The Cardinals are exploring several options as they look to the outfield market, with Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporting that the club is thought to have spoken to the White Sox about a trade for Adam Eaton. The Rockies are also open to the idea of swapping Charlie Blackmon for “a high return” and Goold notes that the Cards and Rox have held discussions in the past. Goold also notes previously-reported Cardinals targets as Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson of the Royals and free agent Dexter Fowler, plus another notable free agent name in Ian Desmond. USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported yesterday that the Cards had held some internal discussions about pursuing Desmond’s services.
All of these players would fit the Cardinals’ stated goal of upgrading their defense and athleticism and all play center field, which would allow the Cards to keep Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty in corner outfield roles (though Eaton and Blackmon bring more defensive value in corner spots than as center fielders.) It doesn’t appear that St. Louis is necessarily close to a move, however, as GM John Mozeliak said Tuesday that he didn’t feel he was “a phone call away” from completing an acquisition, though he was in talks about at least five potential moves.
Now that Chris Sale has been traded, it would seem that the White Sox are at least open to discussing a deal for any player, though Eaton would come at a high cost. The outfielder signed a contract extension in March 2015 that keeps him under team control through 2019 at the earliest, and potentially through 2012 via club options. While Chicago may be in rebuild mode, the team surely hopes to be on track quickly enough that Eaton could be part of the next White Sox contender.
Blackmon comes with two years of control via his arbitration years, and while the Rockies plan on contending in 2017, they could look at a Blackmon deal as an opportunity to solve an outfield logjam (to find a spot for Gerardo Parra) while also addressing other roster holes. Starting or relief pitching are the most obvious needs for Colorado, and while the Cards have some arms to spare, they’ve already dealt perhaps their clearest pitching trade chip in Jaime Garcia. The Rox also have an open spot at first base, so perhaps Matt Adams could factor into a potential trade package, though it would certainly take more than just Adams to land Blackmon. Blackmon also has some questions marks due to his ordinary career numbers away from Coors Field.
Rather than sacrifice prospects or roster depth in a trade, the Cards could instead just sign Fowler or Desmond, though either of those signings would cost St. Louis a draft pick (both outfielders are qualifying offer free agents) and a significant cash outlay. Given that the Cardinals have been so heavily linked to Fowler this winter, it makes sense that they’d also be considering Desmond, who can similarly be an option in both center and left. Desmond has received interest from the Nationals, Orioles and Blue Jays this offseason, and while he had talks with his former team in Texas, the Rangers’ re-signing of Carlos Gomez doesn’t help Desmond’s chances at a return.