The St. Louis Cardinals have a busy off-season ahead of them. We are about to witness an overhaul of the pitching staff which will hopefully complete the 2024 roster. Going into the 2023 season, the position player depth looked very deep, with the outfield showing the most room for growth. But after the disappointing season for the whole organization, the outfield has many question marks to fill.
Lars Nootbaar is a staple but needs to stay healthy. Dylan Carlson is being given up on by the front office even though they should be at fault for how they handled his development. Tyler O’Neill somehow is still employed even with the baggage he brings. Tommy Edman has been a surprise in CF this season and looks to make that his permanent home. Can he be relied upon to take on that role? This article is going to propose the idea of creating stability within the outfield for the next several seasons.
That idea is that the Cardinals need to pursue trading for Brandon Nimmo this winter.
Welcome to Brain Fog: where I will be making outlandish takes about the St. Louis Cardinals and trying to back them up with reasoning and logic. Anything can happen in baseball, so why not make that approach with fun scenarios that no one will entertain? Let me take the time to entertain you.
Cohen Fire Sale
Many of you are going to overreact by saying the Mets will never do this. He just got locked up to an eight-year deal and is one of the true elite center fielders in baseball. Why would they be open to giving that away?
The Mets showed this past trade deadline that they believe they are multiple seasons away from contending again. Steve Cohen used his mighty power and acquired high-end prospects for Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer which also included buying down their guaranteed salaries significantly. Cohen flexed his financial position and showed to the rest of the owners that he was playing his own game. Money is a plentiful resource and is not hindered by that organization. Player depth and development is a huge issue, and Cohen has taken notice of it.
The Mets need to continue trading away current assets that do not fit into their long-term window. They will be after young controllable players that can develop under their organization and help establish a new culture. This model is desired to reflect the Dodgers and the Rays with efficient winning and balanced budgeting. The Cardinals have deep position player depth in the minors who are years away from making it to the show. The Cardinals' roster going into 2024 is filled with young controllable players who have earned their starting spots. So they will be looking to unload some of the depth to hopefully acquire more MLB-ready starting pitching.
Is Edman for real?
Tommy Edman is a very talented player. He is so good, that the Cardinals for years have played him everywhere on the field and he succeeds at any position. The problem is he has yet to find a stable home on the field. Shortstop was looking like the fit until Masyn Winn emerged with a resurgence. With the current outfield woes happening, Edman was experimented in CF to cover innings with O’Neill hurt and Carlson hurt/not being utilized. Edman not only plays CF well like the rest of the positions on the diamond, but he also plays CF at an elite level. He continues to be underrated and is underappreciated by the whole league.
But is he the solution for CF? Edman has range and speed to go along with his fielding vision. The arm is where he is not elite. He can play SS and has shown off his throws before, but it is not an elite arm. Given Nolan Gorman is still a work in progress at 2nd, and Brendan Donovan will be recovering from his elbow injury, Tommy Edman needs to return back to 2nd for most of his innings played. This is all to say he will not be in the trading rumor mill this off-season.
A lot of the current roster is young and lacks experience at the big-league level. You have veteran leaders in Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado who can help these players learn the ropes of the big leagues, but you still have to show performance on the field to make it. The current outfield has O’Neill who showed his potential in 2021 but cannot get back to that level of play. Carlson is not showing the results we were hoping for when he graduated from the minors. Nootbaar has been a fun surprise, where he shows consistency which gives comfortability to the team. The Cardinals need more of that with this roster, and Nimmo provides that.
Over an 8-year stretch, Brandon Nimmo is averaging a stat line of .268/.380/.444 (.824 OPS, 129 OPS+). You cannot find many players who can average an 129 OPS+ in almost 3000 ABs. The current Cardinals outfielders' OPS+ this season are:
O’Neill: 105 OPS+
Carlson: 80 OPS+
Nootbaar: 125 OPS+
Edman: 98 OPS+
So by acquiring Brandon Nimmo, you are getting Lars Nootbaar production over a near-decade span. Most Cardinals fans will tell you that is worth the investment.
To wrap it up
Obviously for this to work, the Mets will have to buy down much of the guaranteed contract. Nimmo is 30 and is locked up until he is 38. Players tend to decline in production and ability when they get older. Nimmo has an injury history, which will be observed heavily by any team inquiring about trading for him.
Who even says the Mets are open to trading Nimmo? Well if they can get younger, and can obtain multiple promising prospects in return…then why wouldn't they? Cohen has already tried to trade Pete Alonso and is pursuing making that a sure decision this off-season. So the white flag is already raised for the 2024 season in the Queens. Cohen has a track record now of controlling the market and will be in full force in the upcoming off-season.
The Mets need to call the Cardinals and establish their market to acquire depth before any other teams beat them to it. And the Cardinals need to jump on the opportunity of acquiring an elite center fielder before any other team has the same thought.