Coming into this 2013 Major League Baseball season, there were few teams that looked like they had just about everything it took to compete for a championship. Two of those teams were the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers.
The St. Louis Cardinals, a few years ago, were not regarded as one of the league’s strongest farm systems. Fast forward to today, over half their roster, as of April 19, was acquired via the draft. That can be deceiving, but when you see guys like Jon Jay, Lance Lynn (Cy Young candidate from 2012), David Freese (2011 World Series MVP), Yadier Molina (winner of 5-straight Gold Glove Awards), Allan Craig (finished in the top 10 in NL Batting Average in 2012), and Jaime Garcia, it becomes evident not only do the Cardinals draft well, but the develop their players just as well. Mix them with All-Star Matt Holliday, ace Adam Wainwright, and Carlos Beltran, and this team is undoubtedly a championship contender and will be for many years to come if they can keep this core together. And not only are these guys already solid Major League Baseball players, but they have many, many, many more on the way. A top 10 prospect for a number of years, Shelby Miller won himself a spot in this rotation this year. A power arm, drawing comparisons to superstar Pedro Martinez, Carlos Martinez (no relation) might have had himself a spot in the Opening Day rotation, but some visa issues in his native Dominican Republic kept him out of most of Spring Training. But make no mistake about it, a struggle in the back end of the rotation or the bullpen will result in a quick call up of this stud. And of course, of the highly touted outfielder Oscar Taveras is somewhat caught in a holding pattern because of the stellar production levels of this OF already. Oscar Taveras and the very latest, will be up in September, and could be a full-time player by no later than Opening Day of 2014.
The Texas Rangers really do have a solid line up from top to bottom. Not only is this line-up a veteran laden group, but there is a great mix of young talent. Veterans like Ian Kinsler, Adrian Beltre, and Nelson Cruz are proven winners. Young players have really burst on the scene like Yu Darvish (though his rise to stardom may be less surprising), Elvis Andrus, and Derek Holland. Nelson and Beltre, in particular, are nearing the decline of the prime of their careers, and next year, maybe the year after, we will start to see their numbers decline. The question will be how much of a decline will it be? Beltre is signed through the year 2015. Cruz, at age 32, will reach his first year of Free Agency after next year, provided the Rangers do not lock him up long term. Fortunately for the Rangers, Beltre could be replaced in a year or two by young stud Mike Olt, though it may benefit Olt’s career to move to a place where he’ll be able to play right away, as he’s ready for a full time major league gig.
The Rangers also possess one of the league’s strongest minor league systems, which means, these aging stars very well will have a replacement. If the Rangers, and Olt can hold out long enough, Mike Olt may very well play himself into a position to take over for Beltre. I will note, that will be an incredible challenge for Olt, as Beltre has been nothing short of stellar since he came to Texas. Along with Mike Olt, the Rangers possess, arguably the games top prospect in middle-infielder Jurickson Profar. It doesn’t take too many opinions to hear, to realize, this guy is the real deal. Now, replacing Cruz in left field is going to be somewhat of a challenge. More and more teams are locking up their young stars into multi-year deals before they can reach free agency, which is going to make finding someone on the off-season free agent market very difficult.
BUT, that is where the Cardinals come into play.
I mentioned both teams are very solid with very few weaknesses. But if there’s one each has, it is the young players that make them ideal trading partners.
It is not often you see top prospects traded for each other, especially if they have less than 50, if any, Major League at bats. But I say again, the areas that may need addressing the most for these two teams makes them ideal trading partners to swap big time, big league prospects.
The Cardinals have really not had any stability at shortstop since Edgar Renteria was a Cardinal. Yea, yea, yea Rafael Furcal this and that, but the bottom line, Furcal, like he has just about everywhere, has spent more time in the trainers room than he has on the field. Not only that, but he is well past his prime and is looking at a decline in production, if it hasn’t happened already. Because shortstop is such a premium position, finding an athletic shortstop who can field and hit is incredibly difficult.
I know the Cardinals are very high on Daniel Descalso, but there really has not been much to be impressed with thus far. He’s a solid defender with, what so far, has been pretty sub-par hitting numbers.
As for the Rangers, their OF is solid, but when you take Josh Hamilton out of the equation, and Nelson Cruz’s age, they could really use an outfielder. I really like Leonys Martin, but Ron Washington (who I despise more and more each year) is hell bent on splitting time with what could easily be a .300 or better hitter, with a .270 hitter at best. I cannot see the Rangers locking up two OF to long-term deals that are better than 30 years old(Cruz and David Murphy). None the less, the fact remains, the Rangers will need a young OF, and with not a lot of good options in the minor leagues, the Cardinals would be ideal partners for a trade.
Here is my proposal: The Cardinals receive top-prospect Jurickson Profar. The Rangers receive top-prospect Oscar Taveras.
Do I think this deal will happen? In all likelihood, no. At least not now. Would a deal like this be a straight up deal? Maybe, but I could see other pieces coming into play, especially with as loaded as both systems are. But here is why this deal makes a lot of sense, other than the reasons I listed above.
Jurickson Profar is in a holding pattern in Texas, and the situation doesn’t appear near a resolve, especially with the Rangers locking up Andrus for the long-term, and to a huge contract I might add. Profar’s biggest impact may not be felt in Texas for another year and a half, if not more. The kid is just 20 years old, but at 20, he has already shown he can at least play in the big leagues, his first MLB plate appearance was a HR.
Like I mentioned, and like Profar, Taveras is in a pretty tight holding pattern in St. Louis. While Allen Craig has been playing a lot of first base the past few years, I actually see him moving back to the outfield to make room for Matt Adams. Adams is the example of what happens when a franchise sticks with a good young player, despite the position he’s at being locked up at the big leagues. Adams was basically the shadow to Albert Pujols for years, and with Pujols likely to never leave until free agency, Adams really never got a shot at the big leagues. But, Pujols is gone, and Adams may start making a difference in the big leauges. Should one of St. Louis’ outfielders get hurt, here’s how I see the Cardinals prioritizing filling the need. 1) Move Craig back to the outfield, call up Adams, put him at 1B. Leave Taveras in the minors, keep his service time clock frozen. 2) Move Craig back to the OF, and let utility man Ty Wigginton take over at first, freeze Taveras’ service time at 0.00. The only way I see Taveras being called up prior to Sept. 1, is if outfielder X, Craig, Adams, and Wigginton all go down at the same time. And in the long run, I see Craig moving back to the outfield, and Adams taking over at 1B. Now that is provided Matt Adams hits at the big league level, which he has had very limited opportunities. But, that is why I see Taveras having a better opportunity in Texas.
Now for Profar, like I said, since, Edgar Renteria, the Cardinals just have not had good luck with production offensively from their shortstops. Also like I mentioned, I’ve not been overly impressed with Daniel Descalso to this point. I know the Cardinals like him. But the bottom line is, if you’re going to be a major leaguer, you have to hit. And if you don’t, you have to play stellar, better than Gold Glove defense to stay in the line up full time. If the Cardinals acquired Profar, he probably wouldn’t play right away. And probably shouldn’t. But, Profar could easily make an impact for the Cardinals much quicker than he will be able to in Texas.
Sometimes you hear about teams trading high profile prospects and think, why would you do that, the guy hasn’t seen the Major Leagues or why get rid of the already established guy? Well sometimes it is about money (more often than not it is about money). Sometimes it’s about clearing a spot for another prospect that is major league ready. To me, this is a no-brainer for both sides. Both sides have a need for the other prospect. And with these two guys, it is not like they don’t come highly touted. Most, if not all, scouts say both of these guys are going to be unreal players. For the past several years, Texas and St. Louis have been factories for developing very good, if not, great major leaguers. I cannot see either of these guys being flukes. I really believe in the 2015 All-Star game, both of these guys will be there.
To me, Taveras compares to Carlos Gonzalez in Colorado. And Profar has the skill set of Jimmy Rollins, but I think he’ll be better than Rollins. He’s even a switch hitter.
This deal isn’t likely to happen, and I very much doubt the Cardinals nor the Rangers really care what I think, but, it’s pretty clear, this deal makes a lot of sense for both sides.