Sources: Cardinals Gorman dangles as Soto’s trade chip

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Washington Nationals right-hander Juan Soto (22) in the first half during a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Sunday, July 24, 2022, in Phoenix.  (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Washington Nationals right-hander Juan Soto (22) in the first half during a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Sunday, July 24, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

AP

With the major league baseball trading deadline looming, and the baseball world focusing its attention on Washington Nationals player Juan Soto, the St. Louis Cardinals stepped up their attempts to acquire the young player.

Multiple sources have described negotiations between the clubs involving the Cardinal attacking second base officer Nolan Gorman, and a response from the citizens that includes the firing of bowler Patrick Corbin in an attempt to get rid of the salary.

Gorman, 22, made his league debut this season and has nine home games in 53 games. However, it has slowed on the plate lately, hitting .193 only with 0.26 on the base percentage since June 1.

His exposure to high volleys has led him to record 51 attacks in his last 154 games, but his defense has been steadier than expected in second place, moved ahead of the 2021 season, thanks to the Cardinals’ acquisition of third baseman Nolan Arenado.

Although he has since fallen off the roster due to his significant league experience, Gorman started the year as the 29th in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. Some adjustments to his swing were to be expected once he hit the majors, and the Cardinal was encouraged that his defensive progress didn’t slow down even while he worked during a respite on the board.

Industry speculation previously circulating described the Cardinals as a major match prospect in Soto’s trade deal due to their large amount of high-ceilinged talent in the system. In fact, finalizing a deal will certainly require the inclusion of other top prospects, such as Jordan Walker, the first 2020 general manager.

It is believed that St. Louis, in a maneuver to avoid losing both Walker and potential client Maasin Wayne in the same deal, pivoted to Gorman as their preferred trading piece.

Corbin led the MLB in losses in 2021 and is on top in the same category this year, posting earned run averages of 5.82 and 6.02, respectively. A double-edged sword, given these numbers, is that he reliably takes the ball every fifth day; He played 31 games last season and led all top league bowlers with 20 games this season.

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Louis Cardinals’ Nolan Gorman is congratulated by his teammates after hitting his home solo during the third inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers Tuesday, July 12, 2022 in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) Jeff Roberson AP

The Cardinal, who is likely to be without Steven Matz for most of the remainder of the season and who faces the unavailability of Jack Flaherty, could benefit from this stability if he delivers acceptable results.

Although Corbin struggles to maintain spin and speed on his slider – this season is the first since 2016 he’s not thrown in much – he has kept those characteristics in his holes. That indicates strength and health, and could indicate that in the hands of the Cardinals’ capable coach Mike Maddow and his staff, some corrections could allow Corbyn to return to at least a league average player.

The league average, of course, is low when it comes to acquiring a player who has nearly $70 million owed to him in the two and a half seasons remaining on his contract.

The citizens’ quest to include him in a deal that is perhaps the greatest commercial chip in recent MLB history indicates either their belief that Corbyn cannot be saved under his current circumstances or a desire to push the Cardinals to bolster their bid.

Soto’s availability, once viewed with skepticism across the industry, is now certain. After declining an offer to extend a 15-year contract worth $440 million, it is a de-facto that he will be traded before access to free agency.

ESPN’s Jeff Bassan reported Tuesday that there is a widespread belief in the industry that potential new buyers would prefer this deal to happen sooner rather than later, to allow them to take over the team with a clean slate, rather than a looming PR disaster.

Trading Soto now, when he can help a team through three potential runs during the post-season, increases his value. And if the team is allowed to escape Corbin’s financial commitment, that will be better from a financial perspective.

Although promotion is the club’s primary need, having a player of Soto’s caliber changes the equation for the Cardinal. He compares favorably to some of the Hall of Famers in the game’s inner circle all the time, and at 23 years old and playing in poor shape, he is widely expected to improve dramatically during the time a new team will be in charge.

The Cardinals also have a well-established history of trading with superstars and then persuading them to sign contract extensions once they try out the organization. Mark McGuire, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rollin, Matt Holliday, and Paul Goldschmidt all fit that description, and each of the top four will wait for Goldschmidt in the club’s Hall of Fame once he reaches induction time.

Whether Soto will join them is a question that will likely be answered in the coming days. Cardinals, for now, are trying.

Six weeks ago, that might have seemed impossible. Six days from now, it may become a reality.

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Jeff Jones is a freelance sports writer and member of the American Baseball Writers Association. He is a frequent contributor to Belleville News-Democrat, mlb.com, and other sports websites.



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