It's me, trade rumor guy, and I'm back with a particularly good rumor this week. It's been reported that the Cardinals are looking to trade for Josh Donaldson. As far as rumors go, this is a pretty big one for the Cardinals, who still find themselves struggling in the mediocre to bad range thanks to a mix of bad offense, bad defense and unreliable bullpen pitching.
They've been playing a bit better as of late, so maybe Mozeliak sees something that would galvanize him into making a true win-now move. The question is: is this the right win-now move for the red-birds? Or would it be a final gasp for a team whose window has already closed?
A little less than MVP form
The name Josh Donaldson is exciting. This is one of the few men who've beat Mike Trout out for MVP a feat that takes superhuman effort. Nowadays, Donaldson hasn't quite looked like his MVP self, and it's not just a one time slump sort of thing.
Donaldson is slashing .238/.350/.457 with 8 HRs. To be fair, he's had his fair share injury issues as he's only played in 42 games this year, but 177 plate appearances is enough to know Donaldson isn't at the level he once was.
Another concerning factor about Donaldson is that his numbers have steadily decreased since his MVP campaign in 2015. Obviously we don't expect him to repeat a performance like that.
However, this Cardinals team doesn't need 2017 Josh Donaldson because they already have 4 or 5 players that are producing just like him. This team need 2014-2016 Josh Donaldson, and the Cardinals are hoping they can get some of that back in a trade for the slugger.
Value and Return
Speaking of which, right now might be the ideal time to trade for Donaldson. His value is lower than it has been in the past five years. Yes he's not playing great right now, but keep in mind that his current slugging and OBP would be 3rd or 4th best on this Cardinals team.
If he can capture a modicum of his old self and improve just a bit on these numbers, this might be a good trade. Donaldson is 31 not 35, he's not old enough to completely start breaking down, and his precipitous drop in power can't last forever.
The most important part of this potential trade are the assets the Cardinals are giving up. The good news is that Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro is not committing to a full rebuild, saying "We clearly need to continue to compete, we clearly need to continue to get more talent around those existing players but yes, we have enough of a base of talent here to still contend."
That's great news for the Cardinals because that means the Blue Jays aren't going to try and gouge the Cardinals for assets or raw prospects. The Blue Jays want players who are MLB ready or close to MLB ready. With the history of the Cardinals organization, a trade is much more likely if the Cardinals don't have to give up top prospects for Donaldson.
To me, the viability of this trade all comes down to the package the Blue Jays ask for. Donaldson is a free agent in 2019, so this isn't just a rental. This is a year plus investment into a player who can hopefully support the offense and be a veteran leader.
Donaldson is a great player who addresses a lot of the Cardinals weaknesses. He can get on base at a high rate and hit for power and although his defense has declined, it's definitely serviceable relative to the other Cardinals infielders (minus Gyorko).
The direction the Cardinals choose to go at the deadline is completely up in the air. From reading the comments of President Bill DeWitt, it seems pretty clear the Cardinals will not go for a full rebuild and trade Lynn and Gyorko. Donaldson seems like a pretty low risk-medium reward move that could payoff in the future, but won't really hurt a potential rebuild either.