With Cardinals slated to sell, who will they move?

July 13th, 2023

Changes are coming in St. Louis. What that means, exactly, remains to be seen.

The Cardinals hit the break with a 38-52 record, putting them on pace for their first 90-loss season since 1990. St. Louis is 11 1/2 games behind the Reds in the NL Central and 11 games out of a Wild Card spot, putting president of baseball operations John Mozeliak in an unfamiliar position as the Trade Deadline draws closer.

Speaking with FOX 2 in St. Louis this week, Mozeliak said that while the club is “not necessarily waving the white flag” on the 2023 season, he plans to approach the upcoming Trade Deadline with an eye on '24.

“Right now, I can tell you that we're going to trade people,” Mozeliak said. “I just don't know if it's going to be household names or more of guys that just aren't likely going to be here next year. It’s easy to talk about what we may or may not do at the moment, but we're not going to just give away players.

"We want to get some value in return. We want to get some return that's going to help us for 2024, and that's going to be really our focus as we enter the trading period.”

What could be in store for the Cardinals between now and Aug. 1?

The big bats

The first thing Mozeliak must do is decide if he plans to build his 2024 team around Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt, the team’s two top sluggers. If Mozeliak is serious about retooling for a run next year, there’s no reason to believe he would trade either of them.

“We hope we can keep our core together and then supplement it properly,” Mozeliak said.

Trading Goldschmidt -- last year’s NL Most Valuable Player -- would be a more realistic scenario than an Arenado deal, as the first baseman has just one year and $25.33 million remaining on his contract. Arenado is signed for four more guaranteed years at $109 million beyond this season and possesses a full no-trade clause, so he would have to approve any deal.

Given that Arenado chose not to opt out of his contract after the 2021 season, it seems unlikely that he would look to be traded, especially if the front office views this disappointing season as a one-year hiccup. But if Mozeliak decides to look beyond 2024 and try to rebuild rather than reload, Arenado would be his best trade chip.

The question then becomes whether the third baseman would approve a deal, though it is believed he would consider such an option if a team such as the Dodgers or Yankees came calling.

Expiration dates

If Arenado and Goldschmidt aren’t going anywhere, which players might be on the move during the next three weeks?

The three that stand out are Jordan Montgomery, Jack Flaherty and Jordan Hicks, all of whom are slated to become free agents at the end of the season. Montgomery finished the first half 4-0 with a 1.46 ERA in his final six starts, though he left his last outing with a hamstring injury. If that proves to be minor as expected, the lefty should provide Mozeliak with a strong asset to deal to pitching-needy contenders.

Flaherty’s season has been better than his overall numbers indicate, as he allowed 22 earned runs in three horrific starts -- the same number he’s given up in his other 14 outings combined. He finished the first half with 12 2/3 scoreless innings in wins over the Yankees and Marlins, so a strong July would set the Cards up with another appealing rental option to trade.

Hicks has also been very good since taking over the closer role in mid-June, and given that he’s owed less than $1 million for the remainder of the season, contenders all over the league will be clamoring to acquire affordable bullpen talent. Fellow reliever Chris Stratton, another impending free agent, could also be dealt.


Long-term controllable players are unlikely to be part of Mozeliak’s selling strategy, but Paul DeJong and Tyler O’Neill could become trade bait given that they’re under club control beyond 2023.

DeJong has a $12.5 million club option ($2 million buyout) for 2024 and a $15 million club option ($1 million buyout) for '25, while O’Neill will be arbitration-eligible for the third and final time this winter.

St. Louis' No. 1 prospect is shortstop Masyn Winn, making DeJong expendable if a contender comes calling. O’Neill has been expendable for quite some time given the Cardinals’ glut of outfielders, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see him moved with only one year remaining before free agency.

Adam bomb

Another player with an expiring contract is Adam Wainwright, who landed on the injured list last week with a right shoulder strain following a three-start stretch that saw him give up 17 earned runs over eight innings.

The 41-year-old has pitched his entire 18-year career with the Cardinals and has said he plans to retire at the end of the season, so while there’s minimal chance he gets traded, the question is whether he will even be given the chance to return in 2023.

“He certainly wants to come back and pitch; he really wants to prove he can do this,” Mozeliak said. “But there's a physical element to this, and out of respect for what he's done for this organization, we're certainly going to try to allow for that to happen.

"But we also have to be realistic. If it's not going to happen, then that page may have to be turned.”