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2021 Trade Deadline - Pitchers That Move The Needle Now AND Later?

Hello again! This is the second installment of a 2021 Trade Deadline series here at Birds On The Black! If you missed the first one, it was 5 trades about acquiring some relief help that may or may not move the needle for this year's team.

Today, I want to discuss up to 5 more trades (kinda researching a bit as I type here) for pitching. I looked at stats the last two to three seasons for these potential deals. Again, the process here will be the same. I will use prospect lists from MLB Pipeline and Prospects Live, I will use valuations from other similar trades in the past (with more weight to this year), and I will use my best judgement of what teams might want from the Cardinals while attempting to keep it a win-win deal. Last time we dealt with the Diamondbacks, Nationals, Rangers, Tigers, and Pirates. I will only repeat with one of those teams today, let's start there.


Pittsburgh Pirates

Last time, I tried to figure out how to attain relief pitcher Sam Howard as a reclamation project (sort of) from the Pirates. Giving up Ali Sanchez for a flyer wasn't terribly taxing on the Cardinals' organizational depth at all. Will today's trade be a bit harder to stomach?

There are two Pittsburgh Pirates Pitchers that I like a lot more than Sam Howard. They are Richard Rodriguez and Chris Stratton. Rodriguez is a 31-year old right-handed closer for the Pirates and Stratton is a 30-year old right-handed setup man for the Pirates. I do realize that the Cardinals could use more innings, and thus more starting pitching, but with the team's insistence (publicly at least) of Miles Mikolas and Jack Flaherty (and Daniel Ponce de Leon) returning within a month's time I don't know that a trade that potentially moves the needle for now and later has to have a starting pitcher within it's mix.

Richard Rodriguez has thrown in 196 games in the last 4 seasons with a 2.98 ERA, 3.50 FIP, 1.090 WHIP, and 4.19 K:BB. Over the last two abbreviated campaigns, he's been even better. Here are the 2020-21 numbers: 61 games pitched, 48 games finished, 18 saves in 22 opportunities, 2.77 ERA, 2.68 FIP, 0.843 WHIP, and 6.70 K:BB. He's struck out 28.2% of his batters faced while walking just 4.2% of batters faced.

Chris Stratton really struggled a bit until he got to Pittsburgh partway through the 2019 season. In his last 96 games and 129 innings, however, Stratton a 3.28 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 1.333 WHIP, and 2.69 K:BB. He's struck out 24.9% of batters faced while walking 9.3% of batters faced.

As of today, those two Pirates are set to make just $1.05M more over the course of the rest of the season. Not only that, but they still both have two arbitration years remaining on their contracts and thus could carry quite a price tag. What I have noticed Pittsburgh lacks in their system is a catcher that's pretty close to ready to go (unless you think their top pick is stepping in any time soon) and left-handed pitching and corner prospects. It seems to me that they don't care much about control or command for pitchers, instead opting with going with raw "stuff" in their prospects. On the position player side, they tend to grab defense and speed. Similar trades regarding buying single relievers have gotten a team a non-top 30 prospect and a top 25-30 prospect. We're trying to acquire TWO relievers here, so:

Potential Trade Offer:

Richard Rodriguez

Chris Stratton


C Ali Sanchez (#18 MLB Pipeline)

LHP Levi Prater (#21 MLB Pipeline)


Minnesota Twins

This is going to be the blockbuster trade if there is one on this list. The Minnesota Twins have fallen from grace considerably this season, both on the scoreboard and in the standings, but also having already traded off DH Nelson Cruz. They are having trouble re-signing their own at the moment as well, as both Jose Berrios and Byron Buxton are apparently balking at offers.

Today, I'm going after right-handed starting pitcher, Jose Berrios, and left-handed reliever, Taylor Rogers. Now both of these players have a bit of a price tag with them, owed a combined $4.41M still for just 59 more games this season and being arbitration eligible for next year. That gives the Cardinals cost certainty but also is more than they are spending right now by quite a bit - as those two will be set to up their current ~$6M salaries. Probably looking at between $15M and $20M combined for those two next year. Good thing the Cardinals have a bit of money coming off of the books. As big a Matt Carpenter fan as I have been, I'd much rather pay Berrios and Rogers his money for 2022.

Jose Berrios is a very good pitcher. He has a career 4.08 ERA and 4.01 FIP in the American League. His 1.233 WHIP and 3.08 K:BB are also very good. He's currently having the best year of his career by all four of those categories. He's also averaged about 6 innings per start in his career and has a quality start in over half of his games dating back through the 2017 season. In fact, if you take out his very bad rookie year of 2016 in which he had just one quality start in 14 games and had an ERA over 8, his career ERA drops to 3.76, FIP to 3.83, WHIP to 1.181, and K:BB jumps to 3.35. He's exactly what the Cardinals need at just 27 years old (having just turned so back at the end of May.

Taylor Rogers is getting paid a lot as a reliever, but it's for good reason. In the last 4 years combined, Rogers has a 2.91 ERA and 2.52 FIP. He's got a WHIP of 1.062 and K:BB of 6.36. His K rate and BB rates over that time are 31.2% and 4.9%, respectively. That's absolute dominance. In 102 save opportunities in the last 4 seasons, he has 88 saves or holds. That's good for an 86% success rate! 81% is the norm for the last three seasons running.

Those two would command a heavy price tag. For a starter like Berrios, recent comps would be Trevor Bauer going to the Reds and Marcus Stroman going to the Mets - both back in 2019. The Bauer deal was complicated as it involved 3 teams. The Reds gave up Yasiel Puig and their top prospect and prospect in the teens. The Mets gave up two prospects in the 5-10 range of their system. As far as Rogers goes, he's probably slightly better than either of the guys in the first trade, we're looking at more like a couple mid- to late- teens prospects there.

So what could Minnesota use in return? As crazy as it sounds, an outfielder with some thump could help things, so could a catcher in the upper level of their minors, some left-handed pitching, and a third base prospect. This actually matches up quite well for the Cardinals I'd think.

Potential Trade Offer:

Jose Berrios

Taylor Rogers


OF Alec Burleson (#15 MLB Pipeline)

C Julio Rodriguez (#12 MLB Pipeline)

LHP Zack Thompson (#4 MLB Pipeline)

3B Malcom Nunez (#13 MLB Pipeline)


Miami Marlins

The Miami Marlins have two pieces that are quite attractive on their pitching staff. I'm not quite as enamored with these two as I am the Minnesota duo, but they might be as attractive or moreso for other reasons. Sandy Alcantara is a right-handed starting pitcher with which Cardinals fans should be familiar. He is only 25 and has 3 more years of cost control after this one. Dylan Floro is 30 years old already but in the same situation contract-wise as Alcantara. Floro is a right-handed relief pitcher.

Sandy Alcantara went to the Miami Marlins in the disastrous Marcell Ozuna trade. While Alcantara was an All-Star in 2019, because every team needs to have one, he's really shone more the last two seasons. In his last 28 games, he has a 3.22 ERA, 3.68 FIP, 1.163 WHIP, and 2.81 K:BB. He's averaged about 6 innings per start for those last 28 games.

Dylan Floro has bounced around a few teams in his career, but in 2020-21, he has really shown out as a reliever. He has thrown 65 1/3 innings in the last two seasons and has a 2.62 ERA, 2.60 FIP, 1.194 WHIP, and 2.64 K:BB. He's throwing some of his best ball ever over the last month after the "sticky stuff" situation arose in major league baseball, making me believe in him more.

These guys don't have the track record or the name recognition of Berrios and Rogers above, but I believe a similar package might be needed. Maybe dropping each prospect down a few instead of a top 5 and three more top 15; I'd be looking at more of a top 10 and three more top 25 guys. The Marlins' system could theoretically use mid-minors pitching, high minors OF, and 3B. I kinda fudged it a little bit. I don't know if this would work.

Potential Trade Offer:

Sandy Alcantara

Dylan Floro


3B Malcom Nunez (#13 MLB Pipeline)

OF Juan Yepez (#16 MLB Pipeline)

RHP Andre Pallante (#20 MLB Pipeline)

RHP Griffin Roberts (#24 MLB Pipeline)

Justin Williams or Lane Thomas


Kansas City Royals

The Kansas City Royals are in an obvious sell category here, but they typically don't like to sell off guys early, which is what I'm trying to get at here today. This one might be tougher than it looks. The Royals have four pieces I want to take a look at today. I just honestly don't believe that they'll sell Danny Duffy, especially to the Cardinals. I don't know that I would want him most anyway at this point in his career, but he's the biggest name.

They have one starting pitcher, Mike Minor, who is in the middle of a not great season, but he can really eat innings for you when healthy. He has thrown nearly 6 innings per game in 2021 while giving up a bit of runs (5.32 ERA). However, his FIP is only 4.09, WHIP is only 1.276, and K:BB is a healthy 3.19. His FIP and K:BB this year are better than his 2019 campaign that landed him 8th in the AL Cy Young Award voting. Minor is 33, but signed for $7M this year (just over $2.5M still payable), $10M in 2022, and a club option for $13M (or a $1M buyout) in 2023. If the Cardinals were to attempt to trade for Minor, I'd guess they could get him for 2-3 prospects not in the top 25 of a system.

Kyle Zimmer and Josh Staumont are similar relievers that would probably get you about the same on the market as one another. Zimmer is 29 years old already and Staumont is 27 already. Both are still in pre-arb years with another pre-arb year and three arbitration years remaining. That's 4 years and 2 months of control for each of them. That takes Zimmer through his age 33 season and Staumont through his age 31 season. Staumont is younger and is more projectable of the two. I'd go for him and probably give up one guy in the 20-25 range or two guys in the 26-40 range in a system. For Zimmer, I'd probably forego that 20-25 range altogether and say two guys more in the 30-40 range.

Scott Barlow could be the real find in the Royals' trade market. He is already 28 years old and has 3 seasons remaining of arbitration after this one - so you'd have him through 2024 and his age 31 season. From 2018-2020, Barlow pitched in 99 games, finishing 17 of them. In 115 1/3 innings, he had 3 saves and 21 holds in 27 save opportunities (89% success rate) with a 4.14 ERA, 3.43 FIP, 1.353 WHIP, and 2.98 K:BB. He's upped his game this year. In 50 innings already (47 games) in 2021, he has 6 saves and 13 holds in 22 opportunities (86% success rate) with a 2.70 ERA, 2.45 FIP, 1.22 WHIP, and 3.10 K:BB. This year, Barlow has struck out 31% of batters faced. He's probably worth a prospect in the 15-25 range and another guy outside a team's top 30.

The Royals need as many good players as they can get. They're looking for best player available for acquisition here. That means for Barlow and Staumont I'm giving up someone in the 15-20 range, someone in the 20-25 range, and another guy not in the top 30.

Potential Trade Offer:

Scott Barlow

Josh Staumont


OF Tre Fletcher (#17 MLB Pipeline)

RHP Andre Pallante (#20 MLB Pipeline)

RHP Ludwin Jimenez (#39 Prospects Live - not top 30 on MLB Pipeline)


Baltimore Orioles

There are a lot of potential ways to go with a pitcher trade regarding the Baltimore Orioles. If the Cardinals can involve left-handed starting pitcher John Means, then this can go down in the blockbuster category along with the Minnesota and Miami deals. If they don't, then it wouldn't be. Of course, I'll be attempting to get John Means here today.

John Means is a 28 year old who was 2nd in the Rookie of the Year voting and an All-Star in 2019. He's made 51 starts in his career and already has 284 2/3 innings pitched in his career. He's got a career 4.07 K:BB, despite just a 20.9% K rate. That's because he just doesn't walk people (5.1% career BB rate). He has just a 1.043 WHIP as well, because he just doesn't give up a ton of hits either. That WHIP number has trended in the right direction each year running. His career 3.67 ERA is fantastic in the AL, even more so in the AL East...however, his 4.64 FIP doesn't necessarily agree with how his actual numbers have looked. Now is not the time for a FIP/ERA argument, so let's look deeper. His xFIP in that time is 5.00, which is also not what you'd like to see. His xERA is a much more modest 3.91, much closer to matching his actual ERA. I'd be willing to bet John Means' ERA is for real, especially in a larger park than Baltimore's in front of a better defense than Baltimore's. This would likely take a Berrios-type haul.

There are also three intriguing 26-28 year old relievers on the Orioles at the moment. Tanner Scott is a 26-year old lefty, Dillon Tate is a 27-year old righty, and Paul Fry is a 28-year old lefty.

Scott has 3 more cost controlled years left after this one, a career 4.09 ERA, 3.61 FIP, 1.483 WHIP, and 2.26 K:BB. The last two years, he's got a 2.48 ERA, 3.28 FIP, 1.265 WHIP, and 2.16 K:BB. The concern there is he has a high walk rate.

Tate has 4 more cost controlled years left after this one, a career 4.52 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 1.13 WHIP, and 2.52 K:BB but the last two years drop those numbers to a 3.84 ERA, 3.85 FIP, 1.074 WHIP, and 2.65 K:BB. He has shown the ablity to go multiple innings.

Fry has 3 more cost controlled years left after this one, a career 3.99 ERA, 3.54 FIP, 1.33 WHIP, and 2.42 K:BB but the last two years drop those numbers to a 3.12 ERA, 2.71 FIP, 1.253 WHIP, and 2.96 K:BB. His BB numbers are a little high and he's definitely a 2-3 out guy per outing lefty.

I would say that those players, in order of attractiveness to the Cardinals' needs, are:

  1. Means

  2. Tate

  3. Fry

  4. Scott

Baltimore is another team that has built well recently but still has needs all over the diamond to contend with the Blue Jays, Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays. Giving them best man available might be the best option. If I'm the Cardinals, I try to get the top three gusy there, making this a huge deal.

Potential Trade Offer:

John Means

Dillon Tate

Paul Fry


LHP Zack Thompson (#4 MLB Pipeline)

RHP Ian Bedell (#11 MLB Pipeline)

1B Luken Baker (#14 MLB Pipeline)

OF Tre Fletcher (#17 MLB Pipeline)

RHP Andre Pallante (#20 MLB Pipeline)

I don't know if I do this one if I'm the Cardinals, but I sure as heck might. That's a lot of years of cost control that you're losing but you're also receiving a bunch as well.


Well, there you have it. Likely the last post in my 2021 Trade Deadline series because I don't foresee having enough time for a position player (read: Middle Infield) upgrade post.


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