5 blockbuster Winter Meetings trades to make the St. Louis Cardinals true contenders

The St. Louis Cardinals need to continue to press the gas heading into the Winter Meetings, and one of these blockbuster deals would ace their offseason.
Milwaukee Brewers v Chicago White Sox
Milwaukee Brewers v Chicago White Sox / Michael Reaves/GettyImages
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The Cardinals' starting pitching issues "Cease"

Cardinals receive: RHP Dylan Cease

White Sox receive: OF Dylan Carlson, RHP Tink Hence, INF Thomas Saggese, and RHP Zack Showalter

One of the names the Cardinals were linked to early in the offseason was White Sox's Dylan Cease. The trade chatter on Cease has grown over the last week, and the Cardinals have been linked to trade talks with them.

Both Katie Woo and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscriptions required) separately reported that the Cardinals are among the teams interested in Cease. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (subscription required) also confirmed this and reported early this offseason that Cease was a name they would look into. I talked about the potential of a Cease trade (as well as other targets on this list) on the Noot News Podcast, a weekly show I host alongside contributors Sandy McMillian and Andrew Wang.

While it's difficult to know what exactly the White Sox want from a Cease trade, there are a few things we can probably piece together from their GM Chris Getz's public comments and how they've conducted their offseason so far.

The White Sox are looking to blow up their Major League roster, but as they look toward this long rebuild, they need to add talent at many levels of their organization. While I'm sure they'd love guys like Nolan Gorman or Brendan Donovan, I think they'd rather have multiple guys that are a tier below them, rather than putting all of their eggs in one basket.

I could be wrong though, and they may require one of those two to be in a deal. If so, I still probably swing a deal with them, but it would shift how much else I'm willing to give up. But looking at the deal constructed above, I see why the White Sox would be interested.

Thomas Saggese and Tink Hence are the two main chips being sent in this deal. Saggese came over in the Jordan Montgomery trade and won Texas League Most Valuable Player, destroying Double-A throughout the year and earning a late call-up to Triple-A. The Cardinals are extremely high on him, but if they want to hold onto Gorman and Donovan, he likely has to be on the table.

Hence has been their top pitching prospect for the last two years and boasts a very high ceiling, but also a pretty low floor. There are still questions about his durability and ability to go deep into games, and his breaking balls took a step back this year. Hence is still a very valuable prospect though, but if the Cardinals can get a front-line starter now, it's worth the gamble of including him.

Dylan Carlson is the perfect Major League talent for the White Sox to acquire. They are able to grab two highly valued prospects in this deal, while also getting an outfielder who was a top-20 prospect in baseball a few years ago and still has the potential to be a very impactful player. He's a good outfield defender who mashes left-handed pitching, and a change of scenery could do him well.

Chicago's hope here would be that they are getting two soon-to-be very impactful big leaguers and then help turn Carlson back into the player we thought he could be, successfully adding three young talents to their club's new core. Zack Showalter is an interesting bet for them to make as well. He has one of the higher ceilings out of the Cardinals' pitching prospects but remains far away from an MLB debut.

The Cardinals get their second front-line starter to pair with Gray, someone who strikes out a ton of batters and does so while throwing 180 innings a year. Cease was a Cy Young candidate just two years ago and still has two years of control remaining, allowing them to spend on other bullpen arms to round out their club.

As the Gray signing has begun to settle, it's felt like Cease may be the most likely target they have right now. With the uncertain future of their television revenue, Cease gives them an arm that will be very affordable for the next two years, helping ownership weather the storm they are anticipating for the next calendar year or more. Cease also, more importantly, is an upper-echelon talent, and getting him without giving up Gorman or Donovan would be a huge win for the organization.