Notebook: GM Meetings, Day 4

This is it. The final day of the GM Meetings in Orlando, Florida. General Managers will return home and attempt to build on the face-to-face discussions they had this week as they negotiate via carrier pigeon and pony express until they all return in December for the Winter Meetings that still happen technically in the fall.

Not much happened today, but for everything that happened at the GM Meetings relating to the Cardinals, you can check out Day 3, Day 2, and Day 1‘s notebooks.

And don’t forget to go vote in the Cardinal Blogger Awards.

Giants have been the most aggressive on Stanton?

Bob Nightengale is reporting this morning that the Miami Marlins are not close to trading Giancarlo Stanton, but that the San Francisco Giants have been the most aggressive in trade discussions.

This doesn’t surprise me too much. The Giants desperately need both outfield help and offensive help and Stanton would help most. The problem for the Giants comes in as they are generally considered to have one of the worst farm systems in baseball, hence their need to be more aggressive. The system has no consensus top-100 prospects. Their top-3 prospects according to MLB.com (3B Christian Arroyo, 1B Chris Shaw, and RHP Tyler Beede) have all appeared on various top-100 charts this season, but never on multiple.

But the Giants’ offer sounds like it may be built around outfielder Heliot Ramos who is their #4 prospect according to MLB.com and first round draft pick in 2017. Ramos hit .348/.404/.645 with 6 home runs in 35 games in rookie league this season.

GMs respond to trade requests with emojis and GIFs?

Ben Nicholson-Smith from SportsNet Canada with my favorite piece of reporting of the week. He reported this morning that he learned this week that GMs use emojis while texting about trade deals, but some also reply with GIFs.

And some actual news…

The Cardinals received the #39 pick in the competitive balance lottery. And Lance Lynn official declines his qualifying offer.

Notebook: GM Meetings, Day 3

And were off on the penultimate day of the General Manager Meetings in Orlando, Florida. As always I recommend clicking through to the articles to support the reporters who are doing the work getting us these nuggets that keep us on the edges of our seats.

And if you’ve been visiting another planet for the last couple days, catch up with Day 2 and Day 1 notebooks as well.

Morrison weighing offer from the Cardinals?

Rob Rains reported yesterday afternoon (and apparently I missed it) when discussing that the Cardinals had talked to free agent first baseman Logan Morrison that he was also reporting that Rains was weighing contract offers from the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Angels.

Morrison is hard to figure out just how much he would command in free agency, so I don’t have a guess that would be worth anything. He’s coming off a 1 year, $2.5 million deal with Tampa that had another $1.25 million in incentives.

Morrison was worth 3.3 WAR over 601 plate appearances last season. Based on my tweet this morning with last season’s WAR/600 numbers, that would have put him in an effective tie with Dexter Fowler as the team’s third most valuable player in 2017. But his previous career high in WAR was 1.1 in 2014. So it is yet to be determined whether that’s repeatable, real change in approach or whether it’s a fluke. In addition, those 601 plate appearances are a career high for a player who debuted in 2010.

With the news that Matt Carpenter has been told to come to camp expecting to be a “super utility” guy, it looks like Morrison might be their option at first base.

Cardinals and Rays have talked about Colome?

Jon Morosi reported this afternoon that the the St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays have discussed closer Alex Colome in trade talks. Derrick Goold added that it’s not the first time the Cardinals have called the Rays asking about Colome either.

The 28-year-old Colome is one of my favorite potential Cardinals’ targets this winter. Colome led the league with 47 saves last season for the Rays with a 3.24 ERA. He has three years of salary arbitration remaining and would likely cost quite a bit to bring in. However, the other options like Wade Davis or Greg Holland pose their own questions. The Rays, who are looking at a franchise high in payroll next season, may have interest in selling off guys who don’t have guaranteed contracts. Colome is projected to earn $5.5 million this season.

There is some concern with his drop in strikeouts from 11.3 K/9 to 7.8 K/9, but he started using his cutter more this year than ever before and saw a huge drop in line drive rates while maintaining an increase in ground ball rates.

Cardinals and Marlins talk about Stanton?

Jon Morosi is also reporting this afternoon that the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins discussed trade concepts based around acquiring Giancarlo Stanton today. Presuming this means anything more than what’s already been talked about for the better part of two weeks, this would seem to indicate there’s some traction there.

Derrick Goold added that the two sides also met to discuss improvements to Roger Dean Stadium, where both spend spring training. The park needs some modernization and the lease requires mirroring improvements.

Cardinals have no interest in Martinez?

Derrick Goold is reporting this afternoon that the Cardinals have no interest in J.D. Martinez and have had internal conversations about Carlos Gonzalez.

I’m not a big fan of signing a player off a career year mainly because you’re likely to overpay for regression. That’s Martinez. His .690 slugging percentage was impressive, but a far cry from the .540 slugging percentage he averaged over the previous three seasons. He also hit twice as many home runs as he did in 2016 in one fewer game. In other words, that’s some unsustainable success.

For Carlos Gonzalez, he struggled last season before finishing it on fire. Unfortunately, he still struggled away from Coors Field. That’s not to mean he might not still be capable of being a productive player. I feel like playing at Coors Field for 81 games a year creates bad habits in hitters. His bat is not the answer the Cardinals are looking for, but it may allow them to make another player available for acquiring someone they need via trade.

Notebook: GM Meetings, Day 2

Day 2 of the General Manager Meetings in Orlando, Florida took place today. Unlike yesterday, we’ll just go ahead and call this “Stanton Day” as we finally have everyone involved playing games with media leaks.

Stanton’s price too high?

Buster Olney reported this morning that rival executives believe that the Marlins’ asking price for Giancarlo Stanton is “shockingly high and somewhat out of touch with reality.”

This probably means that the Marlins don’t want to eat much contract, but still want to receive meaningful prospects in return. Given that Stanton’s remaining deal is not extreme for what he is and similar to what he would receive in free agency, I think the Marlins do have a point. Unfortunately, everyone knows their motivations for wanting to move him.

Trying to sift fact from fiction on Stanton is difficult because so much has been bouncing around that it’s hard to know what’s real and what’s just pure discussion while frustrated that nothing’s happening. But I’m growing to believe that Stanton is willing and wanting to stay in Miami, but would prefer to win. This is why he can be as picky as it sounds like he’s willing to be. Because the worst case is living somewhere he wants to be. I’m growing convinced that this is not a “get out of town at all costs” situation.

Rays listening on players?

Jon Heyman reported this morning that the Rays are listening to other teams on many of their players. Some listed in the article as potential candidates are Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Alex Colome, Corey Dickerson, Kevin Kiermaier, and potentially even Evan Longoria who is just shy of receiving 10/5 rights (after 10 years in the league, five years with a franchise gives players the ability to block a trade).

Given what the Rays said yesterday about Archer being one of the guys they intend to build around, I find it doubtful that they’re too serious about dealing him, but there are a number of players here I’d have interest in if I were the Cardinals.

I think Odorizzi could benefit from a move out of the AL East. He had a rough summer, but otherwise put together a decent year. I can’t imagine he would cost that much given his recent struggles and he should be cheap enough that you could cut him loose if he doesn’t figure it out. I really like Colome, their closer. And Kiermaier may be the best defensive center fielder in baseball. To give you an idea of how good, Kiermaier missed time with a hip fracture last season and was still worth 5+ WAR thanks to his defense.

Stanton won’t accept a trade to Red Sox or Cardinals?

Chad Jennings of the Boston Herald reported this morning a source tells him that Stanton will not accept a trade to the Red Sox or the Cardinals. Those were the two teams believed just yesterday to be most heavily pursuing him.

Whether this is just gamesmanship at this point is the question. The Marlins are the gatekeeper. They’re setting the standard of the kind of return they want to get before they present Stanton the option to say yes or no. And then it’s up to Stanton to decide what he wants to do.

Derrick Goold discussed how no trade clauses can affect trade discussions between teams, using Houston’s Justin Verlander pursuit as the example. However the distinct difference there is that Houston was leading the AL East and was poised to be the best team in the American League. The Cardinals won 83 games and finished third in the NL Central, falling further back from postseason contention than they were the year before. Filling the club’s other needs may be the key to convincing Stanton that St. Louis is a worthy destination.

Seven teams have checked in on Stanton?

Jon Heyman reported this afternoon that as many as seven teams have inquired about what it would take to trade for Stanton.

Obviously there’s no more information here beyond teams checking in. This could be ask easy as someone asking what it would take, laughing, and then walking away to go sign J.D. Martinez. That’s what we don’t know. But obviously a player of Stanton’s caliber being available is worth doing your due diligence on. The last thing you want his him going somewhere else for a price you definitely would have paid.

Stanton hasn’t ruled out any destination?

Battle of the conflicting reports. Evan Drelich of NBC Sports reported this afternoon that according to a source with knowledge of Stanton’s thinking he has not ruled out any potential destinations.

And just like that the Cardinals have a chance again. Obviously there’s the battle of leverage being played out. The more destinations it seems like Stanton might have, the more likely an organization is to increase their offer in an effort to get past the gatekeeper. If the world knew Stanton only wanted to play for one or two franchises, the Marlins have much less bargaining power.

Cardinals have talked to Morrison?

Rob Rains reported this afternoon that the Cardinals have had conversations with first baseman Logan Morrison. It was reported yesterday by Jon Heyman that the Cardinals were exploring options at first base and Morrison has been linked with the Cardinals before.

Morrison hit 38 home runs last season to go along with a .246/.353/.516 batting line. He had a 135 OPS+ after being a barely above average Major League player for the previous seven seasons. In fact, before he posted a 3.6 WAR this season, he had never had more than the 1.4 WAR he put up in 99 games with Seattle in 2014.

Certainly Morrison’s 2017 was nice, but he has more track record as a middle of the road hitter than he does as a middle of the order hitter. And the Cardinals have plenty of the former already.

Cardinals interested in Ohtani?

Rains also reported that the Cardinals do have interest in Shohei Ohtani if he does get approved by the MLB and posted. Ohtani has said that money is not his primary factor and wants to continue to play two ways. One would think the Cardinals would have to let him both pitch and play in the outfield in order to nab him since they have a maximum bonus cap of $300,000 for international free agents, much less than other teams who aren’t under penalty.

On top of whatever they pay Ohtani in signing bonus, they would have to pay the $20 million posting fee in addition.

Carpenter to be “super utility guy”

Derrick Goold reported this evening that the Cardinals have told Matt Carpenter he should prepare to be a “super utility guy” in 2018 depending on who the team acquires and what they do this winter.

I’m sure many of us collectively cringe when they hear that. I’m not opposed to the idea of Matt Carpenter defensively at first base, second base, third base, or even a corner outfield spot. However, I do note when looking at his defensive metrics that he is generally better overall when he plays one position. His worst defensive seasons have come when he’s been bouncing around the infield. That’s a concern to me.

Also is the shoulder if rest doesn’t fix it. Last season he discussed the shoulder hurting him when he threw. Will he really be able to play a position that asks him to throw the ball regularly? And if he elects to play through the pain once again, is the team prepared to take a diminished offensive Carpenter?

Reyes to miss opener, begin as reliever

Rick Hummel reported this evening that the Cardinals intend to have Alex Reyes begin his season around May 1st and putting him into the bullpen depending on the team’s needs. John Mozeliak said that he believes Reyes would be ready on Opening Day, but this is to watch his innings and ensure that he is available at the end of the season. There’s also some notes in there about Sandy Alcantara.

This confirms what I’ve been suggesting since the beginning that they will bring Reyes along slowly. No need to push him into the rotation out of the gate this year, even though Mozeliak indicates he believes Reyes will be ready.

Notebook: GM Meetings, Day 1

Today was the first day of the General Manager Meetings in Orlando, Florida. I’ve gone ahead and put together a notebook recap of the pertinent Cardinals’ related rumors to catch you up. And, to answer everyone’s first question, there has been no substantive movement on Giancarlo Stanton today.

Cardinals looking at Darvish, Arrieta and starting pitching trades?

Fan Rag Sports’ Jon Heyman who indicated this morning that the Cardinals were looking at Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta, but would be exploring the trade market for a starting pitcher first.

In the article he links to, he writes that the Cardinals met with agents from the Wasserman Group for an hour last night and discussed pitching. Wasserman represents Giancarlo Stanton, but on the pitching side also represents free agents Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow, and Addison Reed.

I’ve argued since before the 2017 season that the Cardinals will have a need at starting pitcher next season, but this is the team’s first real admission that they might be uncomfortable entering 2018 with a rotation that consists of two rookies, a former ace who had back and arm issues last season, a pitcher who literally gets hurt by pitching too much, and Carlos Martinez.

I still prefer Lance Lynn to Darvish and Arrieta, however. Especially if his contract falls to the kind of numbers that MLB Trade Rumors and Fangraphs has suggested it will. I know looking purely at results is frowned upon, but he had the best of the three. And I think there are other reasons why his more advanced metrics were bad other than them just being a precursor to marked decline.

But given the wording of the article, Heyman’s sources could have been intentionally vague to make it seem as if the Cardinals could be interested in more than they are.

Beltran retires & getting looks as Yankees manager?

Carlos Beltran became a World Series champion with the Houston Astros just a couple weeks ago and there were rumors that he would retire following the season. And today he confirmed those as he officially announced his retirement in a post over at The Players’ Tribune.

In addition, there’s some speculation that he could be considered for the Yankees’ open managerial position.

Cardinals exploring first base options?

Another report from Jon Heyman this afternoon, indicates that the Cardinals are exploring options at first base. Available free agent first base options that could interest the Cardinals at the top of the board include Eric Hosmer and Carlos Santana. An intriguing thought could be Adam Lind in a playing time share with Jose Martinez at first base.

The move would most likely mean Matt Carpenter would slide back across the diamond to third base full time. Martinez had a strong season with a 135 wRC+ that ranked second on the Cardinals and 30th among MLB players who appeared in at least 100 games.

Cardinals want to sign “multiple” relievers?

In his notes about today’s happenings in Orlando, Derrick Goold pointed out the Cardinals’ interest in signing some bullpen help. He pointed out that General Manager Michael Girsch indicated that they want to sign “multiple” relievers and that the meeting last night with the agent for Darvish, Morrow, and Reed may have been to discuss the fits for the two latter named players rather than the first.

Rumor Mill: Giancarlo Stanton

We weren’t even out of the exclusivity period after the end of the World Series when Major League Baseball hot stove started sizzling. Peter Gammons got us started this weekend with a tidbit that the St. Louis Cardinals had indicated to the Miami Marlins that they would be willing to part with one of their high end pitching prospects in a trade for Giancarlo Stanton.

While I still question how much faith I should place in a national baseball writer drumming up trade rumors (remember those years of Tulowitzki trade rumors?) or the Cardinals’ front office when it comes to sealing big deals, this would seem to be a positive indication that there might be a chance for a deal.

This is a tough situation because it’s so hard for us to value Giancarlo Stanton for a few reasons.

First, he’s owed $295 million over the next 10 years. That’s a lot of coin, even for a transformative player like Stanton. But if you were to get 4 WAR out of Stanton on average over those 10 years (in 8 seasons so far he’s averaged 4.4 WAR including injury shortened seasons), he’ll easily be worth that contract. If Stanton were a free agent this winter, he would get far more than $29.5 million in average annual value. That’s all I would really need to know when it comes to whether the contract is worthwhile.

Second, he has an opt out after the 2020 season. Logic would suggest that if he has three productive seasons that he will exercise that opt out to become a free agent at 30 years old. That would be opting out of what is essentially a 7 year, $218 million deal and there are many who think he won’t be opting out, but depending on what guys like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado bring home after next season, there could easily be a market for $30-40 million more dollars.

Third, how much money do the Marlins want to send to St. Louis. The math here is pretty clear. The more of Stanton’s salary they’re willing to cover, the better prospects they can expect to receive in return. But the Marlins are hemorrhaging cash and one of the main reasons they’re trading Stanton away is because he is the biggest move they can make towards profitability. We might be looking at one of the last true contract dumps.

The result, I think, is a player who will likely be traded for far less than anyone expects.

And this is where the Cardinals have an edge. The other major suitor for Stanton is expected to be the San Francisco Giants, who struggled this season and have very few pitching prospects in their system. They have just one MLB.com Top-100 prospect and just one pitcher in their organizational top-10.

Enter the Cardinals with five MLB.com Top-100 prospects, two of which are pitchers, and five pitchers in their organizational top-10.

I wrote last winter about how the Marlins and the Cardinals were natural trade partners. The Cardinals needed a hitter following the death of Oscar Taveras and the Marlins needed a pitcher following the death of Jose Fernandez.

Of course, as I wrote that, it was about Marcell Ozuna, who went and put together the best year of his career in 2017. But Stanton would fit the bill too.

I think there’s enough to indicate that the Cardinals have a real interest in Stanton. But when it comes to the Cardinals’ front office, I always question their willingness to spend money and trade prospects.

The bigger question may be if there was any truth to the rumor from the trade deadline that the Marlins told the Cardinals that they believed Stanton would not waive his no trade clause to join the Cardinals. Though it was later clarified this was more of a midwest thing than a St. Louis thing.

I do believe, for a number of reasons, that if a Stanton to St. Louis trade is going to happen, it’ll happen in the next two weeks. November 20th is the deadline for clubs to protect players from the Rule 5 draft, and a team acquiring prospects will want to protect them if they’re in that situation. Additionally, the club will also want to have completed some trades to thin out the 40 man roster by this point as well. But they won’t want to trade anyone in those deals that might interest Miami. So I do expect a Stanton trade to happen relatively quickly or not at all.

Rumor check: Lance Lynn

USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweeted out the same article that suggested the Cardinals were players for Brad Brach with the note that the Royals were “aggressively pursuing” starting pitching, including Lance Lynn. It should be noted that Lance Lynn’s name is not mentioned anywhere in the article, but he made the link and so the rumor mill began.

The Cardinals have reportedly told teams it may both buy and sell over the next couple weeks as it tries to reposition it’s club to compete. That may include selling some pending free agents who they do not expect to bring back. That list includes Lance Lynn.

Lynn is 30 years old and has posted an 8-6 record with a 3.40 ERA in 19 starts in his return from Tommy John surgery that cost him the 2016 season. Lynn has struggled with the long ball at times this season, which is not unexpected for a pitcher returning from TJ. After a rough June, Lynn has thrown 13 consecutive scoreless innings over his last two starts.

Lynn had set himself up for free agency this winter with his previous deal that bought out only his arbitration years, though seemed to change his tune this spring when he suggested he hoped the Cardinals would entertain extension talks after the All Star break.

I suggested back in may that Lynn could command 5 years, $125 million in the free agent market. I also suggested that the Cardinals couldn’t afford to let him walk out the door. Never underestimate the value of the pitcher you can pencil in to provide you 200 quality innings, regardless of the prospects you have coming up behind. I love the idea of Carlos Martinez and Lance Lynn anchoring this rotation for the next five years.

Because of those contract needs, he is a slam dunk to be given a qualifying offer by the Cardinals if he finishes out the season with the club. That provides a floor for the type of return St. Louis would want to see from any Lynn trade.

The Royals are in third-place, three games out in their division and two games out of the American League Wild Card race and they’re looking at starting pitching options. They also have a number of their key players hitting free agency like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Lorenzo Cain.

If the Royals are intent on acquiring Lynn and taking a shot now because they see their window closing at the end of the year, they aren’t going to trade him for Major League talent. So don’t expect to get a Mike Moustakas or Eric Hosmer in return.

That means prospects. Their biggest problem here may be the lack of a top-100 prospect. And looking at their top prospects list, I don’t see much here that gets me excited. So me and the prospect list makers seem to be on the same page.

But the Royals are looking at significant holes in their roster next season and one would assume that they’d like to keep all the young talent they have to help fill those holes as cost effectively as possible.

In his chat though Derrick Goold suggested that the Astros are a better fit for Lynn because they have more prospects and they also may be willing to extend him before free agency. I’m sure Jeff Luhnow having drafted Lynn may help too.

For the Cardinals, this move would signal selling to me because regardless of Luke Weaver, Marco Gonzales, or Jack Flaherty, I have a hard time seeing this team being competitive in October without Lynn in the rotation.

So I think that the Cardinals are laying ground work for buying and selling right now. If they can’t find the deals they need to improve the team they have they way they like, they may try to move on some of these sales to help set this team up going forward. Either would make me happy.

But as far as this particular Lynn to the Royals deal, I don’t really buy it.

Rumor check: Brad Brach

USA Today suggested this morning that the Cardinals would be a match with the Orioles for reliever Brad Brach, suggesting that Tyler Lyons would be enough to grab the Orioles’ fill-in closer.

Brach, 31, has a 2.75 ERA in 39 appearances for the Orioles this season. He is 15 for 19 in save opportunities since assuming closing duties after the injury to Zach Britton in April.

Over the previous two seasons as a setup reliever for the Orioles, Brach posted a 2.39 ERA over 133 appearances. He is making $3.05 million this year and has one final year of arbitration eligibility ahead of him before becoming a free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

It is the trade season and relief help is always highly coveted and it’s likely that teams like the Red Sox, the Nationals, and any number of other contending teams have already checked in on Brach. And as history has shown us, are likely willing to go further for him than the Cardinals are.

The Cardinals most desperate immediate need is someone who could come in and step into the closer’s role in St. Louis to solidify the bullpen. Brach would provide that answer both this year and next for a team in need of one.

USA Today suggests that the Cardinals could acquire Brach for left handed pitcher Tyler Lyons who would go immediately into their MLB-worst starting rotation. That would be really selling low on Brach, in my opinion.

The Athletics just got two of the Nationals’ top-20 prospects for a pair of relievers who make more money and haven’t been as effective as Brach over the past few years. Granted Sean Doolittle has plenty of years remaining on his contract, but I think the Orioles would want one of the Cardinals’ top-20 prospects to make the trade happen, and I’d assume a pitching prospect. Luke Weaver might be too high up the prospect list for the Cardinals to stomach parting with, but an Austin Gomber, Dakota Hudson, or Jake Woodford might fit the bill.

I’ve always been high on Lyons’ ability as a setup-type reliever, but I also wonder what the result would be if you just used Lyons in the role you’d use Brach in. Could he step into the closer’s role?

Rumor check: Christian Yelich & Marcell Ozuna

According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, the Cardinals have interest in the Marlins’ outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna and the Marlins have sent a top executive to scout Cardinals’ pitching prospect Dakota Hudson‘s last start.

There’s been a lot of love for Christian Yelich among my Twitter follows over the past year and change, and after his 2016 season I sort of understand why. However, his numbers have once again slowed this season showing him more likely to be a .290/.360/.410 hitter than the guy who hit 21 home runs last year and put up a 130 wRC+.

He is a solid player, but I basically see him as a left handed Stephen Piscotty. And I’m constantly being reminded that Piscotty is not the kind of hitter this club needs. He is more of what these Cardinals already have. A doubles hitter who can put up a good OBP.

I don’t get too excited about him and think that the majority of the excitement around him is the hope that he can repeat 2016 and he has 4 years, $44.5 million remaining on his current contract. That could go to 5 years, $58.25 million if his $15 million option for 2022 were to get picked up.

Of the two Marlins outfielders listed, I prefer Marcell Ozuna. If you’ve been around since November, Ozuna headlined a list of five players I felt the Cardinals should be interested over the winter. Reports are that they did check in on him over the winter, but obviously that went nowhere. Or perhaps just laying the groundwork for a future trade.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Ozuna has had a career start tot he season. He is batting .317/.375/.563 with 23 home runs in 90 games for the Marlins. All four numbers would stand as career highs. So to acquire him now would seem to be buying high. However, over the past 30 days his numbers have slowed a bit, down to .286/.327/.510 with 6 home runs, which may have an effect on his trade value.

Over the previous three seasons, Ozuna is averaging .265/.316/.433 with 25 doubles, 4 triples, and 19 home runs per season. He has now hit 23 home runs in three of the last four seasons.

Some of the complaints I see about Ozuna is that he is essentially Randal Grichuk. I disagree. He is what we wish Randal Grichuk could be. He walks more, strikes out less, makes more contact, and hits for a better average than Grichuk. And he’s done this over the course of now his fourth full season in the big leagues. Meanwhile Grichuk has yet to spend a full season with the big league club since debuting four seasons ago.

Ozuna’s contract situation is not as appealing as Yelich’s, as he has two more seasons of arbitration remaining before free agency. He’s also represented by Scott Boras, so it is safe to assume that Ozuna will hit free agency after the 2019 season.

Ozuna over Yelich to me is an easy choice because the Cardinals have guys who are supposed to get on base. What they lack is a hitter with some thump who can drive those guys in. Ozuna would give them that while Yelich remains a question mark.

In return it looks like the Marlins are interested in Dakota Hudson. Hudson, 22, was drafted in the first round of the 2016 draft by the Cardinals. He put himself on the map last year posting a 0.68 ERA over 13 innings between Palm Beach and the Gulf Coast League. MLB.com rated him the Cardinals’ 9th best prospect entering the season.

He has a 2.77 ERA in 16 starts for Double-A Springfield this season.

On the surface, Yelich seems to be the kind of player that the Cardinals would find more appealing. High OBP, has flashed some power and has plenty of team control remaining. However, Ozuna provides more power and may be closer to the kind of player they need.

They’ve also checked in on Ozuna before, as this kind of parallels what they did with Matt Holliday, having checked in on him at multiple points before finally pulling the trigger to acquire him in 2009.

My feel would be that the Marlins would be more likely to deal Ozuna than Yelich since Yelich’s stock is likely to be down a little bit right now. He is also on a team friendly contract for an organization that needs inexpensive players. Meanwhile there is less guarantee for Ozuna, who they may feel the need to trade now while he has maximum value.

For that reason I buy this rumor. Obviously it depends on what else goes to Miami with Hudson, but if the Cardinals could fill one of their needs without giving up one of their top shelf prospects, even if Hudson is on his way to joining that list, I don’t know how you say no.

Rumor Check: Josh Donaldson

A couple days ago it was reported by FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi that the St. Louis Cardinals have an interest in Toronto Blue Jays’ third baseman Josh Donaldson, though the two parties have yet to hold any formal trade discussions. This is really an extension on something that the Post-Dispatch’s Derrick Goold has been talking about for a few months now, that the Cardinals had always intended to pursue a third baseman this year and Donaldson was one of the key players on their list that could be available.

Donaldson checks a lot of the boxes of the kind of hitter the Cardinals would like to bring in. Over the past four seasons he’s batting .284/.375/.518 and averaged 33 home runs, 103 RBI, and 7.8 WAR. He’s been the only guy in baseball able to consistently hold a candle to Mike Trout. He’s also been a neutral to slightly above average third baseman defensively.

He is in the final year of a 2 year, $28.65 million deal, but still has one year of arbitration remaining before he will hit free agency after the 2018 season.

There are a few question marks around Donaldson that need to be addressed.

First, he has had a couple injuries this season. He missed time on the disabled list for a right calf injury and then he injured his knee while stretching just a couple weeks ago and since then his performance has dropped off tremendously.

Until the knee injury he had been batting .286/.389/.554, right on par with his recent success. Since it he has hit .140/.275/.209 in 12 games. How long will that take him to come out of?

Second, he is also 31 years old and is a free agent at the end of next season. He will also likely be the highest paid Cardinal in 2018 unless the team ends up bringing back Lance Lynn (which I also support). This can work in the Cardinals’ favor as the return will likely be less than if he was locked up long-term. He should not get an Adam Eaton-esque return.

He will turn 33 years old the winter he hits free agency, so if the Cardinals intended to consider bringing him back at that point, what does that contract look like? How deep are you willing to go to lock him up or are you okay taking the draft pick and pursuing another franchise bat that offseason, which looks like it will feature Manny Machado and Bryce Harper as well.

And third, it will really depend on what the Blue Jays intend to do this season. They are currently 40-45, 8.5 games out of first place and tied for last in the American League East. But they also have some good young pieces and may be more interested in retooling their lineup using their largest trade piece rather than a committed rebuild, much like I’ve suggested the Cardinals should try with Matt Carpenter. So guys at the higher levels of the minors who can have an impact sooner may hold more interest to them.

Another factor to consider is that the Cardinals recently named Michael Girsch their new GM. It remains to be seen just how much leash he has been given out of the gate, but the organization expects to be active at the deadline and I think when we look at how John Mozeliak handled his first couple months in the GM’s office after the 2007 season, we see he quickly set the tone for his tenure. His first two moves were to ship out Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen as he set about turning an underperforming roster into a playoff contender.

Girsch has the same job, will he be given a similar opportunity? It wouldn’t surprise me.

Something that might also play a role is that the Blue Jays have Mark Shapiro as their President and CEO. He was previously with the Indians while Mozeliak and Indians GM Chris Antonetti traded often over the past several years. That could create some comfort as the two franchises discuss a deal.

The bottom line is always what the Blue Jays might be asking for. I expect that it would take two top level prospects as the core of a deal to get Donaldson. I think that as long as you can keep one of them from being Alex Reyes, I’m okay with that deal. Donaldson would be a game changing bat in the lineup that is mostly devoid of that ability. And I’m not content for the Cardinals to sit on their hands for a year and a half until the 2018-19 offseason.

The question is whether the Cardinals are okay with that cost? The organization has been reluctant over the past few years to part with multiple prospects for a single Major League player or dig deep to do what is required to make a franchise altering acquisition. Are they willing now?

That remains to be seen.

Rumor Check: Adeiny Hechavarria

Yesterday the news broke that the Miami Marlins were shopping shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reported that MLB executives expect that Hechavarria could be traded in the coming days. The Miami Herald’s Clark Spencer reported that the Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles, and St. Louis Cardinals have asked about acquiring the shortstop.

If you’re unfamiliar with Hechavarria, he is 28 years old and was once a highly regarded Cuban signing. He is earning $4.35 million this year and has one more year of arbitration in 2018 before hitting free agency.

He is a career .255/.291/.337 hitter with a 74 OPS+. His best season came in 2015 when he hit .281/.315/.374 with a 92 OPS+, which was essentially league average compared to other shortstops.

While the bat has never come around he is widely considered one of the best defensive shortstops in the league. Over the past two seasons he has +18 defensive runs saved along with a +17.7 UZR/150 in 2015 and +8.5 UZR/150 in 2016.

Knowing what it would take to get Hechavarria isn’t very easy to figure out, so I’m not comfortable throwing out names but trading Andrelton Simmons netted the Braves a top-100 pitching prospect as the focal point of his return a year and a half ago. However, Simmons is better on both sides of the ball and had five years remaining on his contract.

Hechavarria is also on the disabled list with a left oblique strain though he is currently on a rehab assignment.

The Cardinals’ interest would be that it reinforces John Mozeliak’s stated goal of improving the roster’s defense and athleticism. Hechevarria is a rangy shortstop with a great glove.

The Cardinals do currently have Aledmys Diaz at shortstop, and if Diaz were hitting like he did last season this might end the conversation right there. However, he is batting .262/.296/.404 with an 82 OPS+ this season so Hechavarria would not represent a marked downgrade offensively except maybe in potential.

And on defense, Hechevarria has been 20 defensive runs saved better than Diaz since the beginning of the 2016 season.

So what happens to Diaz if this trade is made? The Cardinals have toyed with the idea of moving him to left field, but you could also see him picking up time at third base where he played some in Cuba with Gyorko returning to normal off from his early season hot streak. He might also have some interest to the Marlins as he is under team control through the 2021 season.

It’s also been pointed out by fans that the Cardinals have Delvin Perez, who they drafted 23rd last season and was a consensus top-100 prospect this spring, coming through the system. But Perez was drafted just last season, is 18 years old, and is playing short season rookie league in Johnson City this season. He is still multiple years away from even being considered an option at the Major League level, so there is no reason to consider him as a reason to not acquire a shortstop like Hechevarria.

For a team that needs offensive help more than anything, it’s a little puzzling at first as to why the Cardinals would be asking about Hechavarria, but according to Derrick Goold it’s not the first time they’ve asked about him. And historically Mozeliak likes to ask about anyone who hits the trade market which makes it difficult to gauge interest.

But when you consider who he’d be replacing at shortstop, he isn’t a big downgrade offensively and is far superior defensively so I think you can still consider an upgrade for the team.

I think the interest in Hechavarria from the Cardinals is real, however, I don’t see them as motivated as other teams in the pursuit may be, especially Baltimore who is without J.J. Hardy until mid-August.

The move fits with the direction Mozeliak wants to take the Cardinals in, but it all depends on what it costs to acquire him.

It would also create the opportunity to use Hechavarria’s range to help cover for a move of Matt Carpenter back across the diamond to third base, which would let them call up Luke Voit for an opportunity at first base.

For years I’ve been talking about how difficult it is for Mozeliak to get a good value on a player in the trade market and I’ve wondered if it wouldn’t be the time to go big to get the best level of value. It would be a lot of talent swapping sides, but perhaps you could find a deal that would bring Marcell Ozuna (who the Cardinals have asked about before) or Christian Yelich to St. Louis in addition to Hechavarria.

I guess we’ll see what happens, but I don’t expect this one to go anywhere.