The Hot Stove league has barely begun and already the Cardinals have created a stir by allegedly placing Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller on the block in their quest for a shortstop.
According to Joe Strauss, the Cardinals may want to make room for either Carlos Martinez or Trevor Rosenthal in the starting rotation and trading either Lynn or Miller will free up a spot for one of those two while also addressing their other area of need (i.e. shortstop).
The only question is what shortstop is available that the Cardinals could go after?
Here are some possibilities:
Texas: Elvis Andrus/Jurickson Profar
There was much discussion around the July trade deadline of a Oscar Taveras for Jurickson Profar trade. Both are top prospects for their respective teams, but it seemed unlikely that either would be moved. But might Texas be tempted to move Profar if Shelby Miller was the bait?
As for Andrus, Texas just signed him to a 8-year, $120 million extension back in April, which locks him up through 2023, although he can opt out after the 2018 or 2019 seasons. Its hard to see the Rangers trading him so soon after the extension, but the contract only contains a limited no-trade clause, in which he can only block trades to 10 teams beginning in 2016, so it is not out of the question.
The Rangers could move Andrus to make room for Profar at short and, if so, a trade involving Lynn for Andrus might make sense.
Arizona: Didi Gregorius/Chris Owings
Like the Rangers, the Diamondbacks have two quality shortstops and only once place to put them. Owings probably has the higher offensive upside, while Gregorius is generally considered the better defender.
On the surface, Gregorius had a decent rookie season, hitting .252/.332/.373 with a 94 OPS+, however it was really a tale of two halves. Gregorius had a .744 OPS in the first half of the season, but only .628 in the second half, which was only a bit higher than Pete Kozma's .548 OPS for the year.
Owings hit .330/.359/.482 in AAA Reno this year (granted, it was the offensive minded PCL) and is a career .291/.320/.441 hitter in the minors. He hit .291 in 55 at bats with Arizona and looks to be major league ready.
I would not give up Shelby Miller for either of these two and would probably only give up Lynn for Owings, as Gregorius does not seem to be much of an upgrade.
Colorado: Troy Tulowitzki
Another rumor that has been floating around a while is the Cardinals making a play for the Rockies Tulowitzki. While he is certainly an excellent hitter, with a career line of .295/.367/.509 and an above average defender, there are some concerns as well.
For one, he is owed $134 million over the next 7 years, including a $4 million buyout for 2021. While the Cardinals have some payroll flexibility, I'm not sure they want to commit that much to one player.
In addition, Tulo has been injury prone, especially the last two years, in which he only played 47 games in 2012 and 121 in 2013. For his career, he's only averaged 120 games per season.
Finally, to get a guy like Tolowitzki, the Cardinals would like have to give up Miller and then some, which might be too steep a price.
Chicago Cubs: Starlin Castro/Junior Lake
The Cubs may be getting fed up with Castro, who, after signing a 7-year, $60 million extension in August 2012, proceeded to go out and have the worst year of his career in 2013, hitting just .245 with a .631 OPS.
The Cubs could decide to sell low on Castro and move Lake, a converted shortstop, back to short for one season, until uber-prospect Javier Baez is ready to take over the reigns.
Despite his 2013 troubles, Castro is still talented and would be an upgrade over Kozma, at least offensively, and might just need a change of scenery.
Still, I wouldn't give up any more than Lynn for him.
Overall, there are some good options out there, as well as some I may have overlooked (such as J.J. Hardy/Manny Machado in Baltimore or Asdrubal Cabrera/Francisco Lindor in Cleveland), but, as with most up-the-middle guys, the price could end up being higher than the Cardinals are willing to pay.
In any case, its something to keep an eye on as the Hot Stove heats up.