Ten more days–that is all that remains before baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline. The Tampa Bay Rays have decisions to make, and quite a few of them could have to do with the team they are set to begin play against tomorrow, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals have been mentioned as a possible suitor for both David Price and Ben Zobrist, and it is apparent that they have the prospects to land either player if they so choose. Rays fans encouraged by their team’s recent play would add a disclaimer to that–St. Louis is an option only if the Rays are still looking to make a deal. However, the Cardinals are one of the few teams in baseball that can make the decision to trade Price an easy one for the Rays. The way they would do that would be simple: by offering the Rays one of the top prospects in baseball, Oscar Taveras.
Plenty of distinguished writers have made the case for why the Cardinals should not trade Taveras in a Price trade. Most recently, Buster Olney talked about how trading Taveras would go sharply against the Cards’ need to get younger, and him alone would not even be enough to get a deal done. Here is the other side of the coin: why the Cardinals should execute a deal built around Taveras.
Acquiring David Price would go a long way to bolster a Cardinals rotation that is as weak as we have seen it in years. Michael Wacha is hurt, Jaime Garcia‘s injury problems have persisted to the point where he is a significant question mark moving forward, and Shelby Miller has wound up in the bullpen. Price could help turn everything around–but you don’t really need me to tell you that. Really everything revolves around whether it is worthwhile to trade Taveras, and that revolves around not the Cardinals’ rotation, but their outfield.
Currently on St. Louis’ roster, they have Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Peter Bourjos, Allen Craig, and Taveras playing the three outfield positions. Of the five, only Holliday can say that he is having a good year, and even then, he is not hitting for his usual power. Jay has played decently, but as a player without much plate discipline or power, he is best suited as a fourth outfielder. In addition, Craig has dropped off significantly this year and Bourjos may never turn into a reliable hitter. The good news for the Cardinals, though, is that they have young reinforcements coming up through the ranks. Taveras has already arrived, and while he hasn’t hit much yet, he has been regarded as a potential superstar. Randal Grichuk was up earlier in the season, and he could be a solid player after more seasoning. More impressive than Grichuk as prospects, though, are Stephen Piscotty at Triple-A and James Ramsey at Double-A. Taveras is the most highly regarded of the bunch, but you have to think that the Cardinals will find their way to a talented outfield with all of these players in the picture. With the Cardinals trying to win as many games as possible now and certainly not hurting in the outfield for the future, they could spare Oscar Taveras in a trade for an impact player like David Price.
The Rays also have the ability to compensate the Cardinals well for giving up Taveras. Matt Joyce is a clear player the Rays would be willing to deal, and including him in a Price trade could help strengthen the Cardinals outfield even more. An even more interesting possibility, though, would be if the Rays were willing to give up Kevin Kiermaier. Kiermaier certainly is not the prospect that Taveras is, and he should cool off after his hot start to his big league career, but he gives the Cardinals another potential above-average outfield starter who could make an impact on their team immediately. The deal would have to be expanded slightly to include a player alongside Price, but Bourjos–who the Rays have always liked–could be an option, or losing one more solid prospect would not be the worst thing for the Cardinals.
The St. Louis Cardinals’ choice regarding whether to trade Oscar Taveras may be just as difficult as the Rays’ in regards to David Price. The Cardinals know how good Taveras can be, and he is not the type of player a team is usually willing to part with. However, given the state of their outfield prospects and the Rays’ ability to give them an outfielder alongside Price, the Cardinals are a team that can survive the loss of Taveras and become a better team overall by doing so. A trade including Taveras has to be on the table for the Cardinals, and it just may be the right decision for them to make.