The Cardinals enter the offseason with more question marks than they’ve had in recent years. A combination of questionable trades, poor extensions, players not developing, injuries, and the ongoing pandemic have many fans wondering, what exactly are the Cardinals going to do? Maybe the better question should be, what can they do? President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak has said throughout the pandemic that the Cardinals are going to be one of the teams greatly affected by not having fans in the stands.
The Cardinals year in and year out, bring in roughly 3 million fans into Busch Stadium. This provides a big source of their revenue. With the shutdown of baseball in March during Spring Training, at the time, no one fathomed the 2020 season would have no fans in attendance and only 60 games. Midway through the season though, the Cardinals did allow fans into the stadium, however, they were in the form of a cardboard cutout. That was clever, as not only the Cardinals did this, but many teams around MLB were doing so. With an entire season with extremely limited revenue, that puts the Cardinals potentially in a tough spot with what they can do.
Long time Cardinal favorites Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina, along with backup catcher Matt Wieters and utility man, turned DH Brad Miller all became free agents the day after the Dodgers won the World Series. Not long after, the Cardinals declined their team option on fan favorite second baseman Kolten Wong. Many fans are frustrated that we could be potentially losing 3 key players in Wainwright, Molina, & Wong. All 3 have said they would like to return to St. Louis, but understand that it is a business and could seek to play elsewhere. Each are already receiving interest from other teams.
There are some intriguing names on the free agent market that the Cardinals may be interested in. The biggest name is starting pitcher Trevor Bauer. Bauer has been announced as a top 3 finisher for NL Cy Young and seems to be the favorite. Bauer has been on record that he wants to play on 1 year deals, so we will see if he keeps that. Cardinals, normally pitching heavy, adding Bauer would help give them one of the best rotations in the game to go along with Jack Flaherty, KK Kim, & Miles Mikolas (assuming he’s fully healthy at the start of the season). I don’t see the Cardinals signing Bauer, as he is going to command a high salary, whether he honors the 1 year deal or not. Another bigger name they may be interested in is George Springer. Springer would help the outfield situation immensely. However, he is likely going to command a lot of money. Even though he would be a great fit, I don’t see this happening.
So who do the Cardinals go after? As I alluded to earlier, the Cardinals are going to be financially tight. You likely won’t see any major signings. You will likely see the Cardinals be interested in the lower tiered players. Here’s who that would entail.
Joc Pederson. Pederson is coming fresh off a World Series Championship where he hit .382, 2 HR, 8 RBI. However, during the regular season, he was your basic, run of the mill low average power hitter. While the Cards could do without the low average, they could really use his power. The only question is, do they already have Pederson on their roster in Tyler O’Neill? O’Neill is pretty much a right handed version of Pederson, except he’s a better defender. If Pederson signs, I would suspect a platoon with O’Neill.
Jake Odorizzi. Odorizzi is a St. Louis guy. Not only the way he plays, but he’s from nearby Highland, IL. Odorizzi, like the rest of us, would like to forget 2020. He fought with injuries most of the season, which is why he was held to only 4 starts. In those 4 starts, he was less than spectacular. 13.2 innings and allowed 10 earned runs. However, if we look at 2019, he was an All Star. Realistically, look for Odorizzi to be a back of the rotation starter.
Jonathan Schoop. Schoop would fill the void at 2B. Currently, Edman is slated at 2B with Wong being gone. Schoop has bounced around the past couple years but has continued to produce. While he’s not the elite defender Wong was, he is average. The question is, what do the Cardinals value more, offensive production, or defense?
Do not rule out the returns of Wainwright, Molina, and Wong, but at lower deals. The Cardinals are playing the money card so don’t expect a bunch of action out of the Cardinals this offseason. The Cardinals do have a lot of money coming off the books after the 2021 season for a loaded 2022 class, so expect more action then. Could we see an impending free agent trade? Similar to Matt Holliday, Jason Heyward, & Paul Goldschmidt, the Cardinals could look that route. There are already rumors that the Cleveland Indians are wanting to trade Francisco Lindor prior to the start of the season. Lindor is going to command a lot of money in the open market. I’m not saying the Cardinals will go after Lindor, it’s just that this is the route they will more likely take.
While it may be a slow offseason for the Cardinals, it may be better next offseason. This season won’t be a rebuilding season, they are still a good team and should fight for the playoffs, regardless of how many teams make it.