Is there a chance the Los Angeles Dodgers could convince the St. Louis Cardinals to change their trade deadline plans? Also ... is there a chance the Dodgers have a much bigger trade deadline plan of their own than anybody previously imagined?
LA's primary need has oscillated between bullpen arms and starting rotation help. Recently, the increased urgency for another capable infielder and corner outfielder has gotten more attention. The team's depth is a problem and a lot of guys are either playing out of position or aren't quality defenders that will be primed for postseason games.
That was highlighted on Monday night when two defensive gaffes from Chris Taylor and Jason Heyward (combined with a lackluster showing from the offense) sealed the Dodgers' fate in an extra innings loss to the Blue Jays.
Coincidentally, earlier that day ESPN's Alden Gonzalez fueled a Dodgers-Nolan Arenado trade rumor despite the Cardinals coming out earlier in the week and claiming they will be holding onto Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt in preparation for a 2024 retool and return to the playoffs.
Gonzalez believes, however, the Dodgers might be interested in Arenado and should have enough assets to present an offer the Cardinals can't refuse.
Dodgers Rumors: Nolan Arenado emerging as a realistic trade candidate?
Then, on Thursday, the LA Times reported the Dodgers and Cardinals have had trade talks about Arenado and that the All-Star was willing to waive his no-trade clause for LA.
It was also mentioned the talks could be centered around a package deal to include a pitcher -- either Jordan Montgomery or Jack Flaherty -- and that it would be "likely" one or both of Chris Taylor and Max Muncy were sent to St. Louis. The Cardinals are looking for a combination of prospects as well, including Bobby Miller, Emmet Sheehan, Ryan Pepiot and Gavin Stone.
Now, back to Gonzalez, whose exact words were the Dodgers have "long been enamored of Arenado" and "see third base as a need they'll have to address in the offseason given their present construction" ... which might have fans wondering what Max Muncy's role will be come 2024.
With JD Martinez hitting free agency and Muncy enduring mechanical issues with his swing (but still having a good year with 25 homers, 65 RBI, an .819 OPS and 117 OPS+), the Dodgers seem like they might be inclined to let Martinez walk to improve their lineup flexibility, then use Muncy as their primary DH so he can better focus on his swing rather than playing third base, which isn't exactly his natural position.
Muncy has a team option for $10 million in 2024 and is still capable of playing ~solid defense. In this scenario, the Dodgers would acquire Arenado and then be able to better utilize Muncy while drastically improving their third base situation (Muncy has seven errors and has been good for a -0.1 dWAR, -3 Defensive Runs Saved, and -4 Outs Above Average).
In practice, it sounds like a great idea, but it'll be on the Cardinals to waver on their stance. Arenado is still an All-Star player with plenty left in the tank, and represents a short-term building block for St. Louis as the organization's young talent hopefully rounds into form.
Perhaps the Dodgers mix in a package of MLB-ready or near-MLB-ready prospects to change the Cards' thinking? If insiders are pondering this, then it'll be worth re-imagining the Arenado-to-LA dream so many fans have clung to in the past.