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Third-base market still robust with top options

Blue Jays could deal Donaldson; Cardinals looking to fill hole
December 20, 2017

The third-base market thinned out some on Wednesday, and the Cardinals still do not have their man. Neither do the Yankees, Braves, Mets or Phillies.There's probably a lesson in supply-and-demand economics in there somewhere. Not all those teams are going to acquire a third baseman, but they're all in the

The third-base market thinned out some on Wednesday, and the Cardinals still do not have their man. Neither do the Yankees, Braves, Mets or Phillies.
There's probably a lesson in supply-and-demand economics in there somewhere. Not all those teams are going to acquire a third baseman, but they're all in the conversation.
Hot Stove Tracker
The Cardinals are the most interesting because of their approach. For one thing, they almost certainly are going to acquire a third baseman. They also appear to be nicely positioned to do that, even with the Rays trading Evan Longoria to the Giants and the Orioles perhaps being close to pulling the plug on Manny Machado trade talks.
"I'm not sure we're going to focus on that much more after tomorrow," Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette told reporters on Wednesday.

From the beginning of those rumors, plenty of baseball people did not think the Orioles would trade Machado. Instead, they would attempt to fill out their starting rotation and keep the team together for one more run. Whether closer Zach Britton's ruptured right Achilles tendon -- which will sideline him for at least four months -- changes that approach remains to be seen.
Even if Machado is off the market, there are several other good options for the Cardinals:
1. Josh Donaldson (Blue Jays): He's a true impact player and 32 years old. More on him later.
2. Todd Frazier (free agent): He has averaged 34 home runs and a .783 OPS the past three seasons, and he's good defensively at 31 years old.
3. Mike Moustakas (free agent): He's only 29 and coming off a career year in which he hit 38 home runs and posted an .835 OPS.
There are also other contenders for those third basemen:
Yankees: They could sit out this free-agent market and make a big play for Machado next offseason. But could a free agent fall to them on a one-year deal?
Braves: With prospect Austin Riley expected to be in the big leagues at some point next season, the Braves are probably only interested in a one-year deal for a third baseman.
Mets: However, they say their focus is second base, not third.
Phillies: They're primarily focused on pitching, but they are also casting a wide net.
Back to the Cardinals. Here's their game plan, or at least what appears to be their game plan: Donaldson. As for Plan B, well, that's where things get murky. At this point, the Cardinals have not yet focused on the two most prominent free agents: Moustakas and Frazier.
Either would make sense for a team that has already had a strong offseason and is two moves -- hitter and closer -- from having a great one.

As for Donaldson, like the Cardinals, pretty much everyone in baseball loves this guy, and not just because he has been one of baseball's best third basemen the past five seasons. Over that span, he has 164 home runs, a .901 OPS, 410 walks and 491 runs, while slashing .282/.377/.524.
Beyond the numbers, Donaldson plays the game relentlessly hard and with a raging competitive fire. In that way, he will impact every teammate and fan. Cardinals fans would love him.
Here's one minor drawback: The Blue Jays have given no indication they're willing to deal him, which can be a real stumbling block.

Trading Donaldson would make some sense because he's a year away from free agency and likely to make more than $20 million in the final year of his contract. But Donaldson loves Toronto and might be open to staying beyond 2018. So far, though, no deal appears close.
Would the Cardinals give up a chunk of their Minor League depth to trade for a guy who might only be there one year? You can argue it would make sense, if Donaldson helped get the Cardinals back to the World Series.
You can also argue that Donaldson, like a lot of other players, will love St. Louis and decide to stay long-term. As long as both Frazier and Moustakas remain unsigned, the Cardinals can continue to try to persuade the Blue Jays to make a deal.
What no one knows is how long the Cardinals will wait. Do they pivot the moment that either Frazier or Moustakas sign elsewhere?
That's the poker game that is free agency.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.