Dylan Carlson makes sense for the Padres via trade with Cardinals

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Dylan Carlson makes sense for the San Diego Padres in their quest for outfield help this winter.

The San Diego Padres need outfielders.

Juan Soto and Trent Grisham will be playing in the Bronx next year. That is two-thirds of the starting outfield from the 2023 season. Replacing Soto’s bat will be difficult enough, but finding a suitable center fielder may prove to be a more challenging issue for San Diego.

Korean outfielder Jung Hoo Lee is linked to the Padres and may be the starter in center field on opening day. It remains to be seen if the Padres will pay the price tag.

If the Padres cannot sign Lee, then there are other options.

A player of great interest should be outfielder Dylan Carlson of the St. Louis Cardinals. The 25-year-old outfielder was injured for most of the 2023 season, as he only played in 76 games for St. Louis. The switch-hitter recorded a batting line of .219/.318/.333 and a .651 OPS with a 79 OPS+ in 219 at-bats. The native of Elk Grove, California, is capable of much more.

In 2021, Carlson was destined to be a perennial All-Star and a fixture in the Cardinals lineup for years. He recorded a .780 OPS and a .115 OPS+ as a 22-year-old rookie.

Two disastrous seasons later, he could be attainable via trade as the Cardinals outfield is crowded.

The Cardinals dealt Tyler O’Neil last week, but there is still a logjam at the position. Lars Nootbar, Jordan Walker, Brendan Donovan, and Tommy Edman are all capable of playing every day. Dylan Carlson is very much in the mix, but his playing time is not guaranteed. The Cardinals liked what they saw from Edman in center field, and that may be his future, with top prospect Masyn Winn poised for the starting shortstop job in 2024.

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If St. Louis were to deal Carlson this early in the winter, they could easily replace him with a free agent. Perhaps someone with a veteran presence like Michael Brantley. The point is that the Cardinals could easily move on from Carlson. O’Neil was dealt to the Red Sox for two young pitchers. Not top prospects, just two young arms that are controllable. That is what the Cardinals may be looking for presently.

The Padres may not have a surplus of young arms to deal, but you never know what another franchise covets from you. Young arms like Matt Waldron, Jay Groome, or Reiss Knehr may be of interest. Or perhaps the Padres part with Adrian Morejon in a swap of players who have yet to live up to their abilities. Anything can happen. The Padres are certainly not shy about pulling the trigger on a trade.

Carlson owns a career DRS of +7 in center field. He can handle the position immediately.

Even if the Padres do sign Jung Hoo Lee, there is still a need for another outfielder. Dylan Carlson would be an intriguing trade target, as there is still a lot of upside with the young outfielder. With his age, a change in scenery and an arrival back home in California may unlock consistency from this young switch-hitter.

The Padres need to explore this idea.

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