One of the most sought after trade targets this winter will likely be Cardinal outfielder Colby Rasmus. Rasmus was one of the top outfielders in all of baseball offensively last season. He showed many improvements at the plate in his second season, blasting 23 home runs with a .361 on base percentage. The Braves had just seven home runs and a .329 on base in comparison. Obviously, Rasmus would be a huge upgrade production wise, despite being another left-handed hitter.
Rasmus is a more powerful version of what Jordan Schafer was expected to be, with worse defense. He did not play very well in center this year, but his offensive production from such a prime position would make this team close to a top ranked offense. The Braves finished fifth in runs, first in on base percentage, and fifth in weighted on base average (basically a more efficient and accurate form of OPS) in the National League this season. They do not need a ground breaking bat to compete for the division crown, but a bat like Rasmus's would certainly make them a formidable offensive team.
As expected with such a young talent who is still in his pre-arbitration years, Rasmus will not come cheap. He is said to have problems with the Cardinals' manager Tony La Russa, but Rasmus would likely be a Cardinal longer than La Russa if he is retained, given both of their ages. Would the Cardinals consider trading Rasmus despite La Russa possibly only coaching one more season? If they get the right package, they certainly would. But again, that package will need to be a hefty one.
I have mentioned Craig Kimbrel, Omar Infante, and Arodys Vizcaino being a solid starting point in the past, and this is a package I think the Cardinals would entertain. They have problems at shortstop at the major league level, and with the way Infante performed last season they may be willing to give him a shot to play there every day. Craig Kimbrel was one of the top relievers in all of the minors last season and is in line to take over the closer role in Atlanta this season, but relievers are expendable, especially with young arms like Jonny Venters and Stephen Marek in the system. The Cardinals could definitely use Kimbrel with the uncertainty in the back-end of their bullpen. Vizcaino, while injured a good part of this season, is a very talented pitcher who was acquired from the Yankees in the Javier Vazquez trade. Vizcaino would be one of the better pitching prospects in the Cardinals' system if they traded for him.
If they would rather get a Major League player than a prospect, Jair Jurrjens would be another reasonable option. The Braves have starting pitching depth at the Major League level, and despite his great 2009, Jair's repertoire does little to prove he will be a significantly better option than pitchers behind him.
The Cardinals could fill holes for cheap in this trade and strengthen their farm system, but those holes probably will not equal the one left by Rasmus for the following seasons. As I said, that would be a solid starting point, but the Braves may have to give up more players to acquire the talented young Georgia-born, Alabama-raised outfielder. There is certainly a limit to what the Braves will offer, and with their minor league system a bit weaker than it has been in the recent past, giving up too much may not be wise.
Regardless, the two clubs will certainly talk this season, and the Braves will put forth a solid effort to try and acquire him. This will probably happen early in the offseason, with the team looking towards other options if the trade falls through. The Braves main focus will be improving the outfield, and there is no outfielder available better and more affordable -- in terms of contract status -- than Colby Rasmus.