The Cardinals' home opener will give us a good look at their potential trade partner

The Cardinals have their home opener with the Marlins today, and Miami may end up being their shot at upgrading their pitching staff as the season goes on.

Miami Marlins v New York Mets
Miami Marlins v New York Mets / Elsa/GettyImages

Something fishy seems to be happening with the Miami Marlins this year, and the St. Louis Cardinals better have their nets ready to catch some starters.

I know that was bad, but I went for it.

The Marlins were one of the major surprise teams during the 2023 season, earning a postseason birth in the first year of new manager (and former Cardinals' bench coach) Skip Schumaker. In September, the first and most significant of their major injuries occurred, as another former Cardinal, Sandy Alcantara, needed season-ending Tommy John surgery.

Spring Training was even harsher for the Marlins this year, with starters Edward Cabrera, Eury Perez, and Braxton Garrett all beginning the season on the injured list as well. While none of those guys at the moment are expected to miss more than a month, elbow and shoulder injuries are never a good sign.

And if you think that all of that was bad enough to anticipate a rough season for Miami? Well, their 0-7 start to their season is just the icing on the cake.

All of this makes you wonder how possible it will be for Miami to be in contention once again in 2024, which makes their seemingly minor trade with the Yankees and Rays from last week feel even more significant. The Marlins traded away utilityman Jon Berti in a three-team trade, netting prospects in return. While Berti is certainly not a major piece of the team, Peter Pratt, who does an excellent job covering the Marlins on the Locked on Marlins Podcast, said one of the most dreaded words in baseball that you can hear about your own club.

"Rebuild SZN". For a team that at full strength only won 84 games last year, is built to win through pitching, and now has four of their top five starting pitchers on the mend to begin the year (and potentially for significant time), the idea of a rebuilding year makes a lot of sense.

Ken Rosenthal and Dennis Lin of The Athletic (subscription required) just did a full breakdown of the Marlins' situation and how they may be ready to sell rather quickly. It's not just Marlins fans who see this coming, the whole league smells a rebuild coming in South Beach.

Now, I'm not talking about a complete teardown necessarily. Most of those arms will be under team control for a long time. But I could definitely see the Marlins shopping some of their impending free agents (like the Cardinals did last season), and potentially seeing what they could get in return for some of their prized arms.

The Marlins continue to be loaded with starting pitching. Even with those four names on the injured list, their rotation still features the likes of Jesus Luzardo, A.J. Puk, Ryan Weathers, Trevor Rodgers, and Max Meyer. Their farm system continues to produce pitching talent as well. Meyer is the third-ranked prospect in their system, behind two other starters in Noble Meyer and Thomas White.

The problem for Miami continues to be the lack of offensive upside, and although they've continued to make incremental upgrades in that department, we've seen them flip pitching for bats multiple times in the last several years (Zac Gallen for Jazz Chisolm, Pablo Lopez for Luis Arraez, etc.). It would make a ton of sense to follow that pattern at this year's trade deadline if this ends up being a lost season.

I'm not going to throw trade proposals your way or try to tell you which arms Miami will be willing to move, but just look at the number of arms that are healthy right now or should be in the next month or so...

RHP Eury Perez
LHP Jesus Luzardo
RHP Edward Cabrera
LHP Braxton Garrett
LHP A.J. Puk
LHP Trevor Rodgers
RHP Max Meyer
LHP Ryan Weathers

Obviously, the Marlins are not trading Perez, and the beginning of this season just goes to show why you can never have enough pitching, even if you're the Marlins. But, when you're in the midst of a lost season and teams are willing to pay up to acquire pitching as they make a stretch run, the Marlins may want to capitalize on the market value of a few arms to continue to build pitching depth, and more importantly, add some thump to their lineup.

Who knows where the Cardinals will be come July? But if they are in contention, maybe one or more of these names could become interesting targets for Miami...

INF Thomas Saggese
OF Alec Burleson
OF Dylan Carlson
UTL Tommy Edman
OF Chase Davis
OF Woo-Bin Cho
Any of their pitching prospects.

Hey, maybe there's a scenario that we don't see right now where the Cardinals become open to trading one of Lars Nootbaar, Brendan Donovan, or Nolan Gorman? The point is, there's a reason the industry has connected the Cardinals and the Marlins many times in trade rumors, and if the Marlins end up shopping arms in July this year, the Cardinals have to be one of the teams heavy in the negotiations.

It's worth noting that Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the Cardinals and Marlins had "talks" this past offseason, and they were also engaged in Pablo Lopez talks the prior offseason. These clubs are very familiar with each other's assets, and Skip Schumaker has first-hand knowledge of many of the Cardinals' young bats.

The Marlins may be floundering this year, and the Cardinals may be able to add some trophy fish to their collection of innings eaters at their expense. Only time will tell. For now, enjoy the first home series of the year, you just never know what players will be playing for which team by the time August rolls around.