Sometimes, a conversation in July yields a trade in December. That could be the case for the Cardinals and Marlins.
St. Louis is drifting from contention, now 6 1/2 games back in the National League Central. When the Cardinals shift their focus to 2018, the outfield will be a larger question than it was supposed to be. In OPS by position, the Cards rank 25th among Major League teams in right field and 18th in left.
The Cardinals have two outfielders signed to long-term contracts, Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty, leaving one spot unsettled entering next year -- although left fielder Tommy Pham may be playing his way into the Cards' future plans.
Still, it's not surprising that sources say the Cardinals are interested in the Marlins' decorated outfielders. Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna represented the home team during All-Star Game festivities at Marlins Park, and Christian Yelich won a Silver Slugger Award in 2016.
Any of the three would suit St. Louis' roster well, because each is under contract for multiple seasons beyond 2017. Stanton's $325 million contract -- which runs from '15-27 -- is the largest in North American professional sports history, although he has an opt-out clause after '20. Yelich is under contract through '21, with a $15 million club option for '22. Ozuna is arbitration-eligible through '19.
But the Marlins continue to say they're not ready to make major deals until there's clarity on which ownership group will purchase the team from Jeffrey Loria. With the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline two weeks away, time is short to: (a) reach agreement on trading a star player; and (b) receive assent from current ownership as well as a potential incoming group.
The first step -- obtaining full value for an All-Star caliber player -- is difficult enough for teams with a settled hierarchy. In Miami's case, even an overwhelming offer may not convince all the relevant parties to approve a trade.
But this isn't the last we'll hear of a match between the Cardinals and Marlins, who train side-by-side in Jupiter, Fla., each spring. Talks could gain momentum in August, if a new owner is identified by then. Stanton is owed $295 million after the end of this season, provided he doesn't opt out. His contract could clear trade waivers next month, although teams with more payroll flexibility than the Cards -- such as the Phillies -- would be tempted to place a claim.
• The Astros tried -- for months, actually -- to acquire Jose Quintana from the White Sox before the Cubs landed him in a stunning crosstown trade. Houston scouts continue to canvass the Majors for starting pitchers, with Oakland's Sonny Gray among the team's top targets.
On Saturday, sources identified Giants right-hander Jeff Samardzija as another pitcher the Astros have been tracking. One day later, Samardzija turned in a disappointing outing against the Padres, allowing four earned runs in the first inning alone.
Still, Samardzija remained on the mound and gave San Francisco six innings -- the norm for him this year. Samardzija has thrown six or more innings in 16 of his 19 starts this season; that consistency appeals to clubs, even if his 4.86 ERA gives general managers pause.
• The D-backs and Rockies are among the top suitors for Tigers right fielder J.D. Martinez, sources say, and the reason is rather obvious: In 36 at-bats this season against left-handed pitching, Martinez is batting .500 with a 1.738 OPS. That is not a misprint.
Admittedly, that's a small sample size due to the right foot injury that forced Martinez to begin the season on the disabled list. But he posted an .861 OPS against lefties last year, proving his strong performance against southpaws in 2017 was (somewhat) anticipated.
Martinez's right-handed power plays especially well in the NL West, where Arizona and Colorado are competing with Los Angeles for playoff berths.
• The Tigers apparently lost a suitor for Justin Verlander when the Cubs dealt for Quintana, but a trade involving Detroit's longtime ace remains possible. The Astros and Dodgers are the likeliest destinations -- if Verlander is moved at all.
The Tigers now are willing to include at least some cash in a Verlander trade, sources say, and that should stimulate interest. But even after losing Michael Pineda, the Yankees aren't seriously pursuing Verlander.
Jon Paul Morosi is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.