St. Louis Cardinals: Why a Josh Donaldson trade needs to happen

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 30: Josh Donaldson #20 of the Toronto Blue Jays connects on an eighth inning run scoring sacrifice fly against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on September 30, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 30: Josh Donaldson #20 of the Toronto Blue Jays connects on an eighth inning run scoring sacrifice fly against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on September 30, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, JD Martinez, Mike Moustakas and more have all been floated out there as being the cure to all of the St. Louis Cardinals’ 2017 offensive ills. But there’s only one guy they actually need, and it isn’t any of the names listed above…

Impact bat. Those two words have swirled around the St. Louis Cardinals and filled the lexicons of seemingly everyone in or around the organization, from management and executives to beat writers and even fans. The idea of the Cardinals adding an ‘impact bat’ before the 2018 season starts has become of paramount importance recently.

In the search for an impact bat, it’s important to remember exactly what kind of hitter and player the Cardinals need. In order to do that let’s take a look at how the Cardinals stacked up against the rest of the league in terms of on base and power statistics.

With a team walk rate of 9.5% ranking 5th best in all of baseball and a team OBP of .334 ranking 8th, it’s reasonable to say that the St. Louis Cardinals are good at getting on base. In terms of slugging, St. Louis ranks 18th in ISO at .170, 17th in slugging percentage at .426 and 18th in home runs with 196.

So there’s your problem, right? The St. Louis Cardinals need a power hitter, so why not just go and get Giancarlo Stanton, the best power hitter in the Major Leagues during the 2017 season? Adding 59 HR’s, a .639 slugging% and 6.9 fWAR into your lineup has to be a positive thing, right?

I wish it were that simple.

Without even thinking about the heft of the trade package that would be required to land a 27-year-old megastar with 10 (!!) more years of team control and a 2028 option, the player that Stanton would be replacing in the Cardinals’ lineup must be taken into consideration here as well.

On the current depth chart, St. Louis has Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk, Harrison Bader and Magneuris Sierra available to play right field. The guy that I have pegged as the Opening Day 2018 starter in RF is Jose Martinez. You probably don’t agree, but just bear with me for a second.

Displacing Jose Martinez moves the Cardinals laterally. With a 2017 slugging percentage of .518, Martinez ranked 3rd on the team in slugging and his 46 RBIs over just 307 PA would have easily given him the team lead if paced out over 600 PA. Replacing a quality slugger with an even higher quality slugger isn’t what the St. Louis Cardinals need to do.

Instead, St. Louis needs to attack weakness and replace it with strength.

Two main weaknesses in the St. Louis Cardinals’ lineup were the #3 spot and the production from 3rd base. Although Jedd Gyorko started the season hot, the 3rd base position tanked as he did in St. Louis, producing a mere 87 WRC+ over the second half of the season.

As for the #3 spot in the lineup, an overall 101 WRC+ ranked 23rd in all of baseball, just behind the San Diego Padres and well below the Major League average of 117 WRC+ from the #3 spot.

The main candidate in my mind to fill out those two roles has to be Josh Donaldson.

From a logical standpoint, his name has been floated out in connection with the Cardinals several times and Toronto has made it clear that they are willing to trade their star 3rd baseman this winter. The two teams were also heavily linked with a midseason trade, although nothing really materialized.

From a baseball standpoint, it all makes perfect sense.

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Firstly, Donaldson’s overall production in 2017 is absurd. 149 WRC+, 33 HRs, 75 RBIs, .270/.395/.560 and 5.0 WAR in just 496 plate appearances is brilliant, even in an injury prone season. The 33 HRs, 149 WRC+, .560 slugging% and .289 ISO would have all led the Cardinals in 2017. So how’s that for an impact bat?

Secondly, Donaldson is a monster in the #3 hole. Over 330 plate appearances this past season, Toronto’s 3rd baseman slashed .304/.406/.639 with a 17.0% walk rate, 27 HRs and 45 RBIs, all good for 174 WRC+. And, to boot, he racks up all of that production while playing 3rd base.

Donaldson checks all of the physical, on field boxes, so let’s look off the field.

His contract ends after the 2018 season, where he will be a free agent entering his age-33 season. Barring a walk year disaster, Donaldson is likely to command a rather hefty contract on the open market, probably something in the range of 5 years, $110-$120 million.

So, assuming there is no contract extension after the 2018 season, the Cardinals would be trading for 1 year of a bona fide superstar to shore up the #3 spot in their lineup and the 3rd base position.

In my mind, this is an absolute no-brainer of a trade target. Donaldson checks every box the Cardinals need right now and is the exact player that could transform a currently stagnant franchise.

Editor’s note: the video below is not baseball-related but according to Ryan he included it because the show is the GOAT.

Next: End of season presser reaction part one

Now, the package that it would take to land Donaldson is a different story entirely, one that I will be writing very soon. But, for now, I fully endorse Josh Donaldson to the St. Louis Cardinals, and I dare anyone else to counter me. @LarryLevinSTL, come at me.