.1 MTV. (The only player above him is the aforementioned Jordan Walker.)
Consider these 4 targets going forward for the next day and come back tomorrow to see my final thoughts and trade proposal between the Yankees and the Cardinals!