Let's play a game that is very popular this time of year: discussing something that will never happen, but is to dream about. It's like watching the guilty pleasure action film with the implausible stunts, because it makes real life seem less dull.
According to Jon Morosi Wednesday morning, the Cardinals had shown interest in Toronto Blue Jays' slugger Josh Donaldson. The right-handed bat is finishing up a two year deal that awaits arbitration in 2018, and has won an MVP award in the American League.
Would he help the Cardinals? Sure. I crushed on this guy last month, but can't get over the risks of a trade.
Donaldson is delightful and a legit middle of the lineup bat, but he's a free agent soon, and would cost a bounty of players. I would say at least two great prospects. If the 2017 Cardinals were a World Series contender needing one more piece, Donaldson would work well, but that is sadly not the case, so let's get serious.
According to USA Today's Bob Nightengale, the Miami Marlins are about to swing the wrecking ball at their ship after the All Star Game in their stadium is finished. While Marcel Ozuna and Christian Yelich are mighty fine players, my eyes have always been with Giancarlo "For Some Reason I Once Called Myself Mike" Stanton. He's a beast in the lineup, plays a very good right field, and is still young at the age of 27. He's a dangerous man that once gave Miami 3.9 wins above replacement in 2015 where he played just 74 games.
I don't have to tell you how Stanton would help the Cardinals. That's like telling how biscuits met gravy or why the Arch doesn't tip over. Stanton is exactly the player that the Cardinals need: a true stud. Forget Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, because this would be Giancarlo's team soon enough. Just look at the guy who resembles a mini Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson; Stanton doesn't resemble a specimen created on Earth.
Of course, nothing worth loving comes at a cheap price. Stanton's price tag is no different. The Marlins gave him an outrageous 13 year/325 million dollar contract that runs through 2027 with a team option for 2028. The deal will take him into his 37th birthday, which isn't ancient by any means, and may even feature a switch to first base shall his lower body take repeated hits, or maybe by that time, the designated hitter will find its way to the National League. The current CBA runs through 2022, so perhaps the table will be even when Stanton reaches the latter stages of his deal.
Stanton gives the Cards that forever player that they've direly sought after since the departure of Albert Pujols. Nobody on this current roster carries that powerful scent, and that is okay, because Stanton lurks out there for the general manager who isn't afraid to hunt. The Cardinals could solve a problem that started with the untimely passing of Oscar Taveras and continued with the unexpectedly hasty departure by Jason Heyward. The Birds need a ten year man and Stanton could be it.
What about the injuries? While Stanton has only played over 145 games twice in his seven year career, remember that these aren't your normal injuries. He has been the unfortunate victim of freak accidents on a baseball field twice. In 2014, he was struck in the face by a baseball that ended a surefire MVP season. He was also hit by a pitch on the hand that cut short another great season. Take away those two moments, and Stanton more than likely completes four of his seven seasons.
What would it take? A heavy load, but I wouldn't say the entire farm. John Mozeliak can't hoard prospects forever if he wants to significantly improve this ballclub's chances moving forward. If he isn't willing to beat out other general managers in free agent negotiations, the next best thing is securing a big bat via trade. It is how he pulled off his best trade to date, which involved Matt Holliday and a few unknown players.
The Marlins would want a couple pitching prospects in Jack Flaherty and Luke Weaver to go with Harrison Bader and/or perhaps Carson Kelly. Kolten Wong, Jedd Gyorko, and Randal Grichuk may also be a part of it. Sandy Alcantara and Austin Gomber also loom as possibilities. Alex Reyes is protected by his Tommy John surgery and Carlos Martinez is the only untouchable Redbird on this team. I am no expert when it comes to player packages, but as long as the names Reyes and Martinez weren't involved, the rest of the farm and MLB roster is negotiable.
When Dexter Fowler was signed in the offseason and Stephen Piscotty was retained for six modestly priced seasons, Bader became available. When Yadier Molina was given a three year extension worth 60 million dollars, Kelly became less protected. These moves signify the space for a larger transaction.
Here's the bottom line: Acquiring Stanton wouldn't put you in line to improve in 2017 alone; it would set the Cardinals up for a long time. Stephen Piscotty isn't a #3 hitter or a fearsome bat in this order. The Cardinals haven't gotten a home run from the #3 spot since June 6, and that's a problem. The Birds lack a 3, 4, and 5 guy. There isn't one coming up through the ranks. Sometimes, you have to risk a little to receive a lot in this game.
Stanton would be a risk, because he has been injured more often than not, and he doesn't hit for an extremely high average. But he is a deluxe masher with the stick, and I'm not just talking 40 games worth. A career OPS+ of 141 (league average is 100) and 229 home runs solve that conundrum. He slugs .500 in his sleep and while his glove isn't gold glove worthy, he would also give the Cardinals a pistol in right with his 52 career assists.
Fans griped when the team didn't pursue Yoenis Cespedes, Edwin Encarnacion, and Justin Turner. Mozeliak deemed them unnecessary to the team's future gains. Stanton outranks all of them in deadliness with a baseball bat, and look no further than Wednesday's game.
The infield defense allowed a few plays to guide them to the disaster zone, and Giancarlo burned them twice with his bat, smoking two home runs that put the game out of order. He is a difference maker, and represents a commodity the Cardinals haven't owned in six years.
In a world, he would truly help St. Louis become World Series contenders within 2-3 seasons. It probably won't happen, but instead of wasting time on Donaldson's short-lived ray of hope, I'll fall back to the old reliable ones of Stanton.