St. Louis Cardinals: All I want for Christmas is you
By Nathan Grime
Tis the season. As Christmas approaches, the St. Louis Cardinals have already added a big bat, a rotation arm, and a bullpen piece. Here’s a name that should be at the top of their remaining Christmas list.
Eric Hosmer. The St. Louis Cardinals aren’t shying away from the fact that Marcell Ozuna isn’t the only new run producer they’re hoping to have to begin the 2018 season.
Hosmer, 28, is a free agent, and would immediately have a home in the middle of the Cardinals’ lineup were he to sign with St. Louis.
Last season with the Kansas City Royals, Hosmer slashed .318/.385/.882 with 25 home runs, and 94 runs batted in. All this he did while playing gold-glove defense in 162 games, and also received the American League’s Silver Slugger award for first basemen.
It’s no secret the St. Louis Cardinals aren’t quite sure what their plan is for first base in 2018. Jose Martinez did an admirable job in the final months of the 2017 season at the plate, but he was a liability defensively.
The club has already told Matt Carpenter to prepare for a super-utility role next season, so he’s not the de-facto first baseman either. That’s not a knock on Carpenter. His versatility is something the St. Louis Cardinals could use next season.
Even though Carpenter had a down year at the plate last year, he managed a .384 on-base percentage, his best since he broke onto the scene in 2013. Hosmer offers that kind of on-base potential with more or less the same amount of power, but his ability to hit for average and his defensive prowess would be an improvement.
The market seems to be moving slowly on Hosmer, and for first basemen in general. Mitch Moreland was the first big name to come off the board when he signed with the Boston Red Sox earlier this week.
The teams most closely connected to Hosmer at this point are the San Diego Padres and the Kansas City Royals. Expect the Padres to look into a reunion with free agent Adrian Gonzalez to fill their first base need.
As more days pass without Hosmer finding a home, more teams figure to throw their hat in the ring for the first baseman. The Cardinals are in prime position financially to outbid the Royals for Hosmer.
They missed out on the “opportunity” to shoulder Giancarlo Stanton‘s mega-contract when he declined to waive his no-trade clause to St. Louis earlier this offseason. Trading Mike Leake in August took his $80+ million contract off the books. Adam Wainwright is entering the final year of his contract.
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The signings and trades the St. Louis Cardinals have made so far this offseason haven’t impacted their financial flexibility either. Ozuna is still arbitration eligible. Pitchers Miles Mikolas and Luke Gregerson both signed for two years and less than $20 million a piece. And if Mikolas is as good as everyone says he can be, that would be a steal.
Another move the Cardinals say they’re ready to make is for another big bat. The names most associated with St. Louis so far are a trio of third basemen: Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, and Evan Longoria. The San Francisco Giants, also former suitors for Stanton, traded for Longoria earlier today.
The likelihood that the Cardinals would squander enough prospects to satisfy the Baltimore Orioles or Toronto Blue Jays for either Machado or Donaldson remains low. Signing Hosmer would cost the Cardinals nothing but money, which they have plenty of.
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A lineup with Ozuna and Hosmer would instantly compete with the Chicago Cubs for the most feared in the National League Central Division. The Cardinals have pieces in place already to compliment an Ozuna and Hosmer duo in the middle. They just have to want it more.