Let’s play a little “deal or no deal” with the Cardinals’ trade assets.
Let me start this article by passing out a little credit.
In their latest episode, the two Bens over at the Cardinals Off Day podcast had a segment where they went through a list of Cardinals players and prospects who might be included in a potential trade deadline deal, giving a “would I or wouldn’t I” for each with a brief explanation.
It’s a simple idea. A good idea.
I’m 100% stealing it today.
I don’t think they’ll mind. They’re both former Birdos. They both already know I’m their #1 super fan.
Plus, my dissertation advisor assures me that it’s not stealing if you credit the source. So, here I am, Bens, crediting my source!
Give the podcast a listen. Seriously. It’s one of the best out there. They’ve put out several great episodes over the All-Star Break and into the second half. If you’re driving around this weekend, give them a download and a play.
[Speaking of podcasts, here’s a shameless plug for our own VEB Podcast, which will have a SUPER MEGA ULTRA MEGA SUPER episode coming out Wednesday morning following the trade deadline. We’re planning to have at least five writers on with us! And I haven’t reached out to Skyric yet, because he’s not in our Twitter DM group. (We like to talk about him behind his back. And he’s not on Twitter.) So, Skyric, if you’re reading this and want to hop on the pod with us, shoot me a text or email. I’ll do the same.]
Enough drivel. On with the (100% stolen) meat of this post.
Deal or no deal – 2022 trade deadline edition!
First, some caveats. It should go without saying that each of these players would have to be moved in the right deal. So, while I might be willing to deal Matthew Liberatore, I’m not giving him up for a backup catcher. I would, however, give him up for a cost-controlled starter.
In that regard, every player on this list is one that I would deal if the right trade came along. Do the Nats want to give Soto for Carlson straight up? Yes, please! Sorry DC3. Enjoy DC1. (Get it? Get it!?) But that’s not realistic.
So just assume every one of these deals or no deals involves a fair trade.
1. Dylan Carlson – No Deal
Speaking of DC3, would I trade him? I would try everything in my power not to. If you’ve read my stuff over the last three years, you’ll know I’m a big fan of his. I think he can really hit. I think he can continue to grow as a defender and become above average in the corners and maybe average in center over short stretches. I think he’ll develop some power. He could make an All-Star team or two. I don’t think he’s an MVP-caliber prospect. I don’t think he’s going to be a 4-6 fWAR player annually. That’s just one step above his skillset.
While I’m not sure that he’s a star, I am pretty comfortable projecting him as the kind of player that can hang around for 15 years in Cardinals red and end up with a red jacket. If he consistently provided 3-4 fWAR while staying relatively healthy and with the club, then you have to start talking about him alongside other outfielders like Ray Lankford (124 wRC+, 40 fWAR), Brian Jordan (114 wRC+, 19.3 fWAR), or George Hendrick (125 wRC+, 18.8 fWAR).
That’s a player that the Cardinals should do everything they can do to keep him around.
2. Nolan Gorman – Deal
Nolan Gorman is probably going to have gaudier hitting stats than Dylan Carlson through his career. He’s young. He’s defensively versatile, even if he doesn’t play any position at an above-average rate yet. I think he could make several All-Star games at 2nd or 3rd.
So why am I willing to deal him and not Carlson? It’s largely related to system depth. With Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Jordan Walker, Tommy Edman, Brendan Donovan, Jordan Walker, and Masyn Winn either at or pushing the majors, infield depth is somewhat expendable.
If it took Nolan Gorman to nab a cost-controlled, young impact starter, I’d be willing to do it. Not because I’m down on Gorman but because I’m up on the need to plug some real talent into this rotation for the foreseeable future. And I’m pretty up on the idea of Brendan Donovan filling in at 2b if such a move was made. Over the short term, I think Donovan can equal or exceed Gorman’s production. Donovan has him in wRC+ 129 to 110 this season. So a Gorman trade might not hurt for a year or two.
Disagree with me? Great. I wouldn’t worry about it. There are only 1-2 of those kinds of pitchers on the market and I don’t think the Cards have any real interest in them. Gorman is rumored to be in a Cardinals’ offer to the Nats for Soto. I still give that low odds of happening. So, the “other Nolan” on the infield will almost certainly remain a Cardinal.
3. Tyler O’Neill – Deal
Here’s an interesting one: Tyler O’Neill. He was an MVP candidate last year. He had a cold stretch, then several minor injuries, and now he’s showing signs of heating up. There’s an old adage that I think came from Mark Twain: “don’t trade a player at his lowest value.” O’Neill’s stats are down at the moment but I don’t think his value is. He still has two more arbitration seasons and I guarantee that tremendous power and Gold Glove-caliber defense would make half the GMs in the league look right past a bad April and May.
Why would I trade him? Because Jordan Walker is going to need a place to play soon. And Alec Burleson is hanging out with no path to the majors. I have no idea if either player would be as good as TON. But like with Gorman, if you can translate our favorite muscle-bound Canadian into a quality starter, you just might have to think about it.
I think this is all academic, though. With hordes of attractive prospects in the system, other teams aren’t going to be demanding O’Neill as the centerpiece of a trade. I would be willing to move him in the right deal. But no such deal is forthcoming.
4. Jordan Walker – No Deal (Except…)
Let me just make this plain: I would deal Jordan Walker in the right package for Juan Soto. That’s it. There’s not another player on the market (that I’m aware of) that could pry Walker from me.
Walker is still cooking at AA. He has a 123 wRC+ but that comes with a .300/.388/.480 batting line. Pretty impressive, right? More impressive is the fact that he’s doing it at age 20. And not like 20 and 11 months and 29 days. He just turned 20 two months ago. He produced that kind of line while spending half the year at age 19. He walks. He doesn’t K much (relative to age and power). He carries a high BABIP but that’s not luck. He smokes the ball, having one of the highest average exit velocities in the minors. He’s earned all the accolades that he gets and is already a legit contender on rankings lists for the number one prospect spot in the game.
Defensively he has options. He plays a solid third. He could easily handle first. He has the arm and legs to switch to corner outfield with a little practice. Because of his surprising speed (15 steals), Kyle Reis won’t rule out center. What about 2nd? As Mark Twain also said, “if Mike Moustakas can play there…” Anyway, Walker’s a pure hitter with defensive versatility and all the upside of a future MVP candidate.
Soto or bust. They’re keeping him.
5. Masyn Winn – No Deal
Like Walker, Winn is just 20 years old. He started the year at A+ ball and treated it like his personal playground. Of course, the lively and charismatic Winn treats everything like his personal playground. He had a .349/.404/.566 line good for a 162 wRC+ there. He did all that while firing rockets across the diamond from shortstop at 98-100 mph. That earned him a quick promotion to AA. AA at that age represents a huge challenge for a young, athletic player without an elite offensive skill set (i.e. he’s not Jordan Walker at the plate.) But Winn has really held his own. His line is .266/.335/.443 with a 97 wRC+. While that might not seem impressive – the wRC+ is a tad below average – it really is. He’s a short stop with elite defensive tools. He doesn’t have to hit like Walker does. Still, his walk rate is at 10%. His K rate is under 22%. His ISO is .177. He’s stealing a ton of bases. The offense is there. He just needs a little patience.
Right now, Winn looks like he’s on track toward being an All-Star caliber shortstop who could win some Gold Gloves.
He’s Edgar Renteria, maybe? With Trevor Rosenthal’s throwing arm.
How do you trade that kind of player? The answer is you don’t. It’s just that simple.
That’s why, if Jeff Jones’ reporting is correct, the Cardinals refused to include Winn in a potential deal for Soto and moved them over to Gorman. Walker might get all the prospect accolades (and well deserved) but I kind of think Winn is the most important prospect in the Cardinals’ system.
Those are the main ones I wanted to cover. Now some quick hits.
Matthew Liberatore – Deal
Liberatore is still young and, though he’s struggled, he has shown skills in the minors that we have not seen yet in the majors. That said, I would be willing to move him for a more established pitcher. The Cardinals need more whiffs and stuff and proven upside in their rotation going forward.
Zack Thompson – Deal
Thompson has done a lot to improve his value this season. He should be very attractive. I wonder about his future in the rotation with really only two pitches. He’s not a guy that the Cards have to hang on to.
Alec Burleson – Deal
Lefty outfielders are hard to come by for the Cards but with some depth in the outfield and only the lefty-side of a platoon with Yepez available to him over the next few seasons, he’s an easy trade candidate.
Gordon Graceffo – No Deal
You know that whole thing I mentioned about about “whiffs and stuff”? Graceffo can do that. I like him more than any other Cardinals pitcher prospect. I would prefer to hang on to him if possible.
Michael McGreevey – Deal
The Cards love these contact-oriented control arms. They can get a lot of miles out of them. That probably makes him more useful to the Cardinals than other teams. But if he could lock down an impact trade, I wouldn’t hesitate to move him.
Markevian (Tink) Hence – No Deal
Hence is a name to start paying attention to you if you’re not already. He has dynamic stuff and should be working his way onto prospect lists soon, now that scouts are getting a good look at him. Right now he’s too far away to have trade value that matches his incredible talent. It’s not worth moving him.
Happy Saturday, VEB! It should be a wild weekend. I’ll see you again on Wednesday morning to break the trade deadline down with the writing staff.