St. Louis Cardinals: Way too early Trade Deadline speculations

As rumors about a trade for Rockies’ third baseman Nolan Arenado swirl around the St. Louis Cardinals, is it too early to look at the July 31st Trade Deadline? Who in the Cardinals organization could be candidates for a trade after the start of the 2020 season?

I know what you’re thinking. It’s way too early to start speculating about the July 31st Trade Deadline. But during this current off-season, many names on the St. Louis Cardinals 40-man roster and in the minor league system, have been speculated as trade bait for the services of Nolan Arenado.

We’ve already seen Adolis Garcia, Jose Martinez, and Randy Arozarena traded to help clear the crowded outfield picture for the Cardinals. However, the outfield still seems a bit clogged, especially with the arrival from Miami of Austin Dean.

Other names on the roster and prospects in the Cardinals system are always brought up when a trade is discussed. It seems likely they will come up again when the July 31st deadline approaches.

Let’s take a look at some of the candidates I think will be mentioned during the season. Some the fan base can’t wait to send off and some will cause a mixed reaction.

Carlos Martinez

Carlos just doesn’t seem long for this organization. Between his health and uncertain role in the Cardinals’ future, Martinez seems like a trade candidate in 2020.

The erratic but talented right-handed pitcher is signed through 2021 on a five-year, $51M contract with options for 22 and 23. However, since 2017, he has seen his inning decline from 205 to 118.2 in 2018. Due to injuries and concerns about Martinez’s shoulder, the Cardinals moved him to a full-time bullpen role in 2019 in hopes of allowing the shoulder to strengthen.

In 2019, the 28-year-old ‘Tsunami’ stepped up into the closer’s role and saved 24 games after the injury to Jordan Hicks. With Carlos as the closer, it was sometimes an adventure for Cardinal fans. He wasn’t always the shutdown option you like in the role with a 3.72 ERA, but he was the best hurler available after the Hicks injury.

Going into 2020, Martinez’s role seems undefined. With Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Miles Mikolas, and Adam Wainwright returning, only one spot will be available in the rotation. Martinez, Kwang-Hyun Kim, Austin Gomber, Ryan Helsley, and Daniel Ponce de Leon will all be in play for the fifth spot.

As far as the bullpen is concerned, if the Cardinals find another more reliable option as a closer, Carlos Martinez may find himself expendable by the trade deadline.

Nolan Gorman

Putting the 19-year old Gorman on this list will surprise many of you. Nevertheless, I believe he could become trade bait for the Cardinals by the Trade Deadline, especially if the Cardinals go after Arenado.

If the Cardinals pursue the 28-year-old Arenado at the Trade Deadline, Gorman, being the number two prospect for the Cardinals, would be attractive bait for the Rockies in the deal. If not Arenado, even a trade to another team involving Gorman, could give the team a much-needed help for a World Series run.

If Arenado doesn’t end up in St. Louis, the Cardinals still have the 21-year old Elehuris Montero sitting at Springfield and the 18-year old Malcom Nunez at Peoria. Montero is considered to be a top ten prospect in the Cardinals system, while Nunez is a top 20 prospect.

Finally, Tommy Edman should buy time with Matt Carpenter at third base while the Cardinals decide if Montero or Nunez will be the future at that corner.

Andrew Knizner

Andrew Knizner’s ordeal to inherit the throne of Yadi Molina is beginning to feel like deja vu. We all remember Carson Kelly.

Now with the re-signing of Matt Wieters, Molina saying he would like to play another two years, and Ivan Herrera moving up the prospect ranking, Knizner seems to have become Trade Deadline bait for the Cardinals.

The Cardinals are not paying Wieters $2 million in guaranteed money plus $1 million in incentives to sit at Memphis behind Knizner. Wieters will be the primary backup going into 2020 and likely take over primary catching duties if Yadi should go on the IL.

Herrera impressed many in the Cardinals organization in 2019. He hit for a slash line of .284/.374/.405 with 9 HR and 47 RBI in 87 games between A Peoria and A+ Palm Beach. The 19-year-old also opened eyes in the Arizona Fall League when he hit a .821 OPS in 10 games. Currently most prospect ratings have Herrera in the top five in the Cardinals minor league system.

Molina wanting to stay an additional two years would seem to put the final nail in the coffin of Knizner’s future in the Cardinal organization. This would allow Herrera more time to develop his defensive skills in the minor leagues and of course, Wieters  would be the insurance policy.

Daniel Ponce de Leon

The 28-year old right-handed Ponce de Leon doesn’t seem to have a defined role with the St. Louis Cardinals. At times a fifth starter, and other times, a reliever, his role and future in St. Louis could be in jeopardy by the Trade Deadline.

This is not to say he hasn’t done a good job when called upon. His versatility has proven valuable for the Cardinals as both a starter and a reliever. Nevertheless this versatility could make him attractive trade bait at the deadline.

For instance, as a starter he has a 3.67 ERA in 54 innings, while as a reliever, his ERA stands at 2.60 in over 27 innings. Opponents only show a .216 BA against Ponce de Leon as a starter and a measly .185 BA as a reliever.

He is more effective against left-handed batters who can only muster a .153/.284/.210 slash line while right-handed bats hit a .246/.321/.425 slash line.

All this adds up to a pitcher who would make a nice pick up in a trade package at mid-season. Thrown in with another player, Daniel Ponce de Leon could be part of a deal that brings a needed bat or arm at the Trade Deadline for the Cardinals.

To Conclude

Per Mark Saxon, DeWitt said the team isn’t actively seeking impact trades and any deal major additions to a projected $170 million payroll, would require money going the other way.

Meanwhile per the Denver Post, Rockies GM Jeff Bridich did his part to squelch any trade rumors concerning Arenado but then Arenado started his own media forest fire with his own comments.

Basically, the trade rumors concerning Nolan Arenado will continue forever and eternity. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Carlos Martinez, Nolan Gorman, Andrew Knizner, and Daniel Ponce de Leon names mentioned in any Arenado trade rumors.

Next: A weird 24 hours with Nolan Arenado

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However, their names could be brought up in other trade rumors, and not just for another bat. We could see anyone of these dealt for a starter or even a closer. As always, it would just depend on the needs of the St. Louis Cardinals at the July 31st Trade Deadline or before.

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