The 2023 St. Louis Cardinals have been nothing short of depressing. Coming off of a solid 2022 season filled with Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina’s farewell tours and chase of milestones, the team looked poised to be World Series contenders. But to this point, the team holds a 43-53 record and is holding the keys to the MLB trade deadline.
Why The Cardinals Hold The Keys For The Trade Deadline
The Cardinals president John Mozeliak has stated recently the team will be sellers at the deadline. Considering the franchise has historically been perennial World Series contenders every year over the last 20 years marks this deadline as a unique one.
With the team currently fielding some of baseball’s better players, the team could decide to do a deep tear-down of the roster and do a one-year re-tool and be ready for the 2024 season. But the decision looms on how far they want to go and which selling route they want to go.
One Year Rentals
The team currently has a few players who will be unrestricted free agents after the season. These players are all but certain to be elsewhere come August. Pitchers such as Jack Flaherty, Jordan Montgomery, Adam Wainwright, Chris Stratton, Drew VerHagen, and Jordan Hicks. While Paul DeJong has a club option for 2024 that will almost certainly be declined leading to his free agency.
Teams storming towards the August 1st trade deadline with their eyes on finding pitching reinforcements could be calling the Cardinals soon. Pitchers like Flaherty and Montgomery could make for great additions as a team’s three-man in the starting rotation.
While Wainwright, if he wants to end his career with a chance at another World Series, could waive his no-trade clause and could provide pitching depth as well to a team in need. This feels very unexpected but never say never.
The Cardinals are also currently holding onto soon-to-be free-agent relief pitching help like Hicks and Stratton who could fetch a quality return. Especially Hicks who is 26 years old and seems to finally be healthy and pitching at a high level recently. With relievers always in need, the team could flip these guys to several teams.
Should They Stay Or Should They Go Now?
If the franchise leaders decide to make bigger moves and push towards a re-tool or even a full rebuild, the team currently holds players that could change the landscape of the league for years to come, let alone in 2023. The mix between younger controllable players and producing veterans is appealing to almost every team.
Pitchers like Miles Mikolas, Steven Matz, Dakota Hudson, Giovanny Gallegos, and Ryan Helsley, could be trade bait with them all being quality arms and being under contract through at least 2024. If the team sees themselves as a year or two away they could look to move on from these guys.
Pitching is always needed for deep playoff runs, and if a team is willing to pay the price, the Cardinals could be sitting pretty on their return on investments here. And any player, especially pitchers, who have team control for more than the current season always draws a crowd of suitors.
They also hold the rights to some valuable position players with controllable years. This list includes players like Paul Goldschmidt, Tyler O’Neill, Tommy Edman, Nolan Arenado, Willson Contreras, and Dylan Carlson. Some are more likely to be moved than others but everyone has a price tag.
Last year’s NL MVP Goldschmidt is 35 years old and could be a huge name the team could move on from at the deadline. He could result in a huge haul for a contending team like the Philadelphia Phillies or even his former team the Arizona Diamondbacks.
While Arenado and Contreras are veterans sitting on long contracts could be on the move as well. Yes, this seems unlikely, but a ridiculous haul of young prospects and luxury tax relief could be enough to sway the Cardinals. With a roster still star-studded, holding tons of talent, and under control for the next few years, the Cardinals have tons of leverage.
Decision Day Is Almost Here
With the trade deadline only two weeks away, the front office in St. Louis needs to make a decision and start to feel out of the market now. With the pieces they have in the majors and the current state of the farm system, the team is still loaded with talent. Players like Masyn Winn, Jordan Walker, Nolan Gorman, Brendan Donovan, and Matthew Liberatore are the future.
With options to tear the team down and do a full rebuild, a quick re-tool or a relatively quiet deadline are all viable options here. So the team holds the keys to the deadline for these reasons, having great talent that doesn’t have to be moved but could be, would change the outlook of the league.
The St. Louis Cardinals are usually on the other end of things, but in 2023 they are the ones who could be selling and building a team for years to come. The rumors will be swirling and the activity and involvement by the Cardinals will be one to watch very closely.
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