Redbird Droppings: Free Agency, Moises Gomez, Coaching Staff, Qualifying Offers

Free agency has officially started; teams can’t start signing players from outside of their organization until Thursday (see all the dates and free agents here). The Cardinals officially have 2 free agents on the market: Jose Quintana and Corey Dickerson. The chances of their rejoining the team are slim; while Quintana would be a good pickup, the Cardinals have at least 6 guys already signed to start with a few young guys that could step in, and 3 of them are lefties (Jordan Montgomery, Steven Matz, Matthew Liberatore). Dickerson won’t be back.

Minor League free agency starts soon too; the Cardinals took a preempted strike by adding Moises Gomez to the 40-man roster. Gomez led the minors in home runs in 2022, splitting time between Springfield and Memphis. He’ll get a long look at spring training. The Cardinals signed Gomez as a minor league free agent prior to the 2022 season; he had spent his whole career in the Tampa Bay Rays organization prior to that. He’s been added to the Salary Matrix.

The Coaching Staff
The Cardinals announced their 2023 coaching staff over the weekend; we already knew that hitting coach Jeff Albert, pitching coach Mike Maddux, bullpen coach Bryan Eversgerd, and bench coach Skip Schumaker were not returning. The remaining staff will stay in place: assistant coach Willie McGee, 1B coach Stubby Clapp, 3B coach Pop Warner, run production coach Packy Elkins, and bullpen catchers Jamie Pogue and Kleininger Teran. Joining them will be Matt Holliday (bench coach), Turner Ward (promoted to hitting coach from assistant hitting coach), Dusty Blake (promoted to pitching coach from organization pitching strategist), Brandon Allen (promoted to assistant hitting coach from Triple A Memphis manager), and Julio Rangel (assistant pitching coach/bullpen coach).

Rangel is the only outside hire, as he’s previously coached with the Boston Red Sox.

Holliday is a pretty good hire; he’s been volunteering as a coach with the Oklahoma St. Baseball team, whose head coach is his brother. He’s also worked with players in the off-season, most notably re-working the swing of Matt Carpenter prior to him joining the Yankees this past season.

On a side coaching note, Maddux has expressed interest in returning to the Rangers to be their pitching coach; the Rangers fired their pitching coach after the season ended. Maddux held the role from 2009-2015 and lives in the Dallas area. There were rumors he was going to stay with the Cardinals in some capacity, but this move makes a lot of sense if it happens.

Qualifying Offers
With free agency started, we’ll be hearing a lot about the Qualifying Offer. Essentially, the QO is a 1-year contract a team can offer their free agents prior to being able to sign with another team; the QO is set this year at $19.65M for 2023. If a team offers a QO to one of their players and he accepts, it’s a 1 year deal at that amount; if the player declines, their former team will receive a compensation draft pick while the signing team will lose a pick.

Now the Cardinals won’t be making a QO to their free agents; Dickerson won’t come close to that, while Quintana would accept it for a 1-year deal since it’s more then he’d make in 1 season on the free market.

Where the QO will possibly impact the Cardinals is with a free agent signing or 2. There are 2 names on the market that the Cardinals have interest in that will get a QO from their current teams (according to MLB Trade Rumors): Cubs catcher Willson Contreras and Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner. The Cardinals, as a non-revenue sharing team and as a non-competitive balance tax payor, would forfeit their second highest draft pick if they signed one of the accepted QO players; in this case, it would be their second round pick. If they were to sign more then 1 player, a pick from each subsequent round would be forfeited; so if the team were to sign Contreras and Turner (and both had rejected QOs), they would lose their second and third round picks.

While that might not seem like a tall order, remember that the Cardinals tend to build their roster via the farm system and losing 2 early picks would hurt. Look at the 2017 draft, where the Cardinals lost their first 2 picks for hacking the Astros. The players from that draft have a combined bWAR of -0.1 and only Kramer Robertson, Scott Hurst, Kodi Whitley, and Jake Walsh have made the majors; the team also has no notable prospects left in the system from that draft. The flip side is we have some big name prospects as second round picks: Luken Baker (2018), Alec Burleson (2020), Masyn Winn (2020), Tink Hence (2020), and Joshua Baez (2021); Winn and Hence are considered to be major pieces in the near future.

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