Ahhh it’s that time of year! The turkey is eaten, the Christmas trees are up, and the MLB hot stove is about to be hotter than ever! Monday marks the first day of the annual MLB Winter Meetings in our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. The Winter Meetings have historically been a hot bed of star studded signings and blockbuster trades! The Cardinals had arguably the least successful Winter Meetings last season, losing both Heyward and Lackey to the arch rival Cubs, and getting outbid for the services of David Price by the Red Sox. Looking back now, the Cardinals caught a break by losing out on Price and Heyward, with both having a horrific 2016 campaign. In saying this though, Mozeliak and the Cards must have a significantly better Winter Meetings this year if the club has any aspirations of returning to playing October baseball in 2017! So let’s take a look at some of the players that Mo should be targeting this week and beyond!
Coming off a solid 2016 season for the Cubs, Fowler is one of the top targets for the Cardinals who currently have a vacancy in center field. Fowler would add desperately needed speed and defense to the Redbirds who according to ESPN, ranked 26th and 29th in defense and stolen bases respectively last season. Fowler would also give the Cardinals a true lead off hitter, something the team has been without since arguably Rafael Furcal back in 2011. With Fowler hitting a respectable .276, playing above average center field, combined with possessing speed, Fowler would be an instant upgrade at center field. for the club in 2017! The only downside to Fowler is that he will command a multi-year commitment, and at age 30, the Cardinals may be hesitant to give him a long term contract.
Turner is an interesting option for the Cardinals. Coming off an outstanding 2016 season, where he hit .275, 27 HR, and 90 RBI, Turner would undoubtedly greatly improve the Cardinals lineup. With the departure of Holliday, Turner could come right in and fill the three or four hole in the lineup. A top 4 of Carpenter, Diaz, Piscotty, and Turner doesn’t sound too shabby. According to FanGraphs, in 2016 Turner ranked 1st in defensive rating and 5th in WAR among third baseman. Similar to Fowler, the only downside to Turner is his age. At 32, it is unknown how many productive seasons Turner has left in his career. The Cardinals could then possibly trade Peralta for an outfielder or prospects to have some payroll flexibility with the signing of Justin Turner.
The bullpen is not necessarily a pressing need for the Cards, especially after the signing of Cecil, but a team can never have enough dominant bullpen arms. Jansen is arguably the most dominant reliever in the game along with Aroldis Chapman. Jansen posted a spectacular 1.83 ERA in his dominant 2016 campaign. A trio of Cecil, Oh, and Jansen would undoubtedly be one of the most dangerous and dominant late game trios in baseball. Signing Jansen would relieve some of the pressure off the rotation, turning virtually every game into a six inning outing for the Redbird starter that day. A trio of this caliber would be a game changer if the Cardinals are able to find their way back to the postseason in 2017.
If John Mozeliak is not impressed with how the free agent market is developing, he can always turn to the trade market to improve the club. Players such as A.J. Pollock, Chris Sale, Charlie Blackmon are all rumored to be on the trade block, so this could be a viable option to improve the club. However with any trade, in order to get something of value, you must give something of value. With the Cardinals not having the strongest farm system, and more than likely reluctant to part ways with young controllable talent such as Alex Reyes or Kolten Wong, it is highly unlikely that the club could make a deal for a difference maker such as Chris Sale, A.J. Pollock or Charlie Blackmon. A trade target that Mo can consider is Lorenzo Cain of the Kansas City Royals. With Cain being in the final year of his contract, the Royals are unlikely to resign him and will more than likely be motivated to trade him. Cain ranked 2nd in defense among center fielders in 2016, so the acquisition of Cain would instantly improve the Cardinals’ defense.
The Winter Meetings and the rest of the off season should be exciting for the Cardinals. With the club having a pressing need for a center fielder, it is likely that Mo and the club will be active this winter in order to try to return the Cardinals to the familiar place of playing October baseball!