First base has been a revolving door for the Cardinals ever since Albert Pujols took his talents to the City of Angels in 2012. In the seven seasons since Pujols left the Cardinals, the club has had an astonishing seven different players attempt to nail down the position (Reynolds, Craig, Moss Adams, Holliday, Carpenter, and Martinez). This ridiculous number of players does not even count players such as Jedd Gyorko, who have played first base for the Cardinals part time. This revolving door comes after the Cardinals had the luxury of playing future hall of famer, Albert Pujols, for eight consecutive seasons. If the Cardinals aspire to cease their two year postseason drought, it is vital for them to acquire a legitimate first baseman. This is why I believe that the Cardinals should target Jose Abreu prior to the July trade deadline.
Since Jose Abreu’s defection in 2014, the Cuban born slugger has been one of the most dominant hitters in the Majors. Over his four seasons in the Majors, Abreu ranks in the top ten among first basemen in homeruns and runs batted in. In his Major League career, Abreu has averaged a stupendous 33 homeruns and 104 RBI, while still maintaining a superb .301 batting average. The acquisition of Abreu would give the Cardinals a legitimate power hitter that the opposition would fear, something the club has been without since arguably Albert Pujols. Trading for Abreu may also help jump-start newly acquired Marcell Ozuna, who has thus far struggled in his time dawning the birds on the bat. The acquisition of Abreu would take the spot light off Marcell Ozuna. Allowing him to return to his familiar spot of batting cleanup behind a feared hitter, a spot in which he thrived in during his tenure in South Beach.
Critics of the Cardinals acquiring Abreu will cite his defense as a possible cause for concern. While Abreu is certainly no gold glover, he is an average defensive first baseman. Abreu ranks sixteenth in defense among first basemen according to Fan Graphs. The Cardinals current first baseman, Jose Martinez is currently ranked dead last among qualifying first basemen in defense, posting an appalling -7 defensive rating. Abreu’s elite offensive skills far outweighs his mediocre defense.
Here comes the million dollar question… What would it take for the Cardinals to acquire Abreu? Due to the fact that Abreu is already thirty-one years old, and is only controllable through 2019, the White Sox will see a diminished return. Historically, position players yield less of a return than starting pitchers on the trade market. The White Sox currently own the second worst record in the Majors, sitting at an abismal 13-31. The club has clearly indicated that the organization is embarking on a rebuild after trading away southpaw ace, Chris Sale, and outfielder Adam Eaton in 2016. Abreu is the last valuable piece that the White Sox have to deal to proceed with their rebuild. A possible offer that the Cardinals can offer to pry Abreu away from the White Sox would be a package of two young arms with upside, Ryan Helsley (#5 ranked prospect in system according to MLB.com) and Austin Gomber (#12 prospect in system according to MLB.com). This trade will be beneficial for both organizations, the White Sox would receive two young, controllable arms with top of the rotation potential, and the Cardinals would receive a legitimate middle of the order, power hitting first baseman.
The National League Central looks to be a highly competitive division that is up for the taking. The acquisition of Jose Abreu would finally once again give the Cardinals a middle of the order bat that strikes fear into the opposition, and may ultimately be the difference between the Cardinals capturing the National League Central crown, or missing the postseason for the third consecutive season.