It’s been a slow off-season for all of baseball, but especially for Cardinal fans hungry for a better team; minor league infielders Jose Rondon and Max Moroff are all the team has signed so far. Unfortunately, we’ve got more waiting to do.
#1 on the fans list of things to do is re-sign Yadier Molina. The future Hall of Famer probably won’t sign for a while. People need to remember that free agency normally goes in a pecking order; the top guys normally sign first to set the market, then the guys below them start coming off the board. For catchers, that’s J.T. Realmuto; from the rumors on the web, it doesn’t look like there has been any movement on the Realmuto front. The Phillies are probably the front runners, but teams like the Angels, Marlins, Blue Jays, Padres, and Nationals have all been linked to catchers; the Yankees and Mets were in on him at one point too, but both have likely addressed their catcher situation. Only one team can sign Realmuto, so Yadi, along with trade candidate Willson Contreras, will be the fallback options for those left out.
Now, the best thing for the Cardinals would be to sign him before Realmuto is off the market, but I don’t see it happening. From a baseball perspective, Yadi moving on would not be the worst thing in the world. Andrew Knizner is ready to take over, as long as there is a veteran presence with him on the bench – think re-signing Matt Wieters. A 2 year deal for Yadi (which is what he’s rumored to be seeking) would block and potentially stop the development of Knizner; it could also potentially impact next Ivan Herrera, the next catcher in line.
There is also the matter Adam Wainwright. Again, we might have to wait for some of the bigger name pitchers to come off the market. Wainwright is the only pitcher the Cardinals are interested in at this point; if he were to sign somewhere else, they would probably look to another low cost option. I’m more on board with signing Wainwright because he’d take a one year deal with a lower salary (with incentives); he’s done the same thing the last 2 seasons.
Outside of these 2 moves, I don’t see anything else happening. I’m not hopeful Kolten Wong will be back; he’s interested, but I don’t see the team paying him what he’s deserved. I don’t see the team splurging on George Springer; they have been adamant about not having payroll flexibility right now and they won’t spend the amount needed to get the biggest name on the outfield market. Nor will they spend for Marcell Ozuna, Nelson Cruz, or D.J. LeMahieu.
The best we can hope for is a bad contract trade or 2. I’m not talking about Nolan Arenado or Giancarlo Stanton. David Peralta‘s name came up recently, and while he’s a low cost option ($15M over the next 2 seasons), he’s not a guy that will fix the Cardinals problems; the Diamondbacks probably won’t take on a contract like Matt Carpenter‘s or Dexter Fowler‘s in return. The Cardinals won’t find a deal that matches up for one of their contracts; the guys teams are looking to possibly move either make more than the Cardinals want to take on (Albert Pujols, Andrew McCutchen) or have a long term deal (Arenado, Stanton) and the Cardinals don’t know what their long-term financial situation will be after the pandemic.
There is a bright side for Cardinals fans: they aren’t selling off players like their NL Central competition. The Cubs have cut Kyle Schwarber and traded Yu Darvish; they also have Conteras and Bryant available. The Reds traded closer Raisel Iglesias and are listening to offers starters Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo. The Brewers traded off former closer Corey Knebel and have only really added fringe players.
The Central can be won pretty easily this year; unfortunately the other NL divisions looked pretty stacked. Let’s hope the Cardinals can make it back to the post season, but making it past the first round won’t be happening.