5 dream trade targets for the St. Louis Cardinals

These players may not be the shiniest of trade candidates, but they would help the team make a playoff push in a tremendous way.
Houston Astros v Chicago White Sox
Houston Astros v Chicago White Sox / Jamie Sabau/GettyImages
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As is the case with every team in baseball except perhaps the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies, those teams currently in playoff contention have holes that need to be filled. The St. Louis Cardinals are no exception.

John Mozeliak made comments a few weeks ago with specific needs of the team, but I believe he is aiming too low. The team could use another high-end starting pitcher to pair with Sonny Gray at the top of the rotation, and despite several key players returning from injury soon, another right-handed bench bat would be beneficial. The Cardinals would likely boast a bench of Alec Burleson, Dylan Carlson, Matt Carpenter, and Brandon Crawford once the lineup is at full strength. Those are a lot of one-dimensional, left-handed reserves.

The Cardinals could aim low and find fringe pieces to supplement the roster, but where's the fun in that? Rather, these dream trade candidates would move the needle drastically on the Cardinals' postseason outlook. Additionally, they won't pull much away from the farm system for a variety of reasons.

Dream candidate #1: LHP Framber Valdez

A few chips must fall in the right places for the Cardinals to land Framber Valdez, but that's what makes him a dream candidate. First, the Houston Astros must decide to be sellers. They currently sit in second place in the AL West, and they're 5 games back of an AL Wild Card spot. Things are bleak for a team that has made it to the World Series 4 out of the last 7 seasons.

Should general manager Dana Brown decide to sell, there are plenty of players who could become available. One such player is Framber Valdez. The 30-year-old has two All-Star appearances to his name in addition to three top-11 Cy Young finishes. This year, he has thrown 73.2 innings with a 3.91 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 1.208 WHIP, and a 100 ERA+.

Where Valdez has slipped this year is in regard to his strikeout numbers; he was once good for a strikeout an inning, but he's striking out only 6.8 batters per nine innings this year. The potential for dominance is still there, though. Valdez's 2022-2023 seasons featured him throwing nearly 400 innings with a 3.13 ERA, 3.28 FIP, 1.142 WHIP, and a 128 ERA+. Those are numbers that belong at the top of the rotation.

Valdez's career and team control -- he's a free agent after the 2025 season -- would make him costly. The Cardinals could mix major league talent with some upper-level prospects to entice the Astros.