Cards have the trade pieces to make a splash

Organization could deal pitching prospects for high-profile bat, reliever

November 16th, 2017

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Cardinals have an abundance of the most coveted commodity in baseball: young, talented starting pitchers.

Judging by the team's trade discussions at this week's General Managers Meetings, the Cardinals won't be shy about moving one -- or perhaps more -- in order to acquire the right outfield and bullpen upgrades.

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Sources say the Cardinals have had recent discussions with the Rays about closer Alex Colome, and top officials from the Cardinals and Marlins met again Wednesday to discuss parameters of a blockbuster.

Colome led the Major Leagues with 47 saves in 2017. He won't become a free agent until after the '20 season, but the Rays are willing to consider offers for virtually any player on the roster, including Colome, ace Chris Archer and All-Star left fielder/designated hitter Corey Dickerson, sources say.

The Rays -- among other potential St. Louis trade partners -- have interest in the Cardinals' starting-rotation prospects. Right-handers , and are poised to pitch in Major League rotations next year. The 2017 Pitchers of the Year in the Double-A Texas League (Dakota Hudson) and Class A Florida State League (Ryan Helsley) also are Cardinals prospects.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals remain involved in the pursuit of Stanton, which captivated much of the industry conversation at this week's meetings. The Cardinals want to land an impact bat to anchor their 2018 lineup; Stanton, who led the Majors in home runs last season, fulfills that description as well as any available hitter.

Marlins officials discussed Stanton with multiple teams this week, sources say, and came away with a better understanding of the slugging right fielder's marketplace. Multiple executives from other teams told the Marlins that Stanton's remaining contract -- 10 years, $295 million -- is approximately what he would receive as a free agent this winter.

If that is a true industry consensus, that sentiment is very significant: General managers who view Stanton's contract as being priced fairly in the market won't want to pay an additional prospect price on top of the salary. As a result, the Marlins likely will need to include cash as a means of "purchasing" high-end prospects in any Stanton trade. One longtime team executive estimated that sum could be roughly $5 million per year.

Once the Marlins agree on prospects and a cash amount with another team, the parties must seek the approval of Stanton, who has a full no-trade clause. Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said Wednesday that he hasn't spoken with Stanton about the possibility of a trade since joining the club in early October.

For now, the Cardinals' trade discussions continue -- with the Marlins, Rays and undoubtedly several other teams. In its young pitchers, St. Louis has what the industry wants.