What do you trade the team that has everything? It seems that year after year, the Cardinals always manage to have the best young talent in baseball. There's always some new hot prospect, or they've unlocked the secret to success for some veteran. This year is obviously no different, but so far it hasn't been enough. At the All-Star break, the Cardinals are 7.0 games behind the Cubs in the division, but are still only one game out of the Wild Card. If they want to make the jump to playoff contender they are going to need reinforcements from outside the organization, and the Yankees might have just what they need.
The Cardinals rotation isn't the strongest collection of starting pitchers they've ever had, but the group is still managing to get the job done. Outside of Carlos Martinez, everyone in the rotation has an ERA over 4.00, yet they rank among the top 10 in baseball thanks to solid peripherals and an ability to pitch deep into ballgames. The offense has also been good, ranking among the top 10 as well. St. Louis has another talented team, as usual, but the Cubs have simply blown them away to this point.
Where they could stand to improve, though, is in the bullpen. It's not that they're necessarily a bad group, but they have definitely suffered from the unexpected fall of closer Trevor Rosenthal. The 26-year-old right-hander has been nothing short of an absolute disaster this season, and it doesn't look to be getting better anytime soon. That doesn't mean they don't have a solid group to fill in behind him. The latest find by the Cardinals is Seung Hwan Oh, and he's done a great job filling in for Rosenthal so far. Plus, good seasons from Matthew Bowman and Jonathan Broxton give them something to work with, but New York can offer some stability that St. Louis is probably craving right now.
The Yankees and Cardinals can approach a trade one of two ways: as a short-term deal to boost the current bullpen, or as a long-term blockbuster that will establish their bullpen for several years. Either way, the Yankees have good relievers and the Cardinals have good prospects, so both sides will do well in the end.
If they only want a short-term fix, then Aroldis Chapman is the obvious choice as a trade target. He is one of the best relief pitchers in baseball, able to improve any bullpen he goes to, and he's relatively inexpensive when you consider he'll only be around for two or three months. If the Cardinals want to think long-term, especially if they believe Rosenthal is no longer who he once was, Andrew Miller would be a great way to answer one of the team's few questions.
Oh might be talented enough, but Miller brings MLB experience and consistency. You almost know he's going to be good over the next two-plus years he still has left on his contract. Bring in either of these pitchers to serve as closer, and suddenly you have a much deeper bullpen with a closer that can handle a playoff chase.
Of course, whichever option the Cardinals choose will determine the price they have to pay for an improved bullpen. If they're thinking long-term then the conversation has to start with their top two prospects in right-handed pitchers Alex Reyes and Jack Flaherty (no relations?), who rank No. 11 and No. 70 in the top 100 in all of baseball. Reyes has two plus pitches and can hit triple digits, while Flaherty has three to four average pitches with the floor of a mid-rotation starter. Miller is going to command a pretty hefty price tag, while Chapman can probably be had for less.
Other names that have caught my eye are righty Jake Woodford, who is considered similar to Flaherty, and Luke Weaver, who has a mid-90s fastball and front-line potential. Unfortunately, the Cardinals farm system looks weaker than it has in years past because many of their best prospect already have MLB jobs.
After the last few seasons, it's clear the Cardinals know what they're doing when it comes to developing starting pitching. It makes a lot of sense for the Yankees to come calling if it means getting their hands on some of those prospects. Whether it's Chapman or Miller they have to give up, it might be worth it in the long run.