The St. Louis Cardinals are currently the owners of the best record in baseball at 37-25. Their offense is clicking, and they've gotten unexpected performances out of Lance Berkman, Kyle McClellan and Kyle Lohse.
In other words, this team has all the makings of a buyer at this year's trading deadline.
So far, much of the speculation has been that the Redbirds will look to add a relief pitcher like Heath Bell. After all, their bullpen has been notoriously shaky this year.
Why Would They Want Him?
There's little doubt that Jose Reyes will be moved this summer. His team's owner has said as much.
A rival GM told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that he expects the Cardinals to make a “major push” to acquire talent this summer since this could be St. Louis’ last playoff run with Albert Pujols.
Therefore, it would make sense for the team to target the best player on the market.
Reyes certainly fits a need for St. Louis. While Ryan Theriot has swung the bat well (his current 20-game hitting streak is the best in the majors), his defense has left something to be desired. By acquiring Reyes, the Cardinals could shift Theriot back to second, where he played nearly all of 2010.
Reyes certainly brings a lot to the offensive game. He currently leads the National League in batting average and is second in stolen bases. Reyes has been the premier speedster in the National League for the better part of a decade, averaging 58 steals per 162 games since coming into the league in 2003.
He'd also help the Cardinals defensively. His 3.8 UZR/150 is fourth in the league among shortstops. Ryan Theriot checks in with an ugly -13.0 UZR/150, 12th among 14 qualifying NL shortstops. Theriot is also last in fielding percentage. Clearly, this trade would represent a significant upgrade on both sides of the baseball.
What Will It Take to Get Him?
With the type of season Reyes is having, it might take a top prospect or two to pry him away from New York. So what do the Cardinals have to barter?
The first name mentioned by Sandy Alderson will be Shelby Miller. Miller, of course, is St. Louis' top prospect and was named the 13th-best prospect in all of baseball prior to 2011 by Baseball America.
Miller is young and very talented. At the age of 20, he made his first Double-A start a week ago, pitching six strong innings and giving up one run. He struck out five and walked none. He's averaged 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings since being drafted in the first round of the 2009 draft.
Miller projects as a future ace, and the Cardinals would be wary of letting him go. If they want Reyes, though, they may have to part with Miller.
It would be a miracle if St. Louis landed Reyes without trading away Shelby, but there are some other names that could be traded in place of him.
One is Zack Cox. Cox was St. Louis' first-round pick in 2010. Prior to this season, Baseball America ranked him 63rd on their top prospect list.
Cox was projected as the best hitter in the draft, with some even speculating the Mets would pick the hot-hitting Arkansas phenom. Instead, New York selected Matt Harvey, and Cox clattered all the way to St. Louis, who selected him with the 25th pick.
Cox tore up Quad Cities this year to the tune of .335/.380/.439 before being called up to Double-A. He's played mostly third but projects as a possible second baseman. After drafting Kolten Wong, the Cardinals might be willing to part with Cox for the right piece.
Another intriguing idea is Jon Jay or Allen Craig. Jay and Craig already have over 200 major league games under their belts and are more polished than either Cox or Miller. Both are having strong seasons at the plate. Jay is hitting .323/.384/.459, and Craig is hitting .336/.405/.523.
Both players represent an interesting option. Jay has more speed, while Craig has more power. Jay is an outfielder, while Craig can start at nearly any position. This year, he's played second, third and the outfield. The problem is age—both players are 26 and don't have much room for growth.
At least one of these players would have to be moved in a potential deal for Jose Reyes, as well as another prospect, including Carlos Martinez, Tyrell Jenkins, Seth Blair, Jordan Swagerty or Fernando Salas.
What Are the Chances of This Happening?
Because Reyes would require a hefty package of prospects to be moved, I'd say it's unlikely. He'll be moved eventually, but he may be too rich for the Cardinals' blood.
Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated reports that five MLB executives estimate Reyes will sign for somewhere between $45 million and $108 million after the season when he hits free agency. With Albert Pujols in line for a big deal, I doubt the Cardinals can afford keeping Reyes or losing that much young talent.
Although it would fill a big hole for the Redbirds, don't look to see Jose Reyes wearing the Birds on the Bat this October.
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