St. Louis Cardinals: Josh Donaldson is a smoke screen
The St. Louis Cardinals have been connected with the Toronto Blue Jays third baseman through rumors, but there are reasons to believe that the rumors are mere smoke screen for other moves.
The St. Louis Cardinals, if actually interested in Josh Donaldson, are most certainly buyers at and before the deadline. While it makes good sense to have interest in Donaldson, something about it feels a touch odd to me. Let me explain.
The first red flag to the rumor, to me, is the performance of Jedd Gyorko. If the St. Louis Cardinals were absent Gyorko, who is playing third almost regularly now in the absence of Jhonny Peralta, then I could completely see the Birds going after Donaldson. That said though, why invest the big money for this spot when Gyorko is slashing .300/.364/.519 and is one of the hottest bats on the team?
Next up, why invest the money in Donaldson- who is arbitration-eligible in 2018 and a free agent in 2019- when Gyorko is under contract through 2019 with a 2020 option? By the way, Gyorko is owed $6M in 2017 ($2M of which is paid by San Diego), $9M in 2018 ($2.5M paid by San Diego), $13M in 2019 ($3M paid by San Diego), and a $13M option for 2020.
Donaldson, by the way, is owed $17M in 2017 with surely more to come through a trade and/or his impending free agency in 2019. To secure him, the St. Louis Cardinals would need to be prepared to pony-up the wallet and pray to lock him long-term. This would also likely indicate that either Gyorko and/or Matt Carpenter are heading out.
A quick aside: Carpenter is owed $10M in 2017, $13.75M in 2018, $14.75M in 2019, with an $18.5M option for 2020. Should the St. Louis Cardinals pick up Donaldson, could they carry Carpenter too?
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Assuming then that Donaldson is a smoke screen, what might be in the works? To me, I find that the St. Louis Cardinals are more likely to hold real interest in Giancarlo Stanton. He and Donaldson are similar in regard to numbers– both offensive numbers and salary.
A quick numeric comparison of the two… Donaldson is slashing .261/.383/.484 while Stanton is slashing .277/.360/.572 in 2017. From the money side of things, Giancarlo is owed $14.5M in 2017 with an ever-increasing contract that takes him under team control through 2027 with an option for 2028 and an opt-out option at 2020.
The St. Louis Cardinals have been very interested in team control in the past but would they take on a thirteen-year contract? Would they do this with an already crowded outfield?
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To me, the Donaldson rumor might help the Cardinals land someone like Stanton. If not Stanton, then perhaps there is another name the Cards are targeting but want the targets to think/know that they are working on another big name too; one name essentially competes with the other on the agent side of things.
Could the St. Louis Cardinals have interest in a Troy Tulowitzki in the wake of dangling the Donaldson name? Tulo would make sense for the weakened short stop position for the Cardinals and his name has been attached to the Cardinals in the past as well.
Here’s a quick look at Tulo’s 2017 numbers: .250/.302/.398. He is having a down year in 2017 and is battling injuries but is career slash is .290/.361/.497. Could his 2017 numbers, combined with his recent injuries, combined with his contract through 2020 with a ’21 option, combined with the recent Donaldson-Cardinals rumors assist with a “steal” of Tulo?
Tulo’s contract, by the way, has him earning $20M in 2017, 2018, and 2019. His contract then decreases to $14M in 2020 with a ’21 team option valued at $15M.
These three names- Tulo, Donaldson, and Stanton- are not the only names that the St. Louis Cardinals are examining but they do illustrate how dangling a name like Donaldson out there as a smoke screen could both hide the real target from competitors while also assisting with contract issues with the “real” target.
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When Mozeliak was GM, this type of practice was a common occurrence during his negotiations. It is not far-fetched to imagine that Girsch will continue the practice. If it lands a great name for the Midwest team then I’m all for continuing it.