Updating the Cardinals Off-Season

Since acquiring Jason Heyward, the news around the St. Louis Cardinals has dried up. They have done some minor house cleaning, like cutting ties with Daniel Descalso, bringing in reliever Matt Belisle, and hiring Chris Correa to replace Dan Kantrovich as their new Scouting Director, but nothing major since has happened.

Now that the Chicago Cubs have signed Jon Lester Wednesday morning, many of the dominos should start to fall.

The lineup is pretty much set other than a right handed complement for Matt Adams; this is one of their areas of focus for this week’s winter meetings. The Cardinals kicked the tires on Rickie Weeks yesterday and have shown a little interest in Mark Reynolds.

Weeks is an interesting select; he’s never played first base and he’s been on the decline for the last few years. Since his peak in 2010, he’s seen his WAR gradually drop before slightly rebounding last season (2010: 5.4; 2011: 3.3; 2012: 0.9; 2013: -0.4; 2014: 1.2). Last season with the Brewers, he lost his starting spot to Scooter Gennett and was used mostly off the bench, which is what the Cardinals are seeking.

For his career, Weeks has a .261/.385/.448 slash line against lefties with an ISO of .187 (for the record, his numbers against righties are .244/.332/.416 with a .171 ISO). While the ISO looks nice, only 41 of his 148 homers have come against lefties, but that is due to the fact that he’s had almost twice as many at bats against righties. Last season, Weeks numbers were a little off his career lines; he hit righties better, but his lefty numbers were pretty much in line with his career marks with an increase in power (2014: .256/.361/.504, .248 ISO) . He also walked more and struck out less against lefties.

Reynolds is more of a worrisome selection. He’s never had much going for him other than power; he can hit the ball out of the park, but he’ll also strike out 30% of the time. He typically carries a low average and a decent walk rate (career slash line of .229/.324/.457). The real problem is the fact that he doesn’t have much of a lefty/righty split for his career and he struggled against lefties in 2014. For his career, Reynolds slashes .231/.351/.458 against lefties and .229/.314/.457 against righties; his ISO is .226 against lefties and .228 against righties. In 2014, he batted .173/.277/.296 against lefties; the Cardinals should pass on him.

In addition to the 2 Brewers, the Cardinals are also looking at internal options; Tuesday, John Mozeliak confirmed that the team could use Xavier Scruggs or outfielder Stephen Piscotty if a move isn’t made. Scruggs isn’t surprising since that his natural position and he played a few games there with the Cardinals last September.

Piscotty was a surprise. The outfielder has played third base when he was at Stanford and after he was drafted in 2012, but he’s primarily been a right fielder since then. There have been plenty of concerns over his lack of power for a corner infielder; those concerns would be greater at first base. In 2014, he hit 9 homers at Memphis; his career high came in 2013, where he hit 15 between Palm Beach and Springfield. His ISO last season was .118. His offensive profile is pretty good besides the power; he’s somewhat patient and he doesn’t strike out much. He will also hit doubles.

(For full scouting reports of Piscotty and Scruggs, check this out.)

The Cardinals need a power upgrade, and first base is the logical source for it; it’s unknown if Jason Heyward will find his power stroke with the team and it’s highly unlikely that Peralta will hit another 21 out of the park. Adams has shown power in 2013, but adding a right handed compliment for him is the best option.

The pitching is almost set too. While the Cardinals were linked to Lester and Max Scherzer, neither were going to be in the team’s rotation next season; both were/are too expensive. Yesterday, Jon Paul Morosi reported that Scherzer’s camp is looking for a $200M contract, which has essentially closed the door on the Cardinals pursuit of the pitcher.

Mozeliak said on Tuesday that the team is mainly looking for depth; most likely someone willing to come in as a spot starter/long arm in the bullpen that can step in for Carlos Martinez (or whoever the 5th starter is) in case of struggles. They believe that they’ll know their options in January, around the same time that they found Pat Neshek last off-season.

One move that could come quicker could be an extension for starter Lance Lynn; Mozeliak met with his agent on Tuesday. Lynn is arbitration eligible for the first time and will see a large bump to his $535,000 he made in 2014. An extension would likely keep his salary lower than if he were to negotiate year to year and possibly buy out a free agent year or 2. Lynn is said to be interest in an extension, so this could be something that comes together quickly. Extensions at this point of a career are not new to the Cardinals; they have given out deals to Albert Pujols, Adam Wainwright, Allen Craig, Jaime Garcia, and Matt Carpenter. Some of those deals worked out well, while others haven’t; it’s a risk that many teams are starting to take.

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