For weeks, you've heard whispers and speculation about a potential blockbuster trade involving Rangers top prospect Jurickson Profar and Cardinals top prospect Oscar Taveras -- the two most highly regarded farmhands in all of baseball. While each player profiles as a future star and each would fill a pronounced need on his "new" team, this all seems a bit like too much wish-casting (St. Louis GM John Mozeliak's somewhat tantilizing recent comments notwithstanding).
Rangers GM Jon Daniels says the two sides have never even discussed such a swap (source: Jon Morosi via Twitter), but the biggest impediment to a deal is that, as Bernie Miklasz expertly lays out in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are going to need Taveras very soon.
Carlos Beltran is a free agent at season's end, and, as Miklasz notes, current Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay may see his role reduced in 2014. That means you'd see a primary outfield alignment of Matt Holliday in left, Taveras in center and Allen Craig in right, with clubber of baseballs Matt Adams holding down first base. That's not a "death to flying things" type of outfield, but it's one that will hit often and for long distances.
The point of contention will be Jay. As someone who watches quite a few Cardinal games, I can say I like Jay but suspect he's beginning to be stretched as a regular. In the outfield, he has a knack for highlight-worthy grabs, but he often takes meandering and uncertain routes to the ball, which will become a greater concern once he loses a step (he's already 28). At the plate, Jay has a pretty notable hitch in his swing that could be exploited once his bat slows down even a hair. That's to say nothing of his lack of secondary hitting skills (i.e., little plate discpline and not much in the way of raw power) and modest platoon issues. If Jay continues struggling this season (he owns an OPS+ of 53 at this writing), then we could see Taveras manning center in St. Louis before 2014.
No, Pete Kozma isn't an ideal regular at short, but in trading away Taveras for Profar, they'd be filling one hole at an up-the-middle position while limiting their ability to plug a developing hole at another up-the-middle position. Where's the net gain?
From the Rangers' standpoint, it's far too early to make any moves based on the early outfield returns. David Murphy certainly figures to improve, and Leonys Martin still projects as a plus defensive center fielder whose bat will play.
There's another element to all of this: risk-aversion on the part of GMs when it comes to trading away top prospects. Doing so is a rarity even when the return includes estalished major-league performers. A "challenge trade" (the old Bill James term to describe swaps of players who are similar when it comes to position, role, age, etc.) puts even more of a GM's reputation on the line. Daniels, for instance, will be criticized a bit if he doesn't make this trade and Taveras goes on to be the substantially better player. In contrast, he'll be roasted on a spit if he does make this trade and Profar goes on to be the substantially better player.
In situations such as this, which don't come along very often, the most powerful dynamic in play is the status quo. As such, I just can't imagine that this dreamed-up trade will ever come to pass.