St. Louis Cardinals: Why the Cardinals have become gun-shy about the “big” free agent.

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 9: Mike Leake
ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 9: Mike Leake /

The St. Louis Cardinals have seemly become gun-shy in the pursuit of “big” free agents. The Mike Leake , Dexter Fowler, and Brett Cecil signings may be three reasons why.

Bill DeWitt and John Mozeliak announced during the Winter Warm Up the St. Louis Cardinals are perfectly comfortable with the roster as it currently stands.  This is a change of tone from November and December.

Why the change in tone?

Many reasons can be attributed.  However, the free agent contracts of Mike Leake in 2015, Dexter Fowler and Brett Cecil year later could be three of the reasons.  The signings of these three players have not rendered the results the Cardinals had hoped.

In December, 2015, the St. Louis Cardinals signed 28-year-old Mike Leake to a five-year, $80 million contract. Leake had spent six years with the Cincinnati Reds, with a 62-47 won/loss record and a 3.87 ERA.  He also had a total WAR of 8.5 and a total RAR of 83 during those six years. However, during his two-year stint with the Cardinals, Leake had a 16-23 win/loss record and a 4.46 ERA.  His total WAR and RAR in those two years was 1.3 and 15 respectively.

On August 30, 2017, the St. Louis Cardinals traded Leake to the Seattle Mariners for minor league SS Rayder Ascanio.  The Cardinals also sent $17 million to the Mariners to help cover the cost of Leake’s remaining contract.

More from Redbird Rants

Brett Cecil was inked to a four-year $30.5 million contract on November 21, 2016.  The 30-year-old left hander was expected to significantly bolster the Cardinals bullpen.

But 2017 ended up being a disappointing year for the veteran reliever. Cecil’s numbers in 2017 improved slightly over his 2016 performance with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Nonetheless, it was disappointing compared to his numbers with the Blue Jays from 2013-2015.

Comparatively, his 3.88 ERA in 2017 was a significant drop off from his ERAs of 2.82, 2.70, and 2.48 from 2013-2015.

His 2017 WAR of .5 was significantly lower than his WARs of 1.3, 1.4, and 1.1 from 2013-2015.

On December 9, 2016, the St. Louis Cardinals signed 30-year-old outfielder Dexter Fowler to a 5-year $82.5 million contract.  Fowler was primarily signed to bat lead off for the Cardinals.  However, Fowler’s stats in this area were disappointing.

Batting in the lead off position, Dexter Fowler only hit .205 with a OBP of .308 and a SLG of .390. Also, Fowler played in only 118 games, primarily due to injuries.  His 420 plate appearances and 420 at bats were his lowest since 2013.

But the news wasn’t all bad on Dexter Fowler.  Hitting anywhere else other than lead off, his offensive numbers improved significantly.  For instance, batting second he had .300 BA with a .386 OBP and a .660 SLG.  His 18 HR and 64 RBI in 2017 were the highest of his career.

Nevertheless, the St. Louis Cardinals front office cannot be satisfied with the results rendered with these three signings.

Because of the money paid to the Mariners to unload Mike Leake and the disappointing 2017 seasons of Brett Cecil and Dexter Fowler, I believe the Cardinals are reluctant to engage in the long-term free agent market.  This is the market the Cardinals need to enter to sign a Greg Holland or a Eric Hosmer.

This is not to say the Cardinals’ front office is not participating in the free agent market during this off-season.  The Cardinals have inked free agent pitchers Miles Mikolas and Luke Gregerson to short-term contracts. They also have traded for young controllable players such as outfielder Marcell Ozuna and pitchers Dominic Leone and Conner Greene.

Admittedly, the slow marker could be attributed to agents such as Scott Boras, who are still looking for the best deal for their clients.   This game of “chicken” between the clubs and the agents could soon end when a club or clubs decide to offer the long-term high dollar contracts.  At this point, when the value is known, the St. Louis Cardinals may enter the free agent market.

Nevertheless, I believe the Cardinals because of the Leake, Cecil, and Fowler contracts will be reluctant participants.

Next: A hard farewell to Grichuk

Will the St. Louis Cardinals re-enter the “big” free agent market?  Let us know your thoughts.