What if? 4 blockbuster trades the Cardinals almost made over the last two decades

What if the Cardinals made different moves these past twenty or so seasons?
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What If: St. Louis traded for a different Miami Marlins outfielder?

One of the most maligned trades in St. Louis Cardinals' history is the trade for Marcell Ozuna. The Cardinals sent a haul of prospects to Miami for the hard-hitting outfielder coming off the best season of his career. Pitchers Sandy Alcantara, Zac Gallen, Daniel Castano and outfielder Magneuris Sierra were all sent to Miami for Marcell Ozuna.

Reports from the time indicate that the Cardinals initially had a deal in place to receive Giancarlo Stanton instead of Marcell Ozuna for the exact same package. Stanton activated his no-trade clause and declined this transfer to St. Louis. The Cardinals then re-positioned themselves and landed another outfielder from Miami in Marcell Ozuna.

Ozuna's time in St. Louis was relatively brief and exceptionally underwhelming. He was coming off a season in which he hit thirty-seven home runs with a .312 batting average and 124 RBIs. His defense was also above average given his strong arm; he accumulated two Outs Above Average in the 2017 season in left field. However, Ozuna never reached those heights again in St. Louis.

In this alternate timeline, the Cardinals still receive an injury-prone outfielder, but this time, Giancarlo Stanton lives up to the hype, at least offensively. Stanton played outfield primarily for just one season in New York after his trade, but he continued to hit well, especially in 2021. Honestly, either of these trades age poorly for the Cardinals, but at least Ozuna was relatively healthy compared to Giancarlo Stanton in 2018 and 2019.

In this alternate reality, Stanton's monster contract hampers the Cardinals financially, thus limiting their abilities to trade for Paul Goldschmidt the following season and Nolan Arenado in 2021. If St. Louis had traded for Giancarlo Stanton instead of Marcell Ozuna, the late 2010s and early 2020s would have been sorrowful. Financial limitations and a lack of pitching talent would have been devastating to watch. At least Marcell Ozuna was cheap and gone after two years.