Scenario #3 - The Cardinals and A's meet in the middle, and St. Louis then has a wild offseason
There are obviously a lot of assumptions made in this scenario, but imagine a world where the Cardinals end up with Sean Murphy, Cody Bellinger, and Pablo Lopez.
First, the Cardinals deal Brendan Donovan, Dylan Carlson, and Gordon Graceffo to the Athletics for Sean Murphy. The Cardinals cave in by giving up some of their prized possessions in Donovan and Graceffo, and the Athletics allow the Cardinals to replace Nootbaar with Carlson.
The Cardinals then go out and spend money on Cody Bellinger as their fallback option - and now suddenly have another surplus of outfielders they can deal for a starting pitcher. While Ken Rosenthal did say that the Cardinals and Marlins talked about Tyler O'Neill this offseason, a deal never happened, which I'm guessing had to do with an unwillingness from both teams to complete a move. Maybe in this scenario, the clubs could agree to some kind of O'Neill and Yepez or Burleson for Lopez deal (although I have a strong feeling the Marlins would have really wanted Nootbaar).
Look at how this team COULD have shaped out in this scenario.
- LF Lars Nootbaar
- 1B Paul Goldschmidt
- 2B Nolan Gorman
- 3B Nolan Arenado
- CF Cody Bellinger
- C Sean Murphy
- DH Alec Burleson
- RF Jordan Walker
- SS Tommy Edman
Then the Cardinals rotation would have added Lopez to their mix with Jack Flaherty, Jordan Montgomery, Miles Mikolas, Steven Matz, and Adam Wainwright. Lopez has been great for Minnesota so far, but like Bellinger, it's still way too early in the season to say that was a miss from St. Louis.
I'm not arguing the Cardinals would have been better off trading for Murphy and going with one of these scenarios or another for this season. What I am trying to show though is that the Cardinals' decision on their catcher position this offseason was truly a franchise-defining move for the next few years. With Contreras locked in, the Cardinals were able to hold onto their young position players, and now have the flexibility to make more trades in the near future.
What did it cost them though? Potentially a major upgrade defensively at the position, and they were unable to use the money that they paid Contreras to improve the team in other areas. It's interesting just how much some moves impact countless others, and not trading for Sean Murphy was one of those.