Philadelphia Phillies: Taijuan Walker, RHP
With the Philadelphia Phillies potentially losing Aaron Nola in free agency, it's unlikely that they will be interested in dealing any further from their pitching staff. But Taijuan Walker recently expressed his dissatisfaction of not being used in the playoffs, and if there is a rift between him and the Phillies, the team could be willing to eat some of his contract and trade him.
Walker didn't set the world on fire in his first year with Philadelphia, with a 4.38 ERA and unspectacular Statcast metrics, including low extension and whiff rates. But he performed well at forcing ground balls, and he held hitters to a respectable .238 batting average. If the Cardinals believe they can coax similar numbers out of Walker, he might be worth calling on.
Walker is still under contract with the Phillies through 2026, but if a divide grows between Walker and the organization, cutting ties might be for the best. Even if that doesn't happen, the Phillies might put Walker on the market to see what they can get, and he could be a decent innings-eater at the back of the Cardinals' rotation.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Mitch Keller, RHP
Coming off his first All-Star season, Pittsburgh Pirates ace Mitch Keller will likely receive a raise in 2024, his second year of arbitration. Whether the Pirates want to pony up that much is a question they'll need to answer soon. If they decide to deal Keller, he will receive some attention on the market given his results in 2023.
Keller had a 4.21 ERA and a 3.80 FIP last season, and his 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings were undoubtedly bolstered by his strong spin rates, with his fastball in the 83rd percentile. Keller also had a career-high 6.6 feet of extension on his pitches in 2023. In addition to the strikeouts, Keller also keeps the ball on the ground, amassing a 44.2% ground ball rate.
Trades within the division are always tough to pull off, and the Pirates' young talent is coming up to the major leagues at the right time. But if they revert to their small-market traditions of selling a player as soon as he becomes expensive, Keller could be on the move. Pittsburgh would ideally like another outfielder, and Tyler O'Neill could be a tempting offer in a package for Keller.