The Cardinals may have missed their chance to trade Lars Nootbaar

Fan-favorite outfielder Lars Nootbaar is scuffling for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2024, and the team might have missed the boat in their opportunity to trade him for a significant return.
St. Louis Cardinals v Oakland Athletics
St. Louis Cardinals v Oakland Athletics / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

St. Louis Cardinals fans have been enamored with Lars Nootbaar for years. His boundless energy and infectious positivity made him a celebrity in Japan during the World Baseball Classic in 2023, and he brings the same vibrant personality to the Cardinals' clubhouse. But the lovable outfielder's production between the white lines has been lacking in 2024, and it's worth considering whether the Cardinals missed their chance to trade Nootbaar while he was at his peak value.

Nootbaar missed the first few weeks of the 2024 season after suffering two rib fractures in Spring Training, and injuries have become a common occurrence for the outfielder, who played in 117 games in 2023 and 108 in 2022. He's gotten off to a slow start this season, hitting .162 with one home run in his first 85 plate appearances.

Nootbaar's Statcast metrics prior to 2023 suggested that he would be a breakout performer, as they showed elite chase and walk rates and a strong exit velocity. But while he flashed some promise at times last season, hitting .261 with 14 home runs, his continued problems with injury and a drastic decline in his exit velocity led him to fall short of many fans' expectations.

The Cardinals have received criticism in recent years of holding on to players too long, such as Tyler O'Neill and Dylan Carlson, and seeing their trade value evaporate. After the 2022 season, I suggested that the Cardinals trade Nootbaar to the Toronto Blue Jays while his value was at its highest to avoid a repeat of these instances. But the player many fans have deemed "untouchable" over the past couple of seasons is seeing his value nosedive after failing to turn his metrics into counting stats and struggling to stay on the field.

Fans naturally want to keep players if he displays promise, but there's something to be said for dealing a player when he's the most valuable to other teams. The Cardinals might have received a significant haul for Nootbaar before last season, but hesitance of those in the front office may have once again come back to bite them.