St. Louis Cardinals’ Top 5 Trade Assets

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5 Trade Chips for the St. Louis Cardinals

5 Trade Chips for the St. Louis Cardinals
Scott Rovak- USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals are unlikely to disrupt their vibe at the trade deadline, as their current group has allowed them to possess the best record in the major leagues for the majority of the season. However, as they continue to slump, it becomes increasingly more likely that they will try to acquire a complementary piece at the trade deadline. The most pressing needs seem to be a proven shortstop, a bullpen arm, and a bench piece. The unfortunate part of the deal for the Cardinals is that they have so many elite prospects, but not very many mid-level types. If they are to make a deal, it is not likely that they would be receiving equal value in return.

With as much value as management places on their premium prospects, they may have a hard time orchestrating a move unless it involves acquiring a player who is in their current organization's doghouse or has already been designated for assignment.

Though the Cardinals are compromised by their options at the deadline, there is a high possibility that they will be more active this offseason. With logjams at several spots, they will have a surplus of talent, and will likely unload some players in order to fill needs and create a more equal distribution of talented players at each position. Two particularly interesting storylines to watch will be how the team handles their second base/third base conundrum, and who they decide to move forward with in center and right field. It is definitely possible that the Cardinals will be making some interesting moves before the start of the 2014 season, and here are five players who could be part of those moves.

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5. Mark Rzepczynski, LHP

5. Mark Rzepczynski, LHP
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The 27-year-old lefty is the Cardinals' only piece remaining from the 2011 trade, which sent Colby Rasmus to the Toronto Blue Jays. He went on to contribute heavily to the Cardinals' World Series run that year, but he has struggled in the big leagues since then. He was demoted to Triple-A Memphis on April 29, and has been pretty solid since that point. He has a 2.39 ERA over 37.2 innings at Memphis and his numbers have gotten progressively better each month. However, there seems to be little chance of him ever regaining a steady spot in the Cardinals' bullpen. He's been passed up on the lefty depth chart by 23-year-old Kevin Siegrist, who has been unscored upon since being recalled last month. In addition, the Cardinals have dipped into Double-A for bullpen options three times this season rather than recalling Rzepczynski. While he is of little value to the Cardinals this point, he could definitely be a decent option out of the bullpen for some other major league teams, and he is definitely an option to be traded before this season ends.

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4. David Freese, 3B

4. David Freese, 3B
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Freese would be higher on this list if there was a realistic chance of him being moved before the deadline, but he is much more likely to be traded after the 2013 season. The 30-year-old third baseman has had an up-and-down season this year, but he has shown that he is still one of the better third basemen in the National League. Despite his performance, he does not have a very good chance to stick with the Cardinals beyond this year, as he likely become a bench player if he stayed.

In all likelihood, All-Star second baseman Matt Carpenter will move back to his natural position of third base in 2014, and 2011 first-rounder Kolten Wong, who has been tearing it up in Triple-A, will be plugged in at second. That leaves Freese the odd man out, and as a player who is currently making $3.15 million and is arbitration eligible, his contract is not conducive to him being a platoon player. With as few good third baseman as there are in MLB, it is very possible that Freese could command at least a mid-level prospect in return. With that said, it is very unlikely that the Cardinals will move him in the midst of a playoff run and turn to an unproven starter such as Wong or Daniel Descalso.

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3. Tyrell Jenkins, RHP

3. Tyrell Jenkins, RHP
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Jenkins is likely going to be a victim of circumstance in the Cardinals' system; since he was drafted out of high school and had raw stuff, he did not get to move up nearly as quickly as fellow starters Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez, and Lance Lynn did. Add in Adam Wainwright and his long-term contract, and there probably will not be a spot in the Cardinals' rotation for Jenkins for the foreseeable future.

The lanky right-hander, who is ranked the Cardinals' no. 5 prospect by MLB.com, could still be an option out of the bullpen. His most powerful weapon is a fastball that can hit up to 97 mph, and he complements it with a plus curveball. However, he still has the potential to be an elite starter, and the Cardinals may not want to waste him in the bullpen when they could get someone more usable in return. It's unlikely that the Cardinals will need to trade for a real difference-maker at the deadline, but in the next situation where they need to acquire an elite player, Jenkins very well could be part of the package.

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2. Matt Adams, 1B

2. Matt Adams, 1B
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Whenever someone in St. Louis brings up trade options for the Cardinals, Matt Adams seems to come up in the conversation. The hefty first baseman, who has proven himself as a major-league weapon with a .319 average, seven homers, and 24 RBIs in 49 games, seems likely to be blocked for the future by the Cardinals' influx of young talent. The only scenario in which Adams would be a regular starter next year would necessitate the Cardinals moving top prospect Oscar Taveras into center field, benching Jon Jay, letting Carlos Beltran walk and moving Allen Craig into right. Despite Jay's poor performance this year, it is more likely that he will retain his starting spot in 2014 and either Taveras or Beltran will be in right field. This means that Adams will at best be a platoon player, and his talent will continue to be marginalized.

As high as Adams' value seems to be right now, it is unlikely that he will be moved at the deadline. He is a valuable member of the bench on a World Series-caliber team, and it is unlikely that the Cardinals could receive equal value in return. That being said, he's a candidate to be moved this offseason if the Cardinals get an irresistible offer.

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1. Oscar Taveras, OF

1. Oscar Taveras, OF
Scott Rovak- USA TODAY Sports

Taveras seems to be untouchable at this point, but his value to the Cardinals is questionable. Taveras, who is ranked as the top prospect in baseball by MLB.com, has received rave reviews and is often billed as the best hitter to come out of the Cardinals' system since Albert Pujols. However, he is said to be very difficult to deal with off the field and is still very immature. Most significantly, he has dealt with injuries this season and is in jeopardy of spending an entire season in Triple-A. It is also not out of the question that the Cardinals could bring back their current right fielder Carlos Beltran next year, so Taveras may still be fighting for a spot in 2014. The high majority of elite MLB hitters reach the majors with very little, if any, time at the minors' highest level, so this could negatively affect his prospect status.

Though he has a great deal of potential, it could be intelligent for the Cardinals to move Taveras before his value decreases. They have a full cast of players capable of filling the void he would leave, including Beltran, Jon Jay, Allen Craig and Matt Adams. By no means should the Cardinals be shopping Taveras just to get rid of him, but if they can get a truly elite player in return, they should consider it, whether it be at the trade deadline or during the offseason. One possible move to consider is one that fans and the media have long speculated about, which would be a straight-up swap of Taveras and the player he succeeded as baseball's top prospect, the Texas Rangers' Jurickson Profar. Both players could be blocked at their current positions for a while with their present clubs, and may benefit from switching teams, where they would each be filling a big hole. While each team would likely be skeptical of unloading their most valuable young players, the move could be effective for both clubs.

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