Well, it is that time of year again, when teams try to look to next year and beyond with moves to try to improve their rosters and ultimately their fortunes, in hopes of a championship banner.
All teams have the same three options. Negotiate with a Free Agent, talk trade with an opposing club or Look to their own minor league system. Over the years we have seen wild money being spent on journeymen players. We have also seen team's purse strings close tighter than the bite of an Alligator. This year many teams will be counting pennies. With Zero gate receipts and and Zero concessions (food and ballpark souvenirs) as well as abbreviated TV/media revenue teams are in a budget battle.
The cardinals have on the books for a 26 man roster payroll of approximately $124,516,666. It has been stated that the Cardinals are looking to stay around $155,000,000. That leaves 30,483,334 available. What can they do with that?
What is immediate need?
Well, I think most would agree that our offense needs work, specifically more consistency. The short season exposed this in the offense this year. Just as the playoffs did to last years squad. Paul Goldschmidt the only player to hit .300 this year (.304). Only two other players hitting over 260; Kolten Wong .265 and Yadier Molina .262. St Louis was 22nd in BA, 14th in OBP, 30th in HRs, 28th in RBIs in 2020 (Not that much different than 2019 23rd, 15th, 24th, 21st). In fact 2019 and 2020 could almost be twins. in that only 1 300 hitter Tommy Edman .304 and only 2 players above the the .260 mark in Wong .285 and Molina .270. With Wong and Molina potentially gone, the need to find consistently productive bats should become a priority.
Our own Free Agents
Then there is what will we have to offer? I do see St Louis signing Molina in the $10 - $11 million (X 2 years). Market value for Molina is around $9M. Then Adam Wainwright for about $6 million (which is right at market value). Which leaves anywhere from $13 to $14 million maybe up to $18 million. This could also leave them $9 million for Wong, but that would stifle the teams ability to make any real free agent offer. It is a cinch we probably will not sign all three, and at this time Edman has been named the second baseman.
Where do we find these bats?
That is the $30 million dollar question. At this point in time given the climate of the market there is literally no door closed. However, there are also not that many doors available given the teams presumed restraints.
The outfield has pretty much under performed for the last 2 or 3 years. There are a lot of questions with the current group of Harrison Bader, Tyler O'Neill, Dexter Fowler, Lane Thomas, Dylan Carlson, Austin Dean and Justin Williams
Williams, I don't see him sticking with the club. Bader, I think is on his last chance with St Louis he has been woefully inconsistent for the last 3 years. O'Niell, needs consistent playing time He has 30+ HR power and has been cutting his K-rate every year baring a new face I think LF may be his job to lose. Fowler, while he has declined since his first year he has been "consistent" and could be a back up or since there is only one year left on his contract he could be released in the Spring. Carlson - His bat showed some pop with 11 Extra Base hits in 110 AB. There is enough there he should get a solid chance at one of the 3 OF spots. Thomas - Small sample size but has shown power. He will also get a shot most likely in CF to challenge Bader. Dean Could be a wild card but virtually an unknown. Good hitter for Average but not a big power hitter. he could be in the Spring Training mix
One prospect who might get a look could be #16 Jhon Torres (Peoria A) Good average hiter who has shown some power.
Other positions to look for help
Third Base Right now if you look at a Cardinal depth chart Matt Carpenter is there I don't think anyone can deny he is no longer the hitter he once was.
Minor league options.
Third Base seems to be the crowded spot right now in the Cardinals Farm system.
#2 Nolan Gorman (Palm Beach A+) in the two years in the St Louis system spanning 188 games has hit 32 HRs and 106 RBI. Still possibly a year or two away.
#8 Elehuris Montero (AA Springfield and on the 40 man roster) not the power of Gorman but still a good bat that should open some eyes in Spring Training.
#24 Juan Yepez. (Springfield AA) Yepez can play 3B/1B/OF he has flown under the radar but has moved up steadily. He could make it as a utility player/PH.
So what about outside?
It would appear that if the Cardinals are to look anywhere it will be more that likely the outfield and or Third base.
Free Agents - For starers Houston will lose one or 2 outfielders given that all THREE are Free Agents. you also had a few players that signed one year deals last year in hopes for a big payday. Given the expected meager budget that many teams could be operating with. Players such as Catcher J.T. Realmuto(30) who figures a market value of $22.7M or Outfielder George Springer(31) $25.2M. May have some trouble getting offers. As for the Cardinals given what the "unofficial" budget is($18M max) I don't see either coming down that far. Others with seemingly high price tags are Micheal Brantley(34) $21M, Marcel Ozuna(30) $20M, and Marcus Semien(30) $19M. One way or another Houston will have to PAY to keep either Springer or Bradley as Josh Reddick the 3rd FA OF won't be that expensive to keep(Market value of $3.5 - $4M) So if they try to keep Brantley Springer becomes available and vice versa. Brantley is a LH bat which the Cardinals will sorely need with losing Wong.
Ozuna Possible but not likely that the Cardinals go here but it could happen. It would have to be a 3 year deal. north of $60M
Semien would be a good addition but would stretch the budget given his market value of $19M
Some others of note that could make an impact and be within budget.
Didi Gregorius(31) LH hitting SS with Average pop in the bat, hits for good average and does not strike out much. His Market Value would be in the $10M.
Andrelton Simmons(31) RH SS Hits for good average, not much power, but low strikeout totals. He does not help the LH side. A market value of $7.5- $8M
Marwin Gonzalez(31) SH 3B Not a power hitter, but slightly above average hitter with an average strikeout rate. He would give help to the left side. He would be very affordable at a $3.5M market value.
Jackie Bradley Jr.(30) LH CF Average to below average hitter with some power and mid to high Strike Out range. with about an $11M market value.
Jonathan Villar(29) SH OF Above average hitter with some power but high Strike Out rate His market value of only $2.7M he could be a low risk good reward piece for 3 - 4 years.
Joc Perderson(29) LH LF slightly below average hitter with power and not a bad Strike Out rate, and an attractive Market value of $6.5M
In my opinion there are two SS that could be targets Fransisco Lindor(27), Cle and Trevor Story(28), Col. Both Free Agents in 2022. Both have good power and good hitters as well Lindor does not Strike Out as much and is regarded as the better defender.
For Lindor you could be looking at a couple of pitching prospects such as Junior Fernandez, Johan Oviedo, Angel Rondon. You might be able to deal Jose Martinez with Lindor being arb eligible and a 2020 salary of over $17.5M you would be looking at $20M+ they would also welcome IF help as they are probably 3/4 of their 2020 infield. So might cost a high prospect such as Elehuris Montero or Edmundo Sosa or even MLB player such as an Tommy Edman
Story, the Rockies need BP help with a combined 5.25 ERA The Rockies need arms again Junior Fernandez, Ryan Helsley, john Brebbia would all be candiadtes. it could also take an MLB bat or glove so Bader or O'Niell could be possible here as well.
Matt Chapman(27), Oak Power bat so-so average good fielder. Currently at a touch over league minimum and not arb eligible until after the 21 season and Free Agent in 2024. A IF prospect such as Montero and a 1B option like Rangel Ravelo under team control in 2021 and 22 not a FA until 2026. and probably a pitching prospect like Alvaro Seijas or a Griffin Roberts.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr.(27) TB, Not arb eligible until 2024 hits for good average and developing power he could be a solid OF piece for a few years. Catching could be a position that might attract a deal Julio Rodriguez(AA Spr) could be an option here he is 23 and possibly ready for 2021/22. You would have to add another piece like Montero or a pitcher.
These are my thoughts let me know what you think.