New Cardinals General Manager, Michael Girsch, has quite a task a head of him. So much for an easy transition period allowing the new exec to come up to speed, eh ?
The first salvo in Battle 2017 has been fired by the Cubs. The Cubs sent two of their top prospects, power hitting outfielder Eloy Jimenez (1 in the organization and 8 overall) and right handed pitcher Dylan Crease (4 in the organization and 63 overall) plus a pair of infielders to their cross-town rivals for left handed starter Jose Quintana. That seems quite a lot to give up for a sub-.500 starter with an elevated ERA.
A deeper look at both sides of this deal begin to show it as a winner for each team. In his last 7 starts, Quintana is 6-1 with a 2.70 ERA, opponents are hitting .213 against him, and he has logged more than a strikeout (45) per inning pitched (40). Quintana has also logged 200 innings in each of his last 4 seasons and there is every reason to believe 2017 will be his fifth.
As for what the Cubs gave up, all four players were in A ball, with Jimenez in High A. That means all four are still 2 to 3 years away from playing in Wrigley, though some optimistic (overly so) projections have Jimenez making his MLB debut in 2019. Not only are they a long way away from the big club, each is currently blocked though a lot can change in those 2-3 years.
So how will the Cardinals match this move ?
They won’t. At least not directly. There is nothing the front office has said or done that suggests 2017 is an all in type of season for them. Sure, they want to remain competitive, or at least appear to be competitive, but the Cardinals are more than one or two players away from making a serious postseason run. We will talk about this in more detail in the coming weeks.
That doesn’t mean they will sit by idly at the trade deadline. They have several players that are now more valuable to other teams than the Cardinals. Top of that list is Lance Lynn. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Cardinals are not going to re-sign Lance Lynn, nor should they at this point. The money they will save by using internal options to replace Lynn next season can go to other areas where the needs are greater, such as first and third base. Sueng-Hwan Oh is another possible victim of his contract situation and could be moved in the next few weeks. Kolten Wong’s return could be the straw that strained the oblique muscle, in this case making former All Star Matt Carpenter the odd man out.
All this trade speculation is fun because few of the rumors or preposterous ideas ever happen. That said, there is one deal out there, that should it become available, Girsh and the Cardinals need to go all in and end their string of second place finishes.
That deal is Giancarlo Stanton, and there are two words that explain why this deal is perfect for the Cardinals. Oscar Taveras.
Simply put, Oscar Taveras is what the team is missing in 2017. Taveras was to be the centerpiece of the post-Pujols era. Taveras and Carlos Martinez were supposed to dominate the National League for the next decade and strike fear in the hearts of the NL Central. Sadly, that did not go as planned and the loss of Taveras is still felt in the farm system and on the big league roster today.
In 2015, then General Manager, John Mozeliak, felt that Braves slugger, Jason Heyward, might be the guy, not to fill Taveras shoes, but to build that next core around. As the 2015 season played on, many fans began to believe that as well. Sadly, that was not to be as Heyward opted for free agency and signed with the NL Central rival Chicago Cubs. Though his contributions there were on the meager side, the Cubs did win it all in 2016. Like the Cardinals, the 2017 Cubs are more than one player away from standing up to Washington or Los Angeles in a short series, though the acquisition of Jose Quintana improves their chances to prove everybody wrong.
So who would be an Oscar Taveras like player to anchor the next round of talent expected in 2019 ? That would be Giancarlo Stanton. Though this is his eighth season in the big leagues, Stanton is only 27 years old, two years younger than Matt Holliday was when Mo made his blockbuster deal in 2009. Though he has an opt-out after the 2020 season, Stanton is under contract where Matt Holliday was potentially a summer rental.
Let’s first address the reasons not to do this.
It will cost too much! Perhaps not as much as you might think. The Cardinals are in a perfect position to absord Stanton’s entire contract. If you add what the Cardinals were prepared to spend for David Price and Jason Heyward two years ago, and subtract what they will be paying Dexter Fowler, you will have money left over after paying Stanton. In other words, the team has already been willing to spend that much and in the case of Jason Heyward, for a fraction of the player that Stanton is and likely will be. With the Marlins being sold, cleaning off future salary debt might be just the opening the Cardinals need to get this done. By taking on that financial obligation, it might only take an exciting cost controlled near-MLB-ready outfielder like Adolis Garcia. If the Marlins want something more or different, perhaps a three way team deal could be structured with Lance Lynn heading off to a post-season contender, sort of like the Ludwick-Kluber-Westbrook type of trade.
That contract is an albatross! Is it really though ? I balk at what major league players make these days, but is $25M next season really that much more than the $17M Matt Holliday made in 2010 when he signed his contract extension. When when you look at the $32M in some of the latter contract years for Stanton, that is where any free agency deal for Manny Machado or Bryce Harper will start. The team has a new TV contract that will start showing up on the books, and Adam Wainwright’s contract will soon be coming off those same books. And as I said before, the team has already mentally spent that money once before.
The injuries! Yeah, OK, but we are not talking Tommy Pham type of injuries here. Stanton is a physical beast and his injuries have largely been freak accidents you don’t expect to happen again.
Now let’s look at the reasons to do this deal.
- There is no power or RBI bat coming up in the minor leagues. None. There are plenty of speedy table setters, but the Cardinals still need that cornerstone offensive player – the one that Mo had hoped Taveras would be by now. Stanton’s 58 RBIs would lead the Cardinals by 13. Put Magneuris Sierra, Dexter Fowler, Tommy Pham or Oscar Mercado on base ahead of Stanton and it will be Jack Clark all over again, maybe not to the ridiculous running of 1985, but certainly a more dynamic and fun offense than we have seen in St. Louis in a long time.
- The contract is a big one, but the Cardinals can absorb it and still have room to add other needed players. It will take more than Stanton, to be sure, but with Stanton on the roster, Girsch’s has many options to fill out the 2019 roster. It also keeps the Cardinals out of the Machado or Harper bidding war. Sure, I’d rather have Machado but a bird in hand, so to speak.
- The outfield will be set for years.
- Stanton’s career OPS is .899, his OPS+ is 145. Wouldn’t that look good in the Cardinals side of the box scores ?
Giancarlo Stanton would be the perfect deadline deal for the 2017 Cardinals. It would be big and bold and silence a growing number of fans that are getting frustrated by the recent front office failures in free agency. It would be a big step forward in the type of rebuilding the team needs to do over the next two or three years. The price is right and the risk is low. The only thing stopping it would be Jeffrey Loria waking up and not being Jeffrey Loria.
Thank you for reading. Please let me know what you think, yes or no, in the comments.