As the World Series ends and the window for offseason trades officially opens, few teams are in position to dominate a market like the Cardinals are the outfield market.
Six of the Cardinals' top 14 prospects are outfielders, and all have experience and success at Double-A or higher. Above them in the majors is a logjam of Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, Dexter Fowler, Tommy Pham and, to a degree, Jose Martinez.
After missing the playoffs for consecutive seasons for the first time since 2007-08, the Cardinals have notable areas for improvement--namely adding power (17th in SLG, 18th in HR in 2017), enhancing the left side of the infield, bringing in a veteran starter so they aren't wholly reliant on youngsters Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty to round out the rotation, or supplementing the bullpen with Seung-Hwan Oh hitting free agency and Trevor Rosenthal out most, if not all, of 2018 while he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
Whether the price is proven big leaguers or prospects, the Cardinals have the outfield currency to meet a multitude of trade requests. And they have a need to make a move or two as well, if only to avoid a traffic jam at Triple-A and in the majors. The team currently has seven outfielders on its 40-man roster and will soon need to add Tyler O’Neill and Oscar Mercado (a pair of 2013 draftees who will be Rule 5 eligible if they are not added).
Here is a look at each of Cardinals outfield options, and the merits of keeping or moving each.
*All ages Opening Day 2018.
Case for keeping: Fowler battled injuries but still performed in the first season of his five-year, $82.5 million contract. He had 22 doubles, nine triples, a career-high 18 home runs and 64 RBIs despite missing 44 games, and his .851 OPS was good for a 122 OPS+, the second-highest mark of his career.
Case for moving: Fowler's defense in center field has declined considerably, and his health record--he's missed at least 35 games in four of the last five seasons--doesn't figure to get better as he moves deeper into his 30's. Those facts combined with his contract, however, means the odds of another team taking him on are very, very slim.