Updated: Jan 10, 2020
Jeff Passan opened a can of worms recently by stating that the Rockies were intrigued by the Cubs and Cardinals when it came to the possibility of trading superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado. While this remains but a rumor, it has Cardinals fans on the edge of their seats. Some in anticipation, and still more in skepticism. Just for the fun of it, let’s take a look at what a potential trade of Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals would look like.
Laying the Groundwork
Any trade would have to be beneficial for both sides. Just like with Arizona last off-season, the Rockies would want a significant return in trading away the face of their franchise. So what would they want in return?
The first thing you have to consider is if the Rockies plan on a full rebuild or if they feel like tweaking the roster keeps them competitive now. My guess is that they use Arenado as a chip to find a healthy balance between the two. The Cardinals have both the prospects and major league ready talent to pull off a deal. The only questions are who would be involved and are the Cardinals willing to move them?
When you talk about potential centerpieces coming from the Cardinals there’s really only three names that jump off the page: Jack Flaherty, Dylan Carlson, Nolan Gorman. Any trade deal for Arenado would most certainly have to contain at least one of those three.
The Rockies are definitely in need of pitching, but it’s all but a lock that Flaherty would be a non starter in any trade deal. He’s the current and future ace of a rotation that was the team’s greatest strength last year. With health questions casting some uncertainty over the rotation, they would do well to keep their anchor.
The glut of outfielders would seem to make Carlson expendable. However, scouts have described him as the best position player prospect since Oscar Taveras. That’s high praise for sure. Carlson has backed that up with strong performances in the minors. He hit 26 home runs, stole 20 bases, and put up a 150 wRC+ across AA and AAA last season.
Nolan Gorman is another position player with a potential ceiling as high as the sky. He hit 15 home runs between low and high A ball last year with a combined wRC+ of around 123. His power dropped off in high A as his walk rate plummeted and his strikeout rate increased. No worries though because that league is known to suppress power hitters. Make no mistake, Gorman is one of the best prospects in the game and is sure to make a name for himself. It would be hard to part with him as well.
So who stays and who goes? Before this off-season I would have said none of them.
However, when the right deal comes along, you have to be willing to go big or go home. In this case Gorman makes the most sense. Arenado plays third base. So does Gorman. It’s ok to trade your third baseman of the future when you’re potentially getting one in return.
Let’s not forget about Elehuris Montero. He’s another high end third base prospect. He’s just not as highly regarded as Gorman is. Keep in mind though that he won MVP honors at low-A two years ago. The last Cardinals prospect to do that at his age was some guy named Albert Pujols. Injuries to Montero aside, the Cardinals can afford to lose Gorman in the right deal. This is the right deal.
MLB Ready Talent
Colorado would also have to get some MLB ready players to help augment what they would be losing in Arenado. The list here is long. For outfielders you have Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas, and Harrison Bader. I’m not including Carlson here because we already talked about him.
On the infield the most attractive trade piece would be the spark plug, Tommy Edman. He’s solid defensively and proved last season that he can play anywhere. Other names would include Yairo Munoz and Max Schrock, who hasn’t made his debut yet but may very well be ready for the call. Catcher Andrew Knizner is another name to keep in mind.
The next area to look at is pitching. I can see several names here as well. Austin Gomber, Ryan Helsley, Daniel Ponce De Leon, Dakota Hudson, Jordan Hicks, Alex Reyes, and Genesis Cabrera round out a phenomenal, albeit inconclusive list. You might even throw in Geovany Gallegos’ name.
I’m guessing the Rockies choose from two of those three areas. The Rockies, like the Cardinals, are stocked full of guys for the outfield. That wouldn’t preclude them from adding to that depth. While Lane Thomas would be my pick out of that group, I can see the Rockies being intrigued by Tyler O’Neill’s light tower power and how it would play up at Coors Field. With consistent playing time he could easily hit 40 or more dingers playing in the thin Colorado air.
There’s a chance two outfielders would get moved, but I think it’s the pitching that would be more attractive. It’s really a toss up as any of those guys we’ve mentioned would be solid rotation pieces. It depends on how each team views them, but my guess is it would come down to Helsley and Gomber, only because I don’t see the Cardinals wanting to part with Cabrera. With Hicks and Reyes both coming off injury, they are also unlikely trade candidates.
The Finer Details
So to do a quick recap, so far we have Gorman, O’Neill, Helsley and Gomber as the most likely pieces the Rockies would want. There’s other players that would also be attractive to them. Names like Ivan Herrera, Delvin Pérez, and Edmundo Sosa are ones who are good but not yet ready for the majors.
It’s not just players that we have to think about here. There’s also the money. Arenado is owed a lot of money over the next seven years. He can also opt out after two years. So there’s a risk the Cardinals are taking by trading a lot for a guy who is owed a lot, but that could also leave in two years.
The Cardinals would need to shed some payroll in any deal. The most sense here would be Matt Carpenter. With Arenado gone, the Rockies would need someone to play third base until Gorman arrives. Carpenter has two years left on his deal, is a former All-Star, and is a veteran presence that will be just fine until Gorman arrives (granted, that might also be why the Cardinals don’t make this deal).
Deal or No Deal?
To come to some conclusion, a deal for Arenado likely comes down to Gorman, O’Neill, Helsley, Gomber, and Carpenter. It’s possible one or two more players could be added to put the deal over the top, but I think those would definitely be the players moving. I could be wrong, but hey, this likely has about a 25% percent chance of happening anyway. Sure that’s an arbitrary number. That’s what makes this so much fun. So what do you think? Comment below and add to the conversation.