St. Louis Cardinals: The Manny Machado conundrum

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 26: Manny Machado /

The St. Louis Cardinals have been attached to a big name third basemen of late but will they pull the trigger?

After the St. Louis Cardinals acquired Marcell Ozuna in a trade with the Miami Marlins, attentions turned to what the front office could do next. Rumors with the Tampa Bay Rays popped up unsurprisingly. The Cardinals had been linked to potentially being a match with the Rays for some time.

The shock was when rumors started floating around that the Cardinals may be a match for star third basemen Manny Machado.

I have been a huge proponent of Machado since I started writing for Redbird Rants. I have mentioned him as a potential target for the Cardinals on at least three separate occasions.

The skill of Machado is undeniable; he is a potential Hall of Fame talent who hasn’t hit his prime yet. His defense, as Cardinal fans and Jedd Gyorko can attest to is incredible (see below). Machado has one of the top three gloves in baseball at the hot corner and can easily shift to shortstop (which he is said to prefer).

Of course here comes the problem: the cost. Trading for a talent like Machado will of course cost a pretty penny, every trade for a star does (except Giancarlo Stanton of course). The question is, are the St. Louis Cardinals willing to pay that price?

Machado only has one year left on his deal and he will hit free agency where countless teams will pursue him after 2018. Trading for a player who appears ready for free agency is obviously a frightening thought.

Mozeliak has already said he normally isn’t in the business of trading cost-controlled guys for one year of a player. Is that a possible smoke screen? Absolutely. Then again, Mo is normally very apprehensive of moving prospects in a normal deal, so it may be him being totally honest.

What the cost may be we don’t know definitively. We know the Orioles are interested in two pitching prospects. Something the Cardinals still have a surplus of even after their recent deal with the Marlins.

Now, if that asking prices is Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver, don’t just walk away, run. You can’t trade two pitchers who are expected to have a large affect on the 2018 season, that’s bad business. Trading from your depth though, that could pan out.

The concern of trading cost-controlled guys is understandable. Fans love prospects, they love cheering for home grown guys, and it gives that player a nice backstory. Handcuffing yourself because of cost controlled years though, is a bit foolish.

The number of prospects that actually pan out and become something is a fairly minuscule number in the grand scheme of things. Just around 10% of minor league prospects make their way to the majors and even less stick around for multiple years. So putting that hope into your prospects gives you a nice story, but if you can get a bonafide star you have to take it seriously.

Holding on to every prospect and hoping they become something isn’t going to catch the Cubs. Stars will catch the Cubs. Adding Marcell Ozuna is a huge step in the right direction but adding Manny Machado is a game changer.

If the St. Louis Cardinals can piece together a deal involving Jack Flaherty along with one of Dakota Hudson or Jordan Hicks and potentially another lesser piece then you have to seriously consider pulling the trigger.

Detractors will say, “But it’s only one year and then he walks and we’re left with nothing.” That is absolutely a risk, a huge one at that. There is absolutely a possibility that Machado plays his year in St. Louis and then packs his bags for New York or Boston.

On the other hand though, he could play his season in St. Louis in front of some of the most passionate fans in baseball, take this team back to the playoffs and fall in love with this city and its fans.

Clearly this view is the brightest of bright sides but this team has done it before. When Mark McGwire decided to waive his no trade clause to come to St. Louis he didn’t expect to fall in love with the city, but he did. There is no reason that can’t happen again.

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Another problem Machado detractors have is the potential price. Yes, Machado is going to sign a deal most likely north of 300 million dollars. Unfortunately, that is the cost of doing business if you want a young star. Over the coming years you will see Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Nolan Arenado among a glut of others hit the free agent market. Expect to see “record breaking contract” reported more than a couple times. That is the path that baseball is headed. If you want a star, you will have to pay inflated contracts to compete for their services.

Home grown talent is great. It is one of the things that make the Cardinals the Cardinals. Stars though, stars help make champions and Manny Machado’s combination of stellar defense and above-average bat would make for a huge boost to an improving roster.

ZiPS has Machado projected for 34 home runs and 100 RBIs for the 2018 season. Slotting that in the middle of your order with other newcomer Marcell Ozuna and the Cardinals lineup becomes a terror to other teams.

Whether or not the Cardinals have remained a potential favorite over the weekend remains to be seen. Mozeliak and Girsch along with the rest of the front office aren’t in the business of making franchise-damaging decisions. They will only make a move if they believe it is in the best interest of the ball club.

Next: How to win the winter

I for one am hoping that come Spring Training we see Machado with the birds on the bat across his chest, if not at least I know they tried.