The Cardinals passed on Pablo Lopez, showing more faith in their young bats
While the hot stove has mostly cooled down in the lead-up to Spring Training, the St. Louis Cardinals were heavily linked to Miami Marlins starting pitcher Pablo Lopez, according to industry insiders like Ken Rosenthal. Now that he has been dealt to the Minnesota Twins, it is clear that the Cardinals want to roll with their young core to begin 2023.
The Marlins were looking to acquire a bat for their lineup as they look to be competitive in a tough National League East in 2023. Lopez was a borderline All-Star in 2022, but with all of the different pitching options the Marlins have, they could afford to shop Lopez.
Looking at this deal, the Twins appear to be the early winners here, making you wonder what the asking price from the Cardinals was for Lopez. Minnesota had to give the reigning batting champion Luis Arraez and received not only Lopez but also two valuable prospects in return.
So why would the Cardinals pass on Lopez if this is all it would have taken to acquire him? Well, teams don't always give similar value trades to each club. Just look back at the Sean Murphy talks with the Athletics. They wanted a haul for Murphy from the Cardinals and later settled for much less. It would be interesting to see if the Cardinals even picked up the phone recently to see what the asking price was, as maybe they would have made a deal like this if so.
While that could be the case, the likely scenario is that the Marlins and Cardinals could not agree on a centerpiece to the deal that made sense for St. Louis. Names like Lars Nootbaar, Dylan Carlson, and Tyler O'Neill would have likely filled the "Arraez" in this deal, but I would bet the Cardinals valued them too highly to let go of them in this kind of deal.
We talked at length about what this kind of deal would look like earlier this week here, but I came to the conclusion that it just did not seem like a wise move for the Cardinals.
What is Lopez's ceiling? A good number two starter on a weaker staff? Even as your number-two starter, he doesn't match up with the best or even second-best pitcher on contenders like the Mets, Phillies, Dodgers, and Braves. This doesn't take anything away from Lopez, but the Cardinals need premier talent at the top of their rotation.
Giving up on O'Neill may have been handing the Marlins a big bat for the middle of their order that could have mashed for the Cardinals instead. Selling low on Carlson may have been parting with an elite defensive outfielder with top-of-the-lineup ability at the plate. Sending Nootbaar to South Beach could have seen him break out as an All-Star himself for the Marlins.
Clearly, the Twins were content with trading Arraez, I just don't think that means the Cardinals needed to match that kind of offer. They have too many young bats who could break out in a big way in 2023, so why give up on any of them for a player who would be good for your team, but not necessarily the "great" starter you truly needed?
Have patience, Cardinals fans. If a true ace becomes available during the season, the Cardinals will be in a position where they can outbid any team in baseball with a mix of proven MLB-ready contributors and intriguing prospects. Had they acted now, they may have made another mistake by letting go of the wrong young talent.