Inbox: How will Cards address outfield needs?

November 11th, 2016

What are your feelings about possible trades for outfield help? Is on anyone's list? What might he cost, in your opinion? Would he be cheaper than or ?

-- Ryan S., Kirksville, Mo.

It's no secret that the free-agent market is thin on outfield help. The only obvious fit for the Cardinals there would be , and he's going to garner widespread interest. It'll be no surprise, then, if the Cards turn to the trade market to address this need.

But unlike the free-agent market, where everyone knows who is available and most have an idea of what a player's contract expectations entail, the trade market is much more difficult to define. It makes for good Hot Stove discussion to play fantasy general manager and throw around potential targets and possible trade packages; but the reality is, we don't know whether other teams will even engage in talks about particular outfielders or what they expect in return.

With that being said, Revere -- given his poor 2016 performance and the fact that he's in his final year of arbitration eligibility -- would cost less than the other two players you cited. But would Revere really solve the Cardinals' problems? He slashed .214/.260/.300 last season and profiles no better than an average defender.

Is there any chance of the Cardinals going after a big-name free agent such as for first base or for center field?

-- Matt Z., Webster Groves, Mo.

I don't see either as being a fit. Encarnacion, who will turn 34 in January, profiles best as a DH and part-time first baseman in the American League. Cespedes, I'd guess, will end up re-signing with the Mets. He offers a middle-of-the-order bat, yes, but he is not an above-average defender.

You have to keep in mind what the Cardinals' priorities are. It's not to bring in a power bat, which is what Encarnacion or Cespedes would be. The team's sights are set on a player who could offer a defensive upgrade for the outfield and inject athleticism/speed into the lineup. There are better options out there than these two.

What is the plan for ? He has an incredible ability to draw walks and was 12th in OBP (minimum 200 plate appearances) in the Majors, right ahead of Fowler, who will likely receive a big contract this offseason. If he is not expected to play a significant role, would he be a valuable trade chip?

-- Josh K., Urbandale, Iowa

I would envision Garcia's role in 2017 mirroring what it was in 2016. He's not in line for increased playing time, as the Cardinals have already stated that they are ready to move forward with , , , and garnering the majority of playing time in the infield. But Garcia's knack for pinch-hitting (8-for-23 in 2016) and his defensive versatility give him a fit as a backup. It's a bonus, too, that the Cardinals can retain him for near Major League minimum.

Garcia isn't going to be a sought-after piece in trade talks, so, no, there is not high value there. It's unlikely teams view him as an everyday infielder. He's more valuable to the Cardinals as a backup than he is as a trade chip.

With so many prospects with high potential needing protection from the Rule 5 Draft, would it not make sense to trade ? Or even outright release him?

-- Rob H., Woodlawn, Ill.

You do bring up a good point in that the Cardinals are going to have the challenge of finding space on the 40-man roster for several Minor Leaguers they want to protect from next month's Rule 5 Draft. With Pena, however, there is little to no trade value, given that he missed almost the entire 2016 season with knee problems.

The Cardinals may cut their losses eventually, but it makes sense for them to hold onto Pena for now. It gives them catching insurance in case is determined to need more time in Triple-A, and it will allow the Cardinals the opportunity to see if Pena can rebound to the point where he can contribute in 2017.

I am very surprised that MLB has still not levied its penalties against the Cardinals organization for the Chris Correa case. Most commentators suspect that these penalties will include the loss of at least some Draft picks. How can the club make decisions about, for example, compensation Draft picks for qualifying offers not accepted, when our entire position vis-à-vis the 2017 Draft is still up in the air?

-- Joe S., Jefferson City, Mo.

The investigation into the Cardinals' unauthorized access of the Astros' database has been lengthy, though Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters at this week's General Manager Meetings that MLB's investigation is in "the final 10 yards." That offers some hope that things will be wrapped up soon.

There is certainly the possibility that the Cardinals are docked Draft picks as punishment, though no one knows how substantial a hit that might be. The Cardinals are prepared for this, and it's among the reasons, for instance, they were so aggressive in the international market this summer.