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The Cardinals are reportedly making a play for Josh Donaldson

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Does this make more sense than getting Manny Machado?

Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

The Cardinals have already been connected to soon-to-be free agent Manny Machado, and now there are reports that they are interested in acquiring current Blue Jays’ third baseman Josh Donaldson one year before he hits the free agent market, as well. Is there merit to this rumor? Let’s find out.

The rumor

According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, the Cardinals are attempting to bring Donaldson to St. Louis as their third baseman. In 2017 they rotated between multiple men at third, using Jedd Gyorko, Breyvic Valera, and Greg Garcia at varying levels throughout the year. What are the chances they would make this deal work?

Why it makes sense for the Cardinals

They need a permanent third baseman, no disrespect to their current crop of players at the hot corner, and they need some additional offense on top of that. If they can get that in one package? Great!

Donaldson hit .270/.385/.559 in 113 games in 2017, with 33 home runs and 78 RBI. Gyorko was a shade better at the plate but didn’t have the power of Donaldson in his time at third.

Of course, this only really “works” for the Cards if they feel assured they will have at least a fighting chance of extending him after next year or of winning with him in the one year he’s on the roster. Otherwise, they’d be giving up valuable assets for no real gain.

Based on how the conversation has been going around Machado, it seems like Donaldson will be a more likely extension opportunity whereas Machado’s camp is gunning for the free agency feeding frenzy. Another question is — would they want to sign Donaldson to a major extension? He’s already 32 and he’ll be expensive. Maybe the one-year rental really is the way to go in the long run, whether they lose a good prospect or player in the process or not.

Why it makes sense for the Blue Jays

They’d much rather get assets for Donaldson before he walks in free agency than afterwards, but will they take the Orioles’ tack and see if the first half of their season is good enough to sacrifice a major return for more time with him on the team?

If they decide that the trade deadline is the better point to shop him to a contender, sacrificing some assets, then the Cardinals (like many potential trade partners) may just decide to wait it out until the offseason and see what his asking price is then. But the Blue Jays are fully in a rebuilding position (even if they haven’t actually decided that they are just yet), as there’s a slim chance that they can capture a playoff spot while competing in the same division as the Red Sox and Yankees.

They’ll be looking for at least one top-tier prospect in a deal like this and while the Cardinals sent some prospects to the Marlins in the Marcell Ozuna trade, those weren’t their best and their system definitely has solid options left to barter with if they want to make a play here. If Toronto does realize that they aren’t contenders in 2018 and wants to make a trade, they’d want to deal with a system that actually has something to offer them — and that’s St. Louis.

Rumor grade

B. The Cardinals are clearly going after a third baseman for next season or the year after, and if they’ve already expressed interest in Machado then they are clearly at least sort of okay with the chance that any star they trade for now won’t latch on to the team and sign an extension, leaving them out in the cold.

If the Cards are basing their efforts on who makes more sense as far as staying with the team after a trade, than Donaldson makes sense as a target. If the Blue Jays do decide they want to trade him — which is a big hurdle to get over — then the Cardinals could make for a suitable trade partner.