Yadier Molina, Jack Flaherty, and Paul DeJong seem the least likely to be dealt on the St. Louis Cardinals — regardless of circumstances. Who else is untradeable?
With the St. Louis Cardinals in trade talks for the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado —and who knows who else — it’s fair to wonder which players the Redbirds will absolutely refuse to include in any potential deals. Not just now, but six months from now when the club is up against the July 31st trade deadline.
Various voices insist that top prospects Dylan Carlson and/or Nolan Gorman are untouchable, as are Jack Flaherty and Paul DeJong. But what if the Cardinals suffer a series of injuries that deplete the pitching staff, or the outfield, or the left side of the infield, before the trade deadline? If one part of the ship is taking water and the club must trade for help to stay afloat, could a formerly “untouchable” player in a position of relative strength be sacrificed?
Yes! Absolutely. Happens all the time.
Considering all the dire possibilities — Fire! Famine! Three straight losses to the Marlins! — these are the Cardinals’ five players least likely to be traded:
#1: Yadier Molina
The 37-year-old, nine-time Gold Glover has two things going for him. First, he’s a St. Louis institution, the scowling face of the franchise. Fans with torches and pitchforks would march down Clark Street if Yadi got traded. Then they’d deluge team and city officials with furious, all-cap text messages. Also, consider: Yadi will make $20 million in 2020. It might make sense for the home team to overpay an institution, but no other team would touch that contract.
#2: Jack Flaherty
You could (if you were daft) deal Flaherty on the logic that his scorching-hot second half of 2019 has jacked the 24-year-old’s trade value through the roof, and that recent history has shown that promising young Redbird arms — Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Alex Reyes — tend to fizzle due to injuries. While there’s a shred of pessimistic logic there, it would be nuts to bail on a gritty kid who could be a once-in-a-generation hurler.
#3: Paul DeJong
Forget DeJong’s .202 second-half batting average — the kid’s a good gloveman with power (30 homers, 78 RBIs a year ago). The Cards had eight regular shortstops in ten years before DeJong took over in 2017; they don’t want to go searching for another anytime soon.
#4: Adam Wainwright
A beloved Cardinal mainstay for 14 years, Waino is as much of a St. Louis icon (or close to it, anyway) as Yadi. The difference is the pitcher is making $5 million, plus incentives in 2020, meaning a starter-hunger contender could make a bid for him at the end-of-July trade deadline.
That would hinge on Wainwright pitching well, the Cardinals being sellers rather than buyers, and the hurler voiding the no-trade provision in his contract. There’s but a microscopic chance of all those factors falling into place, but maybe, possibly, Waino would green-light a deal that sent him back to his home state of Georgia to play for the Braves, the team that traded him to St. Louis in December of 2003.
#5: Dylan Carlson/Nolan Gorman
Teams have been known to trade their supposedly untradeable prospects, but the outfield is a position of great need in St. Louis, and potential center fielder Carlson is oh-so-close to major league ready. He could theoretically be dealt if the Cards had a chance to get a plug-in star and were all-in for 2020, but then there’s the financial aspect.
A young, potential standout like Carlson would earn a fraction of what an established, All-Star-caliber player would make. Carlson and fellow hot prospect Nolan Gorman could be great bargains (should they achieve their potential) as well as fine players.
Paul Goldschmidt is another player the Cardinals wouldn’t possibly trade in the next couple of years — would they? What could possibly spur the club to move on from the mild-mannered, still-productive, six-time All-Star? Kolten Wong, coming off his best season, would also seem to be safe, although continued strong play from reserve infielder Tommy Edman could make one of them an attractive piece of trade bait.
The truth is, you can’t be certain that anyone is off-limits when a team is desperate to make a deal or go all-in on a youth movement.
Consider: In 1972, the Giants traded Willie Mays, and two years later, the Braves traded Hank Aaron. But that’s before the proliferation of no-trade clauses, plus the current Cardinals have a massive (they drew nearly 3.5 million customers last year, second to the Dodgers in all of baseball), loyal, and savvy fan base that would revolt if the club dealt an old favorite (Molina) or a young phenom (Flaherty).
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Unless Yadi retires after 2020, those two should be sticking around for a while.