Today Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the St. Louis Cardinals have been in trade discussions with the Milwaukee Brewers about first baseman Adam Lind. Alternatively, ESPN analyst Jim Bowden predicted that the Cardinals would end up with Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis. As documented by Viva el Birdos, the Cardinals as certainly in need of offensive help at the first base position, and both Lind and Davis would represent a significant upgrade over current options, especially versus right-handed pitching. Additionally, in a KMOX interview GM John Mozeliak said that the Cardinals are still trying to make a move before the trade deadline. So what would it take to acquire Lind or Davis?
The two players have fairly equal value to the Cardinals for the rest of this year. Davis has .348 wOBA and 1.9 WAR this year and Lind has a .372 wOBA with a 2.1 WAR. Both hit righties better than lefties, which is actually what the team needs after the loss of Matt Adams to injury. Lind could be kept next year as the team would have a $8 million dollar option him, but Mozeliak has expressed a desire not to block Matt Adams next year. Lind has slightly better stats this year, but Davis is younger and has a higher ceiling as evidenced by his gaudy stats in 2013 (53 HR’s, .421 wOBA, 7.1 WAR).
If the Brewers or Orioles let Lind or Davis walk with a qualifying offer they would receive a first round compensation pick in return, so they would at least be looking to get the value of that pick back in any trade. Both teams have lots of needs, but at the top of the list would undoubtedly be starting pitching. The Orioles starting pitching currently ranks 20th in MLB with a 4.24 ERA and the Brewers rank 27th with a 4.53 ERA.
The Cardinals minor league has lost a lot of talent to graduation over the last two years with the promotion of Kolten Wong, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, and Randal Grichuk. The Cardinals best prospect, Oscar Taveras, tragically died in a car accident last year. What the Cardinals still have left, however, is an abundance of starting pitching both at both the major league and minor league level. Given the needs of the Orioles the Brewers, and the surplus of pitching for the Cardinals any trade for Lind or Davis would probably involve pitching.
The Reds recently traded their ace pitcher, Johnny Cueto (2.9 WAR) and in return received three starting pitching prospects from the Royals. None of those prospects are considered the next Clayton Kershaw or anything close to him. One, Brandon Finnegan, is a good reliever who may have the potential to start assuming he can gain more control and develop his offspeed offerings. For Cardinals fans think of what Joe Kelly once was. Another, Cody Reed, is an under-the-radar lefthander who has moved up the the prospect ranking with increased velocity on his fastball this year. Reed has high upside, but is still in AA and there is much risk involved in his development. The last, John Lamb, is a former top prospect who lost some of his stuff with Tommy John surgery and is now considered a potential back of the rotation starter. Lamb has had a very good year in AAA so far.
Lind and Davis have a WAR value about half of that of Cueto. So the Brewers or Orioles could not expect as much as the Reds got for Cueto, but they would still want at least one quality starting pitching prospect, and likely a bit more.
The Cardinals best starting pitching prospects are Alex Reyes, Rob Kaminsky, and Marco Gonzales. Reyes probably has the highest ceiling of all three (his fastball reaches triple digits and he features a quality curveball), while Gonzales represents the highest floor (most scouts believe he will at least be a quality back of the rotation starter).
It is doubtful that the Cardinals would part with Reyes given his upside and the limited value of a three month rental in Davis or Lind. Gonzales would also be hard to part with given the fact that the team may lose both John Lackey and Jaime Garcia to free agency next year. Gonzales would be a logical replacement for one of those losses and he is as major league ready as any Cardinals pitching prospect.
That leaves Kaminsky, who was drafted in the first round (28th overall) in the Cardinals 2013 draft. Kaminsky has performed very well since being drafted, compiling a 2.13 ERA over 93 IP with 76 strikeouts at the Cardinals high-A Palm Beach affiliate. Kaminsky is only 20 years old, so he still has lots of time to develop, but some scouts see his upside as limited given his lack of size (5’11, 160 pounds) and velocity (his fastball sits anywhere from 89-92 MPH according to reports).
Kaminsky would seem to fit the value that the Orioles or Brewers might be looking for given the slot where he was drafted and his subsequent performance.
If the Cardinals were unwilling to trade Kaminsky, other starting pitching prospects under consideration would be Tim Cooney, Tyler Lyons, Jack Flaherty, Luke Weaver, or Ronnie Williams. Cooney and Lyons have had good years at AAA so far, but have limited upside (#3 starters at best given their lack of velocity). Flaherty, Weaver, and Williams have more potential, but all three are much further away from contributing at the major league level. A trade for Lind or Davis would likely require multiple names from this list, as all these players lack the value of Reyes, Gonzales, and Kaminsky. If the Cardinals wanted to throw in a position player Carson Kelly (C), Charlie Tilson (OF), Jacob Wilson (2B), or Patrick Wisdom (3B) could all be considered. All of those players are considered good prospects, but none of them rank in any of the top 100 lists of prospects such as those published by Baseball America, Keith Law of ESPN, or Baseball Prospectus. All four of those position players are currently blocked in their path to the majors by players currently considered better.
So the following proposals would probably work assuming both sides were in agreement as the value of these players:
Lind or Davis for Kaminsky and Wisdom/Wilson/Tilson/Kelly/or Kelly
Lind or Davis for Cooney/Lyons and Weaver/Flaherty/Williams and Wisdom/Wilson/Tilson/Kelly/or Kelly
The unknown in all this is how much the Brewers and Orioles value these names, and how much the Cardinals value Lind and Davis. The value of a given prospect is all in the eye of the GM, and that valuation may decide whether a Lind or Davis trade is completed in the following days.