Who's next? Cardinals' likeliest trade candidates for another offseason deal

Now that the Cardinals have traded Tyler O'Neill, who are the most likely players to be dealt next?

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St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds / Dylan Buell/GettyImages
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#1 - Alec Burleson

I don't think any name on this list will for sure be moved like Tyler O'Neill was destined to be, but I do think Alec Burleson may find himself in that weird in-between role that other Cardinals' prospects have been stuck in during recent years, and so the club could get more value from him in a trade than having him as a reserve player.

A former top 100 prospect, Burleson played his first full big league season in 2023, hitting .244/.300/.390 with 8 HR, 89 wRC+, and -0.9 WAR in 107 games for the Cardinals. Burleson sometimes found himself as a prominent part of the Cardinals' lineup, and other times was just a bat they used off the bench.

The Cardinals really believe in Burleson's talent, and Marmol wasn't shy about giving him praise for his approach and how he was swinging the bat, oftentimes citing his lack of opportunities and bad luck for the lack of results for Burleson.

Fans got sick of hearing that narrative from the Cardinals during the year, but the underlying numbers backed up what the Cardinals were seeing.

If you go to Burleson's Baseball Savant page, you'll see that the majority of the expected numbers showed Burleson was much better than his production showed. He was in the 91st and 95th percentile in Whiff% and K%, and his xwOBA, xBA, and xSLG were all much higher than the traditional stats showed.

Here's the problem though, the Cardinals already envision playing time being difficult to come by for Burleson next year.

Again, I think there is zero reason to move Burleson just to move him. The talent is there and there will be at-bats for him as the season goes on, but it's difficult to imagine him having a significant role beyond filling in at first base and the occasional starts at DH or the corner outfield. But even then, I'm not sure I see DH or the corner outfield having significant playing time available for him.

Lars Nootbaar and Jordan Walker should be playing pretty much every day, barring injury. When they sit, Dylan Carlson is the fourth outfielder and the far superior defender compared to Burleson, so yes he'll have chances there, but I don't think they will be frequent. As far as DH goes, one of Nolan Gorman or Brendan Donovan will play there most days, and when they aren't, it's likely because one of Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, or Willson Contreras is.

Burleson is a piece that could be used to help them nab a starting pitcher, and I see the argument for him to be included in a deal and allow the Cardinals bench to be formed by Dylan Carlson, Ivan Herrera, Richie Palacios, and Luken Baker to start the year. Thomas Saggese and Victor Scott II will likely be significant factors in the near future, so playing time may get even more complicated for Burleson later in 2024.

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