Struggling Cardinals, Blue Jays among 3 teams that could spark life into the MLB trade deadline

It’s never too early to start looking ahead to MLB's trade deadline. And as San Diego Padres president of baseball operations AJ Preller showed when acquiring two-time All-Star Luis Arraez earlier this month, the same is true for front offices.

Around Memorial Day, executives begin to evaluate their rosters for strengths and areas they may look to improve. With the introduction of the second wild-card team in the postseason, clubs may be more likely to see where they are before deciding definitively if they want to buy or sell.

The three teams below are each in a unique position with one in a rebuild and the other two on the precipice of a potential major shakeup.

And each could have a big impact on this year’s trade deadline on July 30.

Biggest trade piece: RHP Mason Miller

The A’s came into the season much maligned after team owner John Fisher announced the team’s plans to temporarily move from Oakland to Sacramento before eventually landing in Las Vegas. But since the start of season, Oakland has played better than expected considering the team is still rebuilding and the stadium issues.

The best thing to come out of Oakland this season has been rookie fireballer Mason Miller, who has turned into maybe the most dominant closer in baseball. Miller, who owns a 0.89 ERA, is 9-for-9 in save opportunities and his 103 mph fastball is getting lots of attention around baseball.

With Miller dominating and Oakland still a ways away from reaching the postseason, it’s fair to wonder if Oakland would shop their closer, even this early in his career. Historically, teams who aren’t ticketed for October usually aren’t keeping their closers around, especially one as dominant and electric as Miller.

Miller has come up in preliminary trade conversations around the league, sources confirmed to Yahoo Sports. As the trade deadline gets closer, Miller could become the type of player whose acquisition changes a playoff race.

The benefit for Oakland is it has leverage and the longer it waits, the more teams will need that impact arm. It will likely take a haul to get Miller. For a team like the Baltimore Orioles who has the pieces and the need, it may be the move to help get over the hump and reach the World Series.

Biggest trade pieces: 3B Nolan Arenado, 1B Paul Goldschmidt, RHP Ryan Helsley

It wasn’t supposed to look this bad in St. Louis when it decided to go for it, but after losing 91 games last year, things have not gotten better. St. Louis currently sits at the bottom of the NL Central and while the franchise isn’t one that usually goes into rebuild mode, after deciding not to go full rebuild last season, it may be time to reconsider that position.

Third baseman Nolan Arenado and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt are two of the bigger names in baseball. Their production over the past two seasons has not lived up to their star status. This season, each has taken significant steps back and, after catcher Willson Contreras broke his arm earlier this month, it has put an even bigger spotlight on the team's struggles.

Goldschmidt is in the final year of his five-year, $130 million deal and will be a free agent at the end of the season. Arenado still has three years and $52 million remaining on his deal.

The name that may be the most realistic to move is closer Ryan Helsely, who has one more year of club control after this season before reaching free agency. Helsley has been one of the more consistent relievers in baseball over the past three seasons and could also be a hot name on the trade market.

The Cardinals may not have the appetite to be a seller, but the reality is the team is continuing to get older and at some point, St. Louis needs to get youth on the Major League roster.

The Blue Jays are in last place, which could put players like Bo Bichette (far left), and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (right) on the trade block in the coming months. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
The Blue Jays are last in the AL East, which could put players like Bo Bichette (far left), and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (right) on the trade block in the coming months. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

Biggest trade pieces: LHP Yusei Kikuchi, 1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr., SS Bo Bichette, RHP Jordan Romano

Things have not gone as planned for the Blue Jays.

There was a time when they were viewed as the next great team in the American League. But after disappointing finishes in the postseason back-to-back years, underperformance from their young stars Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette and regression from the rest of the team's roster, the Blue Jays now find themselves at the bottom of the AL East.

Time is no longer on Toronto's side. Bichette and Guerrero will become free agents at the end of next season. Whether the Blue Jays move them or not, the clock has already begun ticking.

It appears Toronto has missed its window to be a true contender and with the Orioles now growing into the juggernaut the Blue Jays were supposed to be, and the Yankees' rediscovery of their form with Juan Soto in the fold, the chances of getting back to the top of the division are extremely remote.

While the Blue Jays have underperformed, they have gotten strong starts to the season from right-hander José Berríos and left-hander Yusei Kikuchi. While Berríos recently signed his seven-year, $131 million deal last offseason, Kikuchi will be a free agent at season’s end and could be a name who would make sense to move as the deadline approaches.

It feels unlikely the Blue Jays would deal either Bichette or Guerrero, but because of all the extenuating circumstances the team faces over the next year, standing pat and having their star duo finish the final year of their deals and getting nothing in return sounds suboptimal and puts the franchise in a much worse position.