New York Yankees: Clarke Schmidt, RHP
Clarke Schmidt pitched to middling results in his first full season in the New York Yankees rotation, ending with a 4.64 ERA and opposing batting average of .268, but his underlying numbers are reason for optimism, as his spin rates rank among the best in the game, with fastball and curveball spins in the 98th and 95th percentiles, respectively.
According to an article from Pinstripe Alley, Schmidt became too focused on spinning the ball and let his command get out of whack at times. If the Cardinals can right that ship and help Schmidt trust his natural stuff, he has a chance to blossom into a star. Schmidt's biggest bugaboo is two-strike counts, where he often misses his spot and puts the ball over the plate.
If the Cardinals think they can get the most out of Schmidt, they have the talent to get a deal done. With the Yankees looking for an outfielder, the Cardinals could turn to their surplus of hitters to swing a trade for Schmidt, who could bolster the Cardinals rotation immensely with some tweaks.
Oakland Athletics: Paul Blackburn, RHP
The Oakland Athletics have precious little talent on hand that other teams would be interested in, but Paul Blackburn has intriguing upside and is likely to be dealt as the Athletics seek out young talent for what looks to be a lengthy rebuild. Blackburn will be on his last year of team control in 2025, and with nearly no chance of competing next season, the Athletics will probably see what prospects they can get in return.
Blackburn put up the highest strikeout rate of his career in 2023, whiffing exactly a batter per inning. The emphasis on his slider was a key aspect, as he utilized it effectively last season, allowing a batting average of .217 against the pitch. Although his fastball only averaged 91.8 mph, with his newly minted slider, Blackburn could fill a high-leverage relief role for the Cardinals.
Blackburn is coming up on his second arbitration year, and while the Athletics are in need of players at virtually every area of the diamond, the major leagues aren't their focus at this time. Oakland will likely have several suitors for Blackburn, and the Cardinals have the minor league talent to land him.