St. Louis Cardinals: Revisiting Jarrod Dyson
By Zach Gifford
Since signing free agent center fielder Dexter Fowler, the St. Louis Cardinals Hot Stove has cooled off. Should the front office look to fire it up again?
When the St. Louis Cardinals signed Dexter Fowler, the team filled its biggest hole. The starting lineup for opening day appears set. However, as the St. Louis Cardinals and fans have seen over the past few years, contending teams need more than a starting nine.
The infield depth appears to be a strength after the emergence of Jedd Gyorko and steady play from Greg Garcia. Both can play a strong second or third base. Garcia has proven to be a fine backup option at short, while Gyorko is more than capable of filling in at first.
The outfield depth is a bit more concerning. Currently, the fourth and fifth outfielders for the upcoming season are Tommy Pham and Jose Martinez. While Martinez has put together two straight solid seasons in AAA and played well in his brief MLB debut at the end of 2016, he has not proven he can succeed over a full major league season. Tommy Pham has consistently been held back by injuries.
Harrison Bader could provide another option in the outfield, but the 22-year-old prospect struggled in his first taste of AAA ball. He needs to further develop and refine his approach at the plate before he takes on Major League pitching. Therefore, he would benefit more by staying in Memphis for the upcoming season where he will be an everyday player.
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Having a proven outfielder to provide depth is important for the St. Louis Cardinals. Randal Grichuk has suffered from some brutal cold streaks in his young career, and having a dependable player who could give him a break throughout the season should be a priority. Additionally, this player ideally would be able to serve as a primary backup both for Fowler in center and Piscotty in right.
Enter the Kansas City Royals. Before signing Fowler, the Cardinals were rumored to be in on a trade for Lorenzo Cain. Tough decisions lie ahead for the Royals, as multiple players are set to hit free agency for the first time. Of course, Cain is one of those players.
Obviously, the Cardinals ended their pursuit of Cain when they signed Dexter Fowler. However, also mentioned in the rumors was Jarrod Dyson. Trevor Hooth discussed how Dyson might fit in with the St. Louis Cardinals here.
Dyson has been worth more than 2.0 fWAR in three of the past four years serving primarily as a platoon partner or backup for the Royals. While he has been below average at the plate for his career, his projected slash line of .268/.330/.371 is acceptable for a depth outfielder. Additionally, his speed would make him a weapon as a late game pinch-runner.
Dyson’s value is primarily through speed and defense. He has stolen more than 26 bases in every season since 2012 and eclipsed 30 steals in four out of five seasons. Defensively, he has played elite outfield defense, posting career UZR/150 numbers of 27.5, 20.4, and 26.4 respectively in left-, center-, and right field.
He would fit the Cardinals stated goals of improving the team defense and getting more athletic. He fits the bill as someone the Royals might sell, as he is one of the players who will be a free agent after the upcoming season.
In their trade with the Chicago Cubs, Jorge Soler‘s power intrigued the Royals; developed power is not something the small market team can afford in free agency. If they were to trade away Jarrod Dyson, they would want another young power hitter in return. With Eric Hosmer set to hit free agency next year, the Royals might especially value a player who could fill that first base role in the future.
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Given the circumstances, Matt Adams looks like a clear trade candidate. While he only is under team control for two more seasons, his current lack of on field success means he will be cheaper to re-sign long-term (if the Royals should decide to pursue that route).
While Soler homered once in every 18.9 at-bats last year, Adams homered once in every 18.6. This would have matched Kendrys Morales (now a Toronto Blue Jay) for the best rate on the Royals in 2016. Defensively, Adams has rated above average at first each of the last three seasons.
The Royals would likely require an additional prospect in return, since Adams is only under team control for two more seasons. This could mean someone like Trey Nielsen or Corey Littrell, ranked 28th and 30th among St. Louis Cardinals prospects.
Nielsen has performed well in his first two Minor League seasons and could be ready to contribute at the MLB level within the next two seasons. Littrell has had success both as a starter and reliever over his first few years in the Minor Leagues. Either of these players would help build pitching depth at the higher levels of the Royals farm system, and both could potentially break into the MLB relatively soon.
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Of course, there are a few reasons the Cardinals might be hesitant to pursue this trade. First, Matt Adams is set to be the St. Louis Cardinals primary backup at first base in the upcoming season. Additionally, he has been a potent bat off the bench late in games. In 100 career ABs as a pinch-hitter, Matt Adams has hit .330 with 7 homers and a .600 slugging percentage.
Further, without Adams, Gyorko would be the primary backup at first base. Gyorko’s value to the St. Louis Cardinals lies in his versatility to play any spot on the infield, and tying him to first base would limit his worth.
Lastly, there are still low-cost options on the free agent market. Two weeks ago, I wrote about the possibility of pursuing Ben Revere, who I see as a poor man’s Dyson. Other similar possibilities include Rajai Davis, Gregor Blanco, Coco Crisp, or Peter Bourjos.
The outfield free agent market is still developing, and the Cardinals might prefer to look back here in February to address this need. Here, they likely will be able to find a backup on a cheap short-term deal without giving up any prospects.
Next: Is Matt Adams On The Trade Block?
Ultimately, it is unlikely that the St. Louis Cardinals will make a move to bolster their outfield depth in the immediate short-term. However, when they do decide to address this roster weakness, it would make sense to touch base with their rivals down I-70.