The Cardinals missed on their big bat this offseason, losing outfielder Marcell Ozuna to the Braves, and pivoting away from a Nolan Arenado trade, so where does the team go from here?
While looking at how the 2020 Cardinals could lineup entirely rests on comments from owner Bill Dewitt Jr. During his Q&A at the annual Winter Warmup, he said he does not anticipate a major addition as a possibility for the Cardinals this offseason. That all but removes St. Louis from the Arenado, Mookie Betts, and Francisco Lindor sweepstakes, but does not take away the possibility of a lesser, but still a quality, addition, via free agency.
The pitching corps seems to be set in stone, as the Cardinals have good depth in the bullpen and rotation, and aside from a possible Spring Training invite or two, no additions are expected to be made there. Although, the offense is an entirely different story; the team is relying on a mix of rookie breakouts and unproven, young, high potential players to carry the offense — including Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader, Tommy Edman, Lane Thomas and Rangel Ravelo. Naturally, while these players have the opportunity to shine now, it’s always good to have backup options in camp as well, which the Cardinals do not have. The Cardinals currently have Edmundo Sosa, Austin Dean, Justin Williams and Ramon Urias on the 40 man for offensive depth. However, there are a multitude of free agents that can be acquired on non-guaranteed contracts.
First, looking at the group players available, it is important to remember that the Cardinals have a lack of left-handed hitting depth;Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong and Justin Williams are the only lefties on the 40 man, and two of them are starters, giving the Cardinals one left-handed option off the bench, in Williams. Add that to the departure of Jose Martinez and the addition of the 26th man on rosters, the Cardinals are left with a mostly unproven, and right handed, Rangel Ravelo as the primary pinch hitter off the bench. A left handed, proven, alternative sits on the free agent market in Derek Dietrich. The former Red hit 19 home runs in 2019, mainly being used as the starting second baseman. Add the fact that Dietrich can also play multiple positions, he would be a good fit off the bench for the Cardinals.
Looking further, the Cardinals figure to have two super utility players, guys that can play all around the diamond, on their roster in 2020. That includes Edman and Yairo Munoz;Munoz had a rough campaign last year, and has options, as does Edman if he does not perform up to standards following his 2019 breakout season. Even losing one of those players would leave the Cardinals with less versatility, and that’s where Brad Miller comes in; Miller, who is left handed like Adams, spent 2019 splitting time between the Phillies and Indians. He hit 13 home runs, and had an OPS+ of 135 with the Phillies, meaning his park-adjusted OPS is 35% above league average. In addition to his versatility, Miller is also not far removed from a 30 home run season in 2016,.
Finally, looking at the outfield, the most question marks lie on the grass. O’Neill, Bader, Thomas, Williams and Dean are all heavily unproven, leaving an aging Dexter Fowler as the surest outfielder heading into the 2020 season. There is no shortage of outfielders on the open market, but few give a definite upgrade to the Cardinals. With that said, one free-agent that does provide an immediate improvement is Cameron Maybin; Maybin, 33 on Opening Day, had a resurgent season with the Yankees in 2019, hitting a career high 11 home runs, and recording an OPS of .858, with his park adjusted OPS being 27% above league average. He has the ability to play center field as well, which is something the Cardinals were seeking all offseason. Like Adams and Miller, at this stage in the offseason, Maybin could easily be signed to a minor league contract.
While the big-time addition most fans were looking for does not appear likely, the Cardinals could still easily beef up their roster with a few under the radar adds; Dietrich, Miller orMaybin could end up being the final piece that the Cardinals need to ensure success in their 2020 campaign.