A very early look at future free agent third base options for the St. Louis Cardinals: Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson.
If you found yourself under a metaphorical rock this past week, it’s possible, though extremely unlikely, that you missed that the St. Louis Cardinals and Carlos Martinez reached a $51 million extension. The Cardinals locked up their ace through at least the 2021 season, and have two club options to keep him through 2023.
This got me thinking about the St. Louis Cardinals younger, developing core. Randal Grichuk is under team control through 2020 and Stephen Piscotty until 2021. Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver, and Aledmys Diaz are all controlled through 2022.
I’ve also spent much of my time reading up on the St. Louis Cardinals farm system. If all goes well, there will be another crop of potentially core-quality players reaching the Bigs just as the aforementioned group solidifies itself.
The Cardinals farm system features high caliber depth all around the diamond. Carson Kelly is becoming a worthy heir to Yadier Molina. Delvin Perez has the makeup of a future star at shortstop. Harrison Bader and Magneuris Sierra have the chance to stick as everyday centerfielders. Sandy Alcantara and Junior Fernandez each have the potential to someday head the starting rotation.
Additionally, there are many other prospects in the system who project to get at least a taste of Major League ball, even if their ceilings are admittedly lower. There are two glaring holes, however, at first base and third base. The organizational weakness at first base is not so bad, considering Matt Carpenter is signed through 2021. By then, the St. Louis Cardinals may have a worthy successor.
At third base, however, the hole is an urgent concern. Jhonny Peralta is the likely opening day starter at third base, and he is both old and in the last year of his contract. Jedd Gyorko has not proven himself capable of handling everyday duties. Even if you think he has, the prospect of Gyorko manning third through 2020 (or beyond) is less than exciting.
Potential in house options include shifting Diaz to third, making room for a younger shortstop (like Perez). However, to stick at third, Diaz must keep up an above average offensive profile and adjust defensively. Personally, I think if Diaz changes positions, it will be to second base, not third.
That leaves the Cardinals front office searching outside the organization to solve the one major weakness plaguing the MLB club. Fortunately, the next two offseasons will provide multiple solutions. Specifically, Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson are expected to hit free agency in 2018, before the 2019 season
Can the St. Louis Cardinals afford either of these players? To see, I’ll walk through exactly how much payroll room the front office has to work with. Following that, I’ll evaluate these two targets, including how much it might take to sign them (a lot). Of course, this assumes these players are not extended before hitting free agency.