The Cardinals WAR Totals

Each year, I look at the WAR for individual Cardinal players and look at how they were acquired to see where the Cardinals are struggling to find players. This year is done, but the exercise is pretty meaningless compared to a normal season; I found a few different reasons for this.

First, the short season doesn’t give us the full picture of how good (or bad) a player truly was. Paul Goldschmidt was the best player on the team, but his WAR was a meager 1.7. In a normal season, that might be equal to about 5.0. The Cardinals used 44 players this season, and only 18 were in the positive; they had 7 at 0.0 and 19 that were negative.

On top of the short season, the Cardinals were pressed to play guys that weren’t ready for the Majors. Roel Ramirez, Johan Oviedo, Jesus Cruz, Rob Kaminsky, and John Nogowski were guys added during the season that had negative WAR. Had there not have been a Covid outbreak with the team, these guys would have never been on the 40-man roster.

The second issue for the Cardinals is this was not a good team. The offense was carried by Paul Goldschmidt. The outfield competition between Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader, and Lane Thomas fizzled early; as a result, the team was forced to promote top prospect Dylan Carlson. Carlson proved that he might not be quite ready in his first stint, but put it together the second time he was called up. The team didn’t get much from backups Austin Dean (due to injury and Covid) or Justin Williams (due to unknown circumstances). The outfield issue looks worse with the strong play of Marcell Ozuna and Randy Arozarena, 2 players that the Cardinals moved on from in the off-season.

Prior to the season, this looked like a .500 team; and that’s pretty much what they were. I say that second part as a good thing considering they had 558 in season days on the DL and were forced to use some of the guys mentioned above.

Let’s get to the breakdown.

The largest amount of value came from the MLB Draft; the Cardinals had a WAR of 3.1 from their 16 drafted players. Kolten Wong led the way with 1.2 WAR, while Tommy Edman (0.8), Bader (0.8), and Austin Gomber (0.7) also did well. On the flip side, Jack Flaherty, Jake Woodford, and Ryan Helsley all struggled to -0.3 WAR.

The Cardinals also saw positive results from trades; the roster had 12 players acquired by trade for a total WAR of 2.4. Goldschmidt was the top here, followed by O’Neill at 0.6 and Adam Wainwright at 0.5 (granted, I could have counted him as a free agent, but I went with how the player was originally acquired). The only 2 negative WARs acquired by trade were Thomas (-0.4) and Ramirez (-0.3).

MLB Free Agents came next; the 6 players they signed had a total WAR of 1.7. Much of this came from Kwang Hyun Kim (0.9) and Brad Miller (0.7). The only other positive was Andrew Miller at 0.2. Dexter Fowler was the only negative at -0.1; prior to missing time with his sickness, he was in the positive.

The team carried 3 players that were acquired by waivers, and those players were worth 0.4 WAR. Tyler Webb was the best of the group at 0.4. Ryan Meisinger (0.1) and Ricardo Sanchez (-0.1) were the other 2 players.

The Rule V player, John Brebbia, had Tommy John Surgery and didn’t play.

The big issue were minor league free agents and international free agents.

The 4 minor league free agents cost the team 0.5 WAR this season. Nabil Crismatt was worth 0.0, and the other 3 were all negative – Nogowski (-0.1), Kaminsky (-0.1), and Rangel Ravelo (-0.4).

Most of the negative value from international free agents came from Carlos Martinez; the former ace was worth -1.2 WAR for the season. The remaining 5 players were worth -0.9; Oviedo was -0.5, Junior Fernandez struggled to -0.2, and Alex Reyes and Cruz were at -0.1.

What does all this mean? It’s hard to say. For a guy like Flaherty, he never got going until the postseason; if you look at last season, that was pretty close to same amount of games as his second half breakout. It also didn’t help that he went almost 3 weeks between starts when Covid hit the team. For someone like Oviedo or Woodford, it probably means they need more seasoning in the minors; they were pressed into service a little earlier than they should have been. For O’Neill, Bader, and Thomas, it probably means the Cardinals overvalued what they had and let some other players walk.

This brings me to my next project. I’ve looked at every transaction from John Mozeliak during his tenure as GM/President of Baseball Operations to see where he’s added the most value and trends over the time. I’ll have that done later this week. I’ll then shift to a State of the Cardinals post, recapping 2020 and what needs to be done for 2021.

I’m also considering bringing back my Cardinal Season Primer book for 2021; in the past, it’s had player profiles, minor league depth and scouting reports, articles, and more. Post a comment below if you’d be interested in me bring this back.

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