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Heyman | Cardinals look like prime players in Stanton Sweepstakes

Jon Heyman

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The St. Louis Cardinals, who are expected to be quite active in the free-agent and trade markets this winter after uncharacteristically missing the playoffs two straight seasons, look to be a prime player for Marlins slugging superstar and NL MVP finalist Giancarlo Stanton.

They have been cited as one the three most interested pursuers this winter, along with the Giants and Phillies, and there’s reason to believe nothing’s changed there. The Cardinals certainly have the type of prospects that would interest the Marlins, but the question is this: Would he go?

While the Marlins are looking to trade Stanton, and Stanton told FanRag Sports he isn’t up for yet another rebuild, he is in control of the situation due to his complete no-trade clause and people around him on the team suggest they believe Stanton probably would prefer to go to one of the coasts. Stanton hasn’t stated any of his preferences, but while winning is his No. 1 priority, the belief is that he’d prioritize the East and West coasts ahead of the Midwest.

This could lead to an interesting situation, as the Cardinals are believed to be the team the Marlins would most like to make a deal with, as they have several top pitching prospects, including Alex Reyes, Sandy Alcantara, Jack Flaherty and others. In any case, it will be difficult for the Marlins to nudge Stanton to say yes to, say, his potential third or fourth choice, as the Tigers were able to do with Justin Verlander and the Astros – Verlander said he had to make the call with “milliseconds” to go, between the rebuilding Tigers or Astros, but Stanton has 10 years on the clock, giving him much, much more leverage.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the Cardinals are willing to talk about one of their very best pitching prospects for Stanton, which assuming true, certainly solidifies the Marlins’ interest in dealing with St. Louis. The Marlins’ new ownership seeks to rebuild their pitching depth but it also hopes to drastically cut payroll, so other teams with lesser farm systems could still make viable offers — such as the Giants, one of the main early pursuers of Stanton – depending on how much of the $295 million to go they are willing to absorb.

The Giants are thought to be a team that would interest the California product Stanton immensely based on geography and recent history (last year notwithstanding), and while they don’t have a deep stash of pitching prospects, they have the wherewithal to make an enticing monetary offer.

The Phillies are the third team identified as an early pursuer of Stanton, but while they have the prospects, they look like they are in for at least another year of rebuilding, which may not excite Stanton; people around him suggest they think Philly may be a tough sell.

Though they may be a geographic question mark, the Cardinals do have a history of winning, and they seem intent on getting back to the playoffs soon. Beyond Stanton, they have been linked to another potential trade target in Josh Donaldson (who seems more likely to be kept than dealt) and several big-name free agents already, including Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Eric Hosmer, J.D. Martinez and Mike Moustakas; in other words, the big seven on the market.

The Cardinals clearly need to upgrade their bullpen, with a big middle-of-the-order bat and a rotation stalwart seeming to follow in order of need.

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Jon Heyman is an MLB Insider for FanRag Sports, featuring breaking news, information and his Inside Baseball column, which appears on FanRagSports.com every Thursday. Heyman also has been an insider at MLB Network since the channel launched in 2009 and is a regular contributor to WFAN in New York, where he appears weekly on the Joe and Evan Show and previously appeared on the Mike and the Mad Dog Show. He also appears on WSCR in Chicago, WBZ-FM in Boston and the Petros and Money Show on Fox in Los Angeles. Heyman comes to FanRag Sports from CBSSports.com, where he worked for five years and wrote the popular Inside Baseball notes column. Before going to CBS, Heyman worked for five years at Sports Illustrated and SI.com, where he was a senior writer and started an Inside Baseball Column. Heyman worked for 16 years at Newsday in New York, where he was the Yankees beat writer, a baseball columnist and finally a general sports columnist. Heyman started his career at the Moline (Ill.) Daily Dispatch, then moved to the Los Angeles Copley Newspapers (Torrance Daily Breeze and Santa Monica Outlook) before going to Newsday. Heyman at one time also served as a national baseball writer for The Sporting News. Heyman is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. The Santa Fe, N.M. native grew up in Cedarhurst, N.Y., on Long Island.

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