The St. Louis Cardinals organization once again, in their second consecutive off-season, have shown interest in the top free agent to demand the Big Bucks. Supposedly the future 'Face of the Franchise'.
Last season the Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak spent months 'wooing' the Miami Marlins contending for their star Giancarlo Stanton, only to be snubbed. They settled for what they thought to be Marlins second best, Marcell Ozuna. As of yet, Ozuna still has to prove he is the extreme player of his 2017 All Star, MVP contender, Golden Glove and Silver Slugger Award winner season who held a .312 BA that seemed to be the focus of the lucrative trade.
With the Cardinals, 2018, Ozuna did close the season with a .280 BA, even with bringing along a nagging shoulder issue he had while with the Marlins. I might add, his average of 2018 was his second highest in his total six seasons in the majors. Was it tunnel vision by the Cardinals organization concentrating only on his 2017 season to bring him on board with an unhealthy shoulder?
I feel Ozuna will prove to be an essential part of the Cardinals team going forward, but definitely not the "Face of the Franchise".
Now, they have 'shown interest' in the expected hype of the off-season, free agent OF Bryce Harper. Of course, his agent Scott Boras began the frenzy of his 'chargee' last season which pretty much carried through the whole of the 2018 season. He made it known that it would be a demanded 10 year/$400 MM contract to even sit at their table of discussion as a 2019 free agent. However, what Boras didn't foresee was Harper's "slump", so to speak, last season.
Even though only holding a .249 BA playing in 159 games, Harper did fare rather well. He, also, held a .300+ BA in 2017 which Boras is 'banking on'. As Harper's numbers slipped from his 2017 slashline .413/.595/1.0008 to .393/.496/.889 in 2018, he still slugged out 34 HR/100 RBI off 137 hits; and, held an impressive 130-169/BB-SO ratio.
Now most of Cardinals Nation, who don't hold the checkbook, want to see Harper signed - whatever the cost. Strangely enough, it would be those fans who would complain about not enough hits to reach base. They tend to ignore ~ every walk drawn "is" reaching base safely. The left-handed hitter began his major league career at the age of nineteen; therefore, already has seven seasons played at the ripe ol' age of 26. In baseball, an age considered "prime".
The biggest difference between this off-season vs. last, is that the Cardinals (reportedly) have not sat at any table of discussion as they did for Stanton prior to the end of the season. But, Stanton was a 'trade issue', Harper is not. Pure cash on the line. And as contracts go currently, the "opt-out' certainly would be included in such a deal. Even though Harper has stated he "likes playing at Busch Stadium", would he want a future permanent home in St. Louis? Will the Cardinals once again chase a 'ghost' player only to be turned down?
Yes, they do have the money to make a deal. But, the bottom-line is ~ would his agent feel it's right for Harper. More so, does it make "Boras" a lot more money which he expects to bank. He is a shrewd and greedy agent at the least. Personally, I think of Boras as a "Carpetbagger" of old. Just my opinion.
BACK-UP PLAN FOR THE CARDINALS
Also reported, Cardinals organization are compiling a second list of possibles. A "Plan B" so to speak, should the Harper deal not become reality.
The name of 3B Josh Donaldson, again/still, on the list of consideration. AND, I may have to eat some crow should this deal actually be made. Yes, in his eight year American League career, he is a five time MVP contender with winning the award in 2015. Three time All Star and two time Silver Slugger Award winner. But, coming from the AL, would he quickly adjust to National League pitchers? Will he remain healthy having battled a calf injury which plagued a portion of 2017 into most of his 2018 season?
The 32 year old (will turn 33 in December) has held a .275 career BA. Even though his 2018 season with the Toronto Blue Jays was definitely not good, only 32 games played - .234 BA/.423 SLG. He was traded to the Cleveland Indians early September and in his 16 games played, closed with a .280 BA/.400 OBP/5.20 SLG/.920 OPS ~ back on track to the Donaldson of old. BUT, as the Cardinals are looking for a lefty at the plate with power, being a right-handed hitter will he fit the bill for St. Louis. He is a very good third baseman, I will give him that. Hmmm, when healthy.
When Donaldson's name came into Cardinals related discussions at mid-season before the trade deadline, I certainly was not on board. But, Fox Sports Midwest of course, they show a positive.
Donaldson was shown in the #2 spot. Now that OF Tommy Pham has since been 'moved' to the Tampa Bay Rays and lefty Dexter Fowler's future still in question, "IF" Donaldson is signed, would he be the Cardinals #3 hitter instead? Not the lefty the Cardinals are searching for. A give-and-take situation as he still has the capability for pop. It's not that Donaldson would be a bad addition, I admit. But, with a calf muscle injury, it can easily reoccur. Just sayin'.
On the flipside, Cardinals did take Ozuna for a price knowing of his injury of sorts, but thought improvement would win out without surgery. Do they extend an offer to another with history? At least with Donaldson, they know exactly what was going on and seemingly, with a small sample, is fully recovered.
Ozuna's situation really didn't come to light until mid-season or later this past season. Even though, he has taken the step to 'get right'. Reportedly, he and shoulder will be ready for Spring Training and beyond in 2019. And, maybe, both would 'feed' off one another to produce at the plate. Spurring healthy competition among the rest of the team.
What we do know, Cardinals certainly would not have to put out 10 Yr/$400 MM to sign a deal. Just my opinion, the new "Face of the Cardinals Franchise" will be our own CF Harrison Bader.
If only there was a crystal ball.
OF Michael Brantley (31 year old, 10 career with the Indians) who has had back to back All Star seasons.
LHP/Reliever Andrew Miller (33 year old, past three seasons with the Indians of his career 13.) went from a 1.44 ERA/62.2 IP in 2017 to a 4.27 ERA/34 IP in 2018.
My favorite, 1B Paul Goldschmidt (31 years old with the Arizona Diamondbacks his career 8 seasons). "Goldy" hits from the right, great first baseman and holds a career .297 BA. However, the D'Backs exercised their option for 2019, $14.5 MM, moving his FA out to 2020. Thus based on what most are saying ~ not worth a 'one year deal' and prospects given up. Unfortunately with a heavy heart, I must agree.
Shoot, for the price of Harper, Cardinals would be able to sign all of the above - maybe capture the services of FA 3B Mike Moustakas in the mix and still have money left over!
NO MATTER THIS OFF-SEASON OUTCOME FOR THE CARDINALS ~
Rest assured some fans will hold true to their complaining. Some of the disgruntled Cardinals fans feel Mozeliak "does nothing". I believe they are totally wrong. He and owner Bill DeWitt have a plan, have a reality list that guide them. And neither are in the business to lose contrary to opinions of some.
We, as fans, are not privy to 'sit down talks' and we have no idea the stress of planning that goes into such "deals". We do not get a map of the full picture. It's not simply ~ just writing a check.
Do I feel Harper would be a good fit for our Cardinals? Yes. We certainly wouldn't have to give up the farm to bring him on board. And the organization have trimmed down their money obligations this season. Until he would hit the field, would those disgruntled complain about his 'defensive skill'. He's lacking in defense in the eyes of beholders and expectation, but that certainly can improve also. However, we would hear ~ one spends all that money and this is what we get? Yep ~ it's a head scratcher. But, they are out there ~ all over the country for all teams.
Real life baseball is NOT Fantasy Baseball. And to date, John Mozeliak and Mr. DeWitt are not going to part ways.
Thank you for reading. You may also follow me on Twitter @elichap822.