With the trade deadline now less than a month away, teams are running out of time to target players to acquire to meet their needs. The Cardinals, overall, are a strong team, however there are some areas that need to be addressed in their lineup in order to make it deeper for October.
Cardinals acquire: Andrew Benintendi
Royals acquire: Austin Love, Jonathan Mejia and Malcolm Nunez
There is an argument to be made that the Cardinals do not need to bring in any outfield help in July. When everybody is healthy the outfield features Dylan Carlson, Tyler O’Neill and Harrison Bader, however that is a big if as O’Neill and Bader have lengthy injury histories. Additionally, acquiring an outfielder would allow for O’Neill who is on the IL for the second time this season to be eased along in his recovery rather than playing the outfield five to six times a week.
If the Cardinals were to acquire Benintendi, he would arguably become one of the two best hitters in their lineup. His xBA of .285 would lead the team, .001 ahead of Paul Goldschmidt’s mark and his xWOBA of .348 would rank third only behind Goldschmidt and rookie slugger Nolan Gorman. Benintendi is not the traditional left-handed hitter who has a high slugging percentage as his xSLG percentage of .441 ranks in the 44th lowest percentile in baseball. Despite this though it would still be the fifth highest mark on the team amongst hitters with 100 or more plate appearances. Along with these numbers he would bring with him one of the best K percentage rates in the league as he strikes out only 13.5 percent of the time which is in the 92nd percentile. Additionally, his whiff percentage of 19.6 percent is 5 percent below league average and ranks in the 80th percentile whilst his chase rate of 22.8 percent ranks in the 83rd percentile. Benintendi also brings a strong glove with him as over the past three seasons he has posted an out above average total of +2.
The cost is not overly prohibitive in this trade for the Cardinals. Despite giving up three prospects in the deal they are only trading their 10th, 12th and 17th best prospects according to MLB Pipeline. Additionally, the highest ceiling prospect in the deal, Jonathan Mejia projected MLB debut is not until 2028 meaning the Cardinals are giving up a lottery ticket style prospect who could reach his ceiling but is effectively a major unknown.
Cardinals acquire: David Peralta
Diamondbacks acquire: Malcolm Nunez
For the same reasons listed above when discussing Benintendi, I think it is important for the Cardinals to acquire an outfielder this July. Quietly Peralta has been one of the better overall hitters in baseball this season. His xBA of .274 falls into the 67th percentile and would be tied for second on in the Cardinals lineup and his xWOBA of .363 which ranks in the 77th percentile would also be tied for second on St. Louis. Peralta’s xSLG of .522 which sits in the 83rd percentile would give him the third highest mark amongst St. Louis hitters. Additionally, his average exit velocity of 91.2 MPH which falls into the 85th percentile is higher than any Cardinals hitter and his barrel percentage of 12.9 percent would be the highest percentage amongst qualified Cardinal hitters. Unlike Benintendi, Peralta does bring some swing and miss with him as a player. His K percentage of 23.3 percent falls in the bottom 38th percentile, his whiff percentage of 27.4 percent falls in the 31st percentile and his chase rate of 31.8 percent is in the bottom 28th percentile. Peralta has also been one of the better defensive outfielders this season as his outs above average of +5 is in the 93rd percentile in baseball amongst outfielders.
This trade is a lot cheaper than the Benintendi deal as rather than trading three prospects including their 10th best, they would only have to sacrifice their 12th best. There are multiple arguments to be made that this deal makes a lot more sense for the Cardinals in both that Peralta might be a better overall hitter and the return they’d be giving up for him. It simply would come down to the style of hitter the Cardinals would prefer: a high contact player in Benintendi, or a swing and miss higher strikeout percentage player in Peralta.
Cardinals acquire: Jose Iglesias
Rockies acquire: Leonardo Bernal
In acquiring Iglesias, the Cardinals get a high contact hitter and a defender who outside of this season has had one of the gloves in baseball. Despite ranking in the bottom 3 percent of hitters in exit velocity in seven of the last eight seasons including this year Iglesias consistently posts high xBA numbers. His xBA of .277 ranks in the 70th percentile in baseball, which is due to how much contact he makes. His strikeout percentage of 10.5 percent is in the 96th percentile as is his whiff percentage of 14.2 percent. He is certainly not a slugger as his xSLG percentage falls in the 7th lowest percentile and xISO, which is expected isolated slugging percentage sits in the lowest percentile in the league. Although, that is not what the Cardinals would be bringing him in for. He would be brought in to put the ball in play, which is something he excels at, bring more speed to the lineup as his sprint speed falls into the 80th percentile and play stellar defense come the postseason. His outs above average this season is -5, although his career number of +31 hints to this being both an anomaly and very possibly a result of where the Rockies position him.
In Bernal the Cardinals are giving their 29th best prospect up according to MLB Pipeline. They might even be able to acquire Iglesias for a cheaper price such as the famed player to be named later, although it is dependent on the overall demand for the former All Star.