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The Cardinals Have Plenty of Trade Chips If They Buy at the Deadline

St. Louis Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak recently told reporters that the team would be buyers, not sellers at the deadline. He made the comments at an annual availability for Cardinals podcasters and bloggers. Mozeliak told the group the team would be looking for a right-handed center fielder, bullpen arms, and a starting pitcher. If they end up buying, the Cardinals will need trade chips to give up in those deals. Here are a few Cardinals players and prospects who could be on the move.

Trade Chips the Cardinals Have for This Year’s Deadline

What Do the Cardinals Have to Offer?

The Cardinals have the 23rd-ranked farm system in baseball, according to MLB.com. The organization doesn’t have an abundance of highly sought-after prospects to deal for a big splash. This will limit them when it comes to catching one of the bigger fish at the 2024 trade deadline.

The team does have some MLB-level talent they could look to move around to fill holes. A bottleneck in the organization at certain levels could see the team unload players who have high potential, but have been struggling of late. Expiring deals like star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt‘s or utility man Brendan Donovan‘s could be tempting if the team falls out of contention in the next six weeks. If the Cardinals do feel like they have what it takes in the next few weeks, those pieces are unlikely to go.

Outfielders Who Could Get a Change of Scenery

Despite the Cardinals looking for an outfielder at the deadline, the position is also where some of their more attractive trade pieces lie. Former top prospect Jordan Walker has been one name rumored to be on the move. The team sent him down in May after a brutal start to his season with a .155/.239/.259 slash line. While he has improved at Triple-A, it hasn’t been enough to earn him a call-up to the Cardinals. The team maintains they want to see him in the majors again.

“Do I think we’ll see him back this season? I do,” Mozeliak told KMOX Radio on June 10. “I think in this particular case we’ve got to be patient and let him try to work through some things down there and not put the pressure on him to try and do it up here.”

Walker is just 22 years old and still has the tools that made him a highly sought-after prospect in the first place. He was a first-round pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. In his rookie season in 2023, Walker slashed .276/.342/.445 in 117 games. He hit 16 home runs and had 51 RBI in those games.

Another First-Rounder Possibly on the Move

A fellow former first-round draft pick could also be on the trading block. Dylan Carlson was selected in the first round in 2016. He was third in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2021. However, his batting average and slugging percentage have declined every season since then. Injuries kept him off the field for more than half of the season in 2023. He started the season on the IL this year as well. He was having a good spring training before a collision in the outfield kept him away from the Cardinals for nearly two months.

Carlson is a switch-hitting outfielder who had 30 doubles or more in his only two full seasons in the big leagues. He’ll turn 26 at the end of the season, and the Cardinals still have hope he can be a contributor. However, if the team needs to add a pitcher at the deadline to feel like it can compete this year, they may move on from Carlson.

Reshuffling the Minor League Pitchers

In 2023 sell-0ff at the deadline, the Cardinals added several highly touted pitching prospects from teams like the Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, and Baltimore Orioles. The pitchers already in their system were all knocked down a peg on the organization’s prospect rankings.

Cooper Hjerpe was one of those pitchers. The left-handed pitcher was a standout in college at Oregon State and was the Cardinals’ first-round draft pick in 2022. However, an injury in 2023 made the season mostly a lost one for Hjerpe. He stands out as a possible trade target for a rebuilding team that wants to take a chance on a pitcher who could just have a slow start to his professional career.

A sixth-round pick in 2022, Max Rajcic was a standout in college as well at UCLA. He was the Cardinals’ minor league pitcher of the year in 2022. However, in 2023 he started developing some control issues and his walk rate jumped. His talent and previous success could make him a valuable trade chip for the Cardinals if they try to upgrade at the deadline.

Plenty of Young Catchers

The Cardinals invested heavily in Willson Contreras after Yadier Molina‘s retirement. They signed the former Chicago Cub to a five-year $87.5 million contract heading into 2023. At the same time, the organization is deep at catcher. Two rookies have filled in for Contreras during his IL stay in 2024, with Ivan Herrera and Pedro Pages both filling in.

There are still two catchers among the Cardinals’ top 11 prospects. Leonardo Bernal is in Single-A and is sixth on the Cardinals prospect list, and Jimmy Crooks is in Double-A and 11th. With good catchers further down and Contreras blocking the MLB-ready catchers at the top, the team could move one of the pieces they’ve leaned on so far this year once Contreras returns.

Herrera doesn’t have the strongest arm at the plate but can offer offense from a position where hitting is rarer. Herrera has a .274/.335/.366 slash line in 76 MLB games over the past three years. The average batting average for catchers in 2024 is .232, so Herrera could provide most teams with a major upgrade hitting-wise at the position.

 

Photo Credit: © David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

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