St. Louis Cardinals mailbag Part 2: Early trade deadline talks on pitching, outfield help (2024)

Major League Baseball’s trade deadline will be the industry’s focus over the next month. This year’s deadline is July 30, meaning St. Louis Cardinals’ president of baseball operations John Mozeliak has 27 days to figure out what he’ll do. But, hey, who’s counting?

Mozeliak has said that the health of his club will be the deciding factor, and that’s what we focused on in Part 1 of this mailbag. As for Part 2, we’ll get into some early trade speculation.

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Let’s get to it.

What arms do you see the Cardinals going after around the deadline? I’d imagine they’re looking for a starter to fill the No. 4 or 5 spot that’s been left by Steven Matz’s injury. — Brent M.

Who are some rental arms the Cards could take on at the deadline to slot into the rotation? — N.A.

Mozeliak has yet to declare his trade deadline intentions (at least publicly), but he provided a telling statement toThe Athletic in June.

“At the trading deadline, you can always use pitching,” Mozeliak said. “There’s never been a year you don’t go into the deadline looking for pitching if you’re trying to contend.”

The logical takeaway is to assume that St. Louis will peruse the pitching market, especially given Matz’s turbulent recovery process. Matz has been sidelined with lower back issues since May and his rehab has been halted and restarted twice. His current timeline would put him on track to return around the beginning of August, but the Cardinals can no longer give Matz’s health the benefit of the doubt. Andre Pallante has continuously improved as the fifth starter and the Cardinals are fine with him in that role for now, but their lack of pitching depth beyond the 26-man roster is well-documented. It’s also been a major factor in why manager Oli Marmol has been conservative on pitch counts with his remaining four starters.

For these reasons, starting pitching depth should be a priority for Mozeliak. We know how the Cardinals operate at the deadline. They aren’t taking on major contracts or parting with top prospects. To his credit, while the names Mozeliak targeted at the 2021 and 2022 deadlines weren’t splashy (think Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, Jordan Montgomery) they were effective. That same line of thinking will come into play here.

Erick Fedde, and his 3.23 ERA over 100 1/3 innings for the Chicago White Sox, is a prime trade target based on the Cardinals’ prior deadline decisions. Fedde is signed on a two-year, $15 million deal and is due roughly $8 million in 2025. Tyler Anderson (17 starts, 3.03 ERA) is having a great year for the Los Angeles Angels, though he’s a bit more pricey than Fedde. Anderson has one year remaining on his contract after this season and is owed $13 million in 2025.

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The Cardinals’ rotation features five right-handers, so mixing in a lefty like Anderson could be a focus. Other left-handers available on expiring contracts include Yusei Kikuchi (Toronto Blue Jays), Andrew Heaney (Texas Rangers) and Quintana (Mets). The problem is that it’s difficult to predict if these pitchers will actually be available, as their teams haven’t committed to any deadline decisions.

We’ll see more legitimate options come into play as the month transpires. For now, who the Cardinals target is anyone’s best guess.

What are your thoughts on the Paul Goldschmidt dilemma? I can’t see re-upping him for next year with his age, the cost, and many rostered players able to play first base. Trading him breaks up a team heading into the postseason by giving up a major player. If you keep him to the end of the year, he simply walks. My vote would be to move him at the deadline for pitching. — Mark S.

Do you think we trade Goldy and let Alec Burleson become the full-time first baseman? — Brandon S.

I can’t see any possible scenario in which the Cardinals trade Goldschmidt — and that’s without factoring in his full no-trade clause. They do have a decision to make, but that won’t take place until the offseason. Goldschmidt’s season has been far from ideal (and he’d be the first to acknowledge that) but his impact in the clubhouse and organization is immeasurable. The Cardinals plan on contending in the second half. They won’t part with either Goldschmidt or Nolan Arenado.

There is a conversation to be had about what the organization is thinking long-term at first base and whether they want to explore an extension, but expect that to be addressed in the offseason. Also, there’s no sure-fire guarantee Goldschmidt walks at the end of the year. In fact, I’d say the opposite. Should the Cardinals approach Goldschmidt with an extension, he’ll gladly listen.

Is there any appetite for a trade deadline deal more impactful than a No. 4 or 5 starter or bullpen arm? — Bill H.

What is the likelihood the team will acquire outfield help at the deadline? How much of that can change based on the team’s performance over the next month? — Matthew G.

Pitching looks to be the priority, but we can’t rule out the position side. Team performance will dictate how the front office looks at the outfield, something Mozeliak has alluded to already. As discussed, the impending returns of Lars Nootbaar and Tommy Edman will be pivotal.

The Cardinals have a plethora of outfielders, and the super-utility options of Edman and Brendan Donovan are an obvious plus when it comes to lineup construction. What the club severely lacks is a right-handed power bat. The regression of Arenado and Goldschmidt has emphasized that. Masyn Winn has been a top-notch leadoff hitter, but his job isn’t to hit for power, it’s to get on base. Outside of Willson Contreras, there isn’t much right-handed thump in the lineup. Should the Cardinals seek outfield help, I’d expect them to emphasize offensive production over defense, and I’d expect it to come in the form of a right-handed rental.

With the recent surge the team is seeing, and the success of the younger players (i.e. Masyn Winn, Alec Burleson, etc.) which players on the major-league roster could we see used as trade bait? The obvious answer is Dylan Carlson, but who is someone else you could see the Cardinals moving on from to improve the team? — Jon T.

This is a question the Cardinals have yet to answer, but let’s give it a shot. Speculatively speaking, I’m sure the team would listen to offers for Carlson, as he looks to be the odd man out of the outfield when Edman and Nootbaar return. Perhaps Iván Herrera cracks that list as Pedro Pagés continues to excel in the backup catcher role.

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I think the bigger question is if the rising success of some of their projected role players such as Michael Siani and Burleson changes the organization’s thoughts on other players once considered untouchable. Does Siani’s play as a top center fielder in baseball this year change how the club views someone like Victor Scott II? How do they view Jordan Walker, who has spent over two months in Triple A? While neither player is on the major-league roster, those prospects have major-league service time, and both were thought to be key pieces of the team’s future. Perhaps that’s still true, but it’s fair to question where those players stand given the outstanding play of others.

Is the rotation really a crucial need? Is a fifth starter more valuable to this team as another late-inning reliever? — Nick H.

I find this topic fascinating, as you can make an argument for both sides. To me, it depends on what a front office is structuring its roster for. While they’re in a solid spot for now, there’s no guarantee the Cardinals make the playoffs. Due to how playoff series are formatted, a fifth starter is more valuable in the regular season than the postseason. On the contrary, a high-leverage reliever is at his highest value in the playoffs.

St. Louis has a lethal bullpen. Ryan Helsley is a top three closer in the league and the set-up team of JoJo Romero, Andrew Kittredge and Ryan Fernandez has made for one of the most dependable back-ends in baseball. What the Cardinals lack is the rotation depth to ensure the best chance of making the playoffs. For those reasons, I believe addressing the rotation is a crucial need. Sonny Gray has stepped up as the ace, and Kyle Gibson and Miles Mikolas have made for solid supporting acts. Finding an arm to slot in between those three and Lance Lynn would bring much more comfortability over the second half of the season.

(Top photo of Paul Goldschmidt: Michael Reaves / Getty Images)

St. Louis Cardinals mailbag Part 2: Early trade deadline talks on pitching, outfield help (2)St. Louis Cardinals mailbag Part 2: Early trade deadline talks on pitching, outfield help (3)

Katie Woo is a staff writer for The Athletic covering the St. Louis Cardinals and Major League Baseball. Prior to joining The Athletic, Katie spent two years covering the minor leagues as an editorial producer for MiLB.com and spent the 2018 MLB season covering the San Diego Padres as an associate reporter for MLB.com. She is a graduate of Arizona State University and originates from Northern California. Follow Katie on Twitter @katiejwoo

St. Louis Cardinals mailbag Part 2: Early trade deadline talks on pitching, outfield help (2024)
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