With the St. Louis Cardinals not making the playoffs, it is time to look forward. A big part of next year’s outlook will be seeing what moves are made in the free agent market during the off-season.
All potential free agents at the moment could sign an extension before other teams can offer them contracts but, as it stands right now, there are more than a few options available. Some are expensive and some of them are not too expensive. Either way, the St. Louis Cardinals should peruse.
When looking at who can help, it is easy to just pick the best players that will help any team. This article, on the other hand, is focused on the non-blockbuster signings. So, while it would be nice to see Edwin Encarnacion hitting 40 homers in a Cardinal uniform, that just isn’t a realistic option.
The first player I want to throw out there is an honorable mention, because he may cost a lot and he has no MLB playing experience. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is someone who shows great promise of a middle infield superstar. He defected from Cuba and turns 23 in October, officially making him a free agent.
Gurriel has already drawn much interest from the St. Louis Cardinals. If he chooses to play in St. Louis, Alemys Diaz and Gurriel will be a sight to see on the infield and in the batters box. Now, on to the players with MLB service…
Matt Holliday is leaving a key bat missing in the lineup. This is one of the two biggest issues to address for the Cardinals. I think the best option to fill in, without spending a ton, is Josh Reddick. After being traded, Reddick did not play all that well and that will lower his asking price. Plus, being only 29 years old, he is the option that can give any team the most bang for their buck.
Reddick hit .258 with nine RBI in 155 at-bats down the stretch. Not exactly encouraging numbers for Dodger fans, but from a guy who strung together several good seasons in a row, he can be good for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Another option to bring some hitting help is Austin Jackson. With the correct coaching, Jackson could be a great sign. He was limited to 54 games this past season due to injury, which makes the five million he signed for last year drop even lower. And, like Reddick, he is only 29 years old.
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The inconsistency of Jackson over the past few seasons does cause some concern. However, just six years ago he was second in Rookie of the Year voting and Cardinal coaching has a tendency to bring out the best in players. I wouldn’t mind having Jackson signed to a one- or two-year contract.
The final player I would consider, and only as a long-shot who wouldn’t cost a whole lot, is Jeff Francoeur. He has been a journeyman outfielder ever since he rapidly declined from stardom in Atlanta. This one seems crazy, but he is 31, and still has a rocket for an arm. His bat, however, is not quite there. Hence, a decent player for cheap.
I mention this name because of his defensive tools, not because I think he can hit almost .300 with 100 RBIs like he did back in 2006. He hasn’t been completely incompetent with a bat the past few years though– last season he hit .254 with 7 homers.
Taking a look at the other part of the Cardinals team that needs addressing, and hopefully through free agency, is the bullpen. I like Seung-hwan Oh closing but it is more the other parts of the bullpen that may need help. This free agent class is full of that help.
Tim Lincecum is the first guy I’d go for. Just like Francoeur, I am aware this sounds insane especially since “The Franchise” threw only 38 innings this year with an ERA above 9 before he was sent to the minors. I get that. But that was as a starter for all 38 of those innings.
Remember a few years ago with the Giants, when Lincecum struggled as a starter but was brilliant out of the bullpen? He went from struggling back to brilliant. So after a bad year and a league that has given up on him, I truly believe that Lincecum is the best option for what he would cost.
Dustin McGowan is another solid option to look into for middle relief. He is coming off a season where he threw 67 innings with a 2.82 ERA. Those are very reliable numbers to have in the bullpen. He is 34 years old, so there are still pitches left in his arm.
The last contract McGowan had was for one million, and based on his age that number should not have to raise too much higher if at all. That is a plus considering the solid season he just had. He would be able to provide anywhere from middle to late inning help.
Another guy who struggled as a starter, but has shown promise in the bullpen is Brandon Morrow. He was always able to strike guys out but just couldn’t ever figure out a starting role. In San Diego he showed some promise in the few relief appearances he got.
Morrow didn’t sign a huge contract, because frankly he is not worth it. But in 16 innings last year he posted a 1.69 ERA and struck out eight guys. On the downside, he did surrender 19 hits. That is a lot but the hits only led to four runs. At 32 years old he might have a second wind from the bullpen.
All of these players are long shots either because of money or recent performance, but all have a unique upside that could add depth and talent to the Cardinals. There are plenty of free agent options that aren’t mentioned, but these guyswill have a low price tag for what they bring to the table.