St. Louis Cardinals: Trade candidates in a shortened season

2020 may be a shortened season for the St. Louis Cardinals, but that doesn’t mean that nobody will be dealt at the August 31 trade deadline.

We are through all the fun that were the negotiations for the 2020 season, but the fallout from a shortened season without fans will be felt for a while. The problem is, nobody knows how any of the delays and lack of revenues will change the trade market for the 2020 season. For the St. Louis Cardinals, there may be ways to take advantage.

If you did not know, the trade deadline was pushed back to August 31, allowing teams just five weeks to figure out team needs after the start of the season.

My best guess for the 2020 trade deadline would be that big money contracts aren’t moved around. Sadly, this means that any run on Nolan Arenado is now even more unrealistic than it might’ve been. I also wouldn’t expect any top-end prospects to get moved. With no minor league seasons and an unreliable intrasquad circumstance to judge their play on, it doesn’t make sense to trade in the blind unless a team really knows what they have in a prospect.

My guess for guys that are likely to be moved are going to be the older prospects that teams have plenty of time seeing and can feel comfortable moving. That doesn’t mean we won’t see some excitement though.

Keeping in mind that the Cardinals can only deal from their 60-man player pool, here are my best guesses at who the team might trade this season.

Austin Gomber

It seems like we have been hearing about Austin Gomber’s rise for years. The 26-year-old lefty debuted in 2018 after being named the Cards’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Sadly had a lost year in 2019, throwing fewer than 50 innings at AAA.

Now healthy again, Gomber has made the 30-man roster for 2020 and has looked great in Summer Camp after impressing during spring training.

Gomber will be used out of the bullpen for this year (barring injury), but at 26, he could be a guy that the Cardinals decide to move on from. Much like the Luke Voit situation, the Cardinals just don’t have the MLB innings in the rotation for Gomber (a career starter in the Minors).

At a certain point, the Cardinals either need to use Gomber or trade him. If not, they risk him wasting away at AAA. Gomber has the chance to be a good option from the bullpen in 2020, but he could easily be a 4th or 5th starter on another team. Keeping him in the MLB bullpen is missing out on capitalizing on his value.

JUPITER, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 22: Andrew Knizner #7 of the St. Louis Cardinals in action against the New York Mets during a spring training game at Roger Dean Stadium on February 22, 2020 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Andrew Knizner

Knizner was one name I included on my trade candidates piece before the 2020 season was delayed, and he is an easy addition to this list as well. I really like Knizner for his offensive upside and his continued advances on defense, but we know that Yadier Molina is not going anywhere after this season.

We saw Carson Kelly get blocked by Molina and we are seeing it again with Andrew Knizner, but it’s even more pronounced now. Kelly debuted when he was 21 and was traded last winter, before his age-24 season. Knizner (a less-heralded prospect but still expected MLB regular) is already 25 with more than a season at AAA under his belt.

He’ll likely be on the taxi squad to start the year, but playing time will once again be scarce. Knizner won’t net the Cardinals as much value in a trade as Carson Kelly did when acquiring Paul Goldschmidt, but if the team continues to hold on to the young bat, they’ll stunt his growth and waste the value that he has in a trade.

Lane Thomas

Outside of win-loss records, the best thing that could come out of the 2020 season for the St. Louis Cardinals would be some clarity in the outfield. Right now, the trio of Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas, and Austin Dean are expected to compete for the job in the left field. However, rising star Dylan Carlson will disrupt the competition at some point in 2020.

Outside of just left field, the team has question marks with Harrison Bader‘s offense and how well Dexter Fowler will hold up in his age-34 season. In 2020, the team needs to figure out what they have, and most importantly, where they want to go moving forward with this group.

There is plenty of potential there for viable starters, and it wouldn’t be surprising if one of the five outfielders in the mix ends up getting moved. Right now, my favorite to move in a trade would be Lane Thomas.

Thomas has the heart of a lot of fans in Cardinal Nation, but I’ve been more hesitant to buy into the 24-year-old. Thomas’ debut season of just 44 at-bats ended with him batting for a slash of .316/.409/.684 with a solid 9.1% walk rate and 18.2% strikeout rate.

This was a great showing by Thomas, but it was a significant change in his batting profile from what he had shown the previous two seasons at AAA. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not buying the hype. If O’Neill or Dean come out of the gate hot and Thomas isn’t seeing playing time while Carlson continues to bang on the door of the major leagues, the Cardinals may see Thomas as the odd man out.

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There are certainly other names that would make sense to get moved, but in general, I wouldn’t expect any blockbusters this year from the Cardinals. They have proven they are willing to trade from depth plenty of times, but if there isn’t a glaring need, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them sit on their hands.

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