Cardinals: Putting together a trade for Pirates’ Bryan Reynolds

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 25: Bryan Reynolds #10 of the Pittsburgh Pirates reacts as he crosses home plate after hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning during the game against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park on September 25, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 25: Bryan Reynolds #10 of the Pittsburgh Pirates reacts as he crosses home plate after hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning during the game against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park on September 25, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 17: Bryan Reynolds #10 of the Pittsburgh Pirates at bat during the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on September 17, 2022 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 17: Bryan Reynolds #10 of the Pittsburgh Pirates at bat during the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field on September 17, 2022 in the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images) /

The trade package for Bryan Reynolds

As always, projecting the exact names of a trade can be difficult as it’s hard to know who other teams would target from the Cardinals organization, but here is a deal that could satisfy all sides and bring the Cardinals an impact bat.

For St. Louis, they pay a premium to acquire Reynolds for two reasons. First, they provide more certainty to their outfield. Tyler O’Neill and Dylan Carlson are coming off down years, Lars Nootbaar was great in 2022 but a small sample size, and we all believe Jordan Walker will be great, but still needs to be seen on the Major League level. Reynolds immediately becomes the best outfield option on the team, and takes pressure off the rest of the unit.

Second, the Cardinals would now have that “third impact bat” to strengthen the middle of their lineup as they look to compete with the best in baseball. Look at every National League playoff team last year, and you’ll see a core three that carry their offense. St. Louis has internal options who could be that, but this grabs a for sure guy and the rest become icing on the cake.

For the Pirates, they appear to be digging in their heels at the moment, per Jason Mackey.

Even if the Pirates are trying to get better in 2023 and see this as a huge step back, it may be easier to convince themselves that Carlson could be “Bryan Reynolds-lite” for them going forward, while acquiring two more pitching prospects, with one being MLB-ready in Matthew Liberatore.

Some may say there is no way the Cardinals trade Carlson if they would not deal him for Juan Soto, but the speculation about Carlson’s role in that trade appears to be one of the most overblown tidbits from the Soto sweepstakes. Even if they were not willing to trade Carlson, there is likely no way the Cardinals pull off that deal without including Jordan Walker, or at minimum Masyn Winn and Nolan Gorman, meaning there were many more pieces at play than just simply Carlson.

Carlson had a down year in 2022, but appeared to be battling through injuries that hampered him at the plate. He still remains a very promising player at the plate and show cased his elite defense in both right field and center field last season.

I don’t blame the Cardinals for holding onto Carlson, but with Reynolds being team controllable, there is not much of an advantage waiting on Carlson’s development when a better version of him is available on the market. Is there risky that Carlson puts it all together in 2023? Yes. But there is even more risk that he does not become the same level of player that Reynolds is, and it’s time for St. Louis to be thinking about competing with the best in the league, which requires big moves.

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