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If the Cardinals Want Giancarlo Stanton, Go Get Him. No Excuses.

If the Miami Marlins are truly willing to trade Giancarlo Stanton, the Cardinals have to go deep and get it done. They can’t take a timid swing … and miss. They have to swing for the fences.

If Stanton is moved this offseason, there would be only one acceptable excuse: if Stanton refused to waive his no-trade clause to block a trade to St. Louis. But even then, the Cardinals need to at least try to make a winning pitch. They have to go all-out to persuade Stanton to change his mind.

After all, Stanton has played eight seasons in the majors, breaking in with the Marlins in 2010.  And despite his individual excellence, Stanton has never appeared in a MLB postseason game. Over the past eight years 26 of the 30 teams made at least one trip to the playoffs. The only four franchises to go 0-for-8 were Miami, Seattle, San Diego and the Chicago White Sox.

Detroit ace Justin Verlander was initially unwilling to waive his no-trade protection and approve of a deal that would arm Houston for a run in the AL playoffs. In the final minutes before the Aug. 31 trade deadline, Verlander realized it would mean a lot to him to have another shot at winning a World Series. Verlander had gotten one crack at it before, in 2006, but the Tigers slipped and flopped. The Cardinals beat them in a five-game World Series.

Verlander decided to go for the ring. He signed off on the trade. The Astros won their first World Series. Verlander won his first World Series. He got the ring. All by keeping an open mind, searching his conscience. He reached a conclusion: a baseball player — if he’s lucky — will have only so many opportunities to win a world championship. Verlander was 34. If he said no to Houston, would he one day come to regret his stubborn resistance? Verlander made the right choice. He will have no regrets in later in life.

If winning really matters to Stanton, then he would agree to a trade that would put him with  one of the most successful franchises in baseball history. The Cardinals didn’t win their first World Series until 1926. But beginning with that ’26 season, the New York Yankees are the only team that’s won more more regular-season games, postseason games and World Series titles than the Cardinals.

Perhaps Stanton will be acquired by another prestigious franchise that can help him win a World Series ring. But if the Cardinals are the only elite franchise to strike a deal with Miami, I don’t know why Stanton would refuse to play for a organization that has the most regular-season victories, and most postseason wins among NL teams since 2000 … with four NL pennants and two World Series championships.

Assuming that winning is a priority for Stanton, then he’d  form a strong partnership with the Cardinals. They can help Stanton become a winner. And Stanton can help the Cardinals become a winner, again, after a two-season absence from the postseason. The Cardinals are close, having posted the ninth-best winning percentage in the majors over the past two seasons.

It was absolutely disappointing for a proud St. Louis franchise to miss the postseason in 2016 and 2017, but the Cardinals didn’t crater. They just couldn’t keep pace with the Cubs. Going into 2018, the Cardinals need a push, a lift, a boost. The Cards need a prominent talent (and other accessories) to make a difference, and provide substantial assistance in raising their victory total above 90.

And Stanton is strong enough to do the job.

The Cardinals haven’t had a player of clout play right field for them since Carlos Beltran spent two happy, prosperous years here in 2012 and 2013. According to the succession plan, the Cardinals would promote top prospect Oscar Taveras to the big club in 2014, after Beltran departed St. Louis via free agency. The rookie Taveras made 220 plate appearances as the Cards’ right fielder in 2014, but died in a single-car accident in his native Dominican Republic on Oct. 26, only 10 days after the team was eliminated by San Francisco in the NL Championship Series.

The Cardinals attempted to fill the right-field void by trading for Atlanta’s Jason Heyward, but he bolted to the Cubs as a free agent after one season. Since the start of the 2016 season, we’ve seen a procession of rightfielders that included Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk, Brandon Moss, Jose Martinez, Jeremy Hazelbaker.

But let’s dial it back to the post-Beltran transition. Let’s look at how the Cardinals’ collection of rightfielders have done as a group in comparison to Stanton over the past four seasons, 2014 through 2017.

This little study is quite revealing.

By the way, the numbers for Stanton represent his production when he plays right field — and no other position. But unless Stanton is serving as a DH in an American League Park, or is pinch-hitting, he’s always in right field.

1. PARK ADJUSTED RUNS CREATED

Cardinals RF group: only 2 percent above leave average; 20th in the majors.

Stanton:  a big 49 percent above league average; No. 1 among MLB rightfielders.

2. ISOLATED POWER 

Cardinals RF group:  ISO of .160;  14 points  below league average; 21st.

Stanton: ISO of .303; a whopping 129 points above the league rate; No. 1.

3. WINS ABOVE REPLACEMENT 

Cardinals RF group:  8.6 WAR,  ranked 17th

Stanton: 19.0 WAR, ranked No. 3 at the position in MLB.

4. ONBASE PERCENTAGE 

Cardinals RF group:  .328,  ranked 18th.

Stanton:  .367, ranked No. 2  at position; 39 points higher than St. Louis.

5. SLUGGING PERCENTAGE

Cardinals RF group:  .423, ranked 18th.

Stanton:  .574 ranked No. 2 in bigs; 151 points better than St. Louis.

6. ONBASE + SLUGGING 

Cards RF group:  .751 OPS, ranked 18th

Stanton: .941 OPS, ranked No. 2 at position; 190 points higher than St. Louis.

7. HOME RUNS 

Cards RF group: 78 homers, ranked 21st.

Stanton: 146 homers, 150 homers, ranked No. 1 at position.

— Footnote I: Stanton has a .607 slugging pct. and has homered every 12 at-bats in the Marlins’ new ballpark, which opened in 2012. According to Baseball Reference, the Miami park gives pitchers a significant edge over hitters.

— Footnote II: this one made me laugh, but in a good way. Since the start of 2014, Stanton has bashed 68 more homers than the Cardinals’ RF contingent. There’s more to it: Stanton hit 68 more homers than the Cards’ RF bunch despite having 733 fewer at-bats over the same time because of games lost to injury. That’s sick.

8. HOME-RUN RATIO 

Cards RF group:  a homer every 32.05 at-bats, ranked 21st.

Stanton:  a home run every 12.10 at-bats, best among all MLB hitters.

9. RBI RATIO

Cards RF group: an RBI every 8.36 at-bats, ranked 22nd.

Stanton: an RBI every 4.85 at-bats; that’s No. 1.

10. DEFENSIVE RUNS SAVED

Cards RF group:  + 27 Defensive Runs Saved.

Stanton in RF:  +29 Defensive Runs Saved.

Footnote I: the Cardinals’ total was inflated by Heyward’s one season here; he was a +21 DRS in 2015, the best at his position. So in the other three seasons, Cards’ rightfielders were +6 DRS … well below Stanton’s level defensively.

Footnote II: In his eight MLB seasons in right field, Stanton is an impressive +45 in DRS and he has finished in the top 10 in the RF position rankings six of the eight seasons.

Look, I think we can see the obvious.

Stanton is vastly superior to anyone that’s played right field for the Cardinals for a very long time. In his big-league career he has 34.1 WAR, and that’s the most among MLB right fielders since 2010. Various Cardinals’ right fielders have given the team 25.4 WAR there since 2010. Stanton has averaged 4.1 WAR per season in right. Since 2010, only one Cardinals’ right fielder, Lance Berkman in 2011, has had a single-season WAR (4.8) that’s higher than Stanton’s average.

Add in his fantastic defense, and it’s a no-contest.

Stanton is an intimidating power bat that draws walks, delivers RBIs on frequent basis, is far above the league average in park-adjusted runs created, and is among the very best defenders in right field.

Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. has said it many times: the team needs a big bat for the middle lineup.

Cards president of baseball operations John Mozeliak has said it many times: it’s a priority to find a middle-lineup power hitter.

GM Michael Girsch has said the same thing … repeatedly.

Well, Stanton is that bat. You cannot find a more ruthless power in the game today.

And if the Cardinals have in fact made a trade offer to Miami — as reported — then they have determined that Stanton is the right guy to fill the void.

Stanton is owed $295 million through 2027 … and Cardinals are rolling in revenue; they are in superb shape financially and have payroll flexibility into the future.

The Marlins want to slash payroll and will take prospects in exchange for Stanton; the Cardinals have an abundance of young pitching prospects that are attractive trade pieces… and young outfield prospects to offer as well.

If the Cardinals covet Stanton, then they need to close the deal and see if he’ll waive the no-trade.

To get Stanton a team needs two things: Lots of money … and lots of prospects.

Actually a team that makes a play for Stanton needs a third thing: the qualities of aggressiveness, boldness, large onions. It is the kind of team that knows what it wants … and will go get it. It is a team that will not be denied in the desire to land its trade target. It is a team that will not allow themselves to finish second or third in trade bidding.  It is a team that refuses to count dimes and dollar bills and will not tremble when it comes time to go all in and pay up.

The Cardinals have the money. They have the prospects. They have two of the necessary elements.

I just don’t know if the Cardinals have the third characteristic: the guts, the nerve, to go get Stanton …. recognizing that the cost of securing this kind of rare talent will be high, and it will carry risk. But it’s about damn time that this team stop finishing second or third every time it cautiously walks into the market to make a transaction only to be scared off by the price tag.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

More: Free-Agent Eric Hosmer, Potential Cardinal: Perception vs. Reality