6 trade targets for the Cardinals after the recent free-agent frenzy

The Cardinals are now in a position to add another starting pitcher via trade, and these six targets stand out as realistic fits.
Championship Series - Texas Rangers v Houston Astros - Game Six
Championship Series - Texas Rangers v Houston Astros - Game Six / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages
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Jesus Luzardo

Per another report from Ken Rosenthal recently (subscription required) the Miami Marlins were open to moving their stud lefty Jesus Luzardo in a deal with the Kansas City Royals for 1B/DH Vinnie Pasquantino, but the Royals instead opted to just spend the money and sign Michael Wacha instead.

For multiple years now, the Cardinals and Marlins have checked in with each other regarding the Marlins' starting pitching and the Cardinals' young bats, but have yet to pull off a deal, even if the two seem like a match made in heaven. Ever since Sandy Alcantara's injury though, it's felt unlikely that the Marlins would move Luzardo, with names like Braxton Garrett or Edward Cabrera making more sense for them to shop.

Garrett and Cabrera are fine arms with upside, but Luzardo is the guy who's already shown the ability to shut down opposing lineups and do so with some filthy stuff. He's got a high-90s fastball, wipe-out slider, and really good changeup that he mixes well to strike out a ton of batters.

In 18 starts in 2022, Luzardo had a 3.32 ERA and 120 strikeouts in 100.1 innings of work. He kept up the pace in 2023 with a larger workload, posting a 3.58 RA with 209 strikeouts in 178.2 innings of work. His ERA+ for the last two years has been 124 and 125, and his FIP has been right in line with the results he's produced as well. Unlike a lot of the high strikeout guys in today's game, Luzardo does not walk many guys, so if he continues to figure out how to limit base hits, he's going to be even more lethal on the mound.

Luzardo is under club control through 2026, so the price to acquire him will be really high. While the White Sox could take a more prospect-heavy package for Cease, the Marlins, like the Astros, will likely want Gorman or Donovan as the centerpiece of this deal. As much as I'd hate giving one of those guys up, Luzardo is one of the few pitchers in baseball that I think makes a ton of sense to consider.

He'll be just 26 in 2024 and has an extra year of control compared to Cease and Valdez, and honestly, I'd rather have him than Logan Gilbert, who I think would take even more to acquire from the Mariners. Luzardo has everything you'd want in a starter, and the only real concern is that he hasn't shown that elite stuff for more than a year and a half yet.

Luzardo was a top prospect in baseball coming up though, but was disappointing in his first larger tastes of big-league action, so the Athletics sold low on him to bring in Starling Marte at the 2021 trade deadline.

The presence of Skip Schumaker in Miami could help facilitate a deal as well, as he knows most of these Cardinal hitters and would likely be more comfortable with a Gorman or Donovan than other bats he has not worked with in the past. A deal for Luzardo would be pricey, but it could be an excellent move for St. Louis if the two sides come to an agreement.