With less than one week to the reporting of pitchers and catchers, the St. Louis Cardinals have a few unanswered questions. Some of these could be answered or fortified through a few minor league contracts to the number of remaining free agents.
Will the St. Louis Cardinals sign a new starter before the start of spring training? Will the Cardinals sign a “true” closer? Will the front office pick up a bench bat? These are questions outstanding as spring training approaches faster with each passing day.
Adding to the complexities, an ungodly amount of free agents remain unsigned. So much so that the player’s union is creating their own camp alongside the official MLB camps. Unsigned players will report to this special camp save for those represented by Scott Boras.
So, could the St. Louis Cardinals benefit from the dearth of action in the free agent market? Could or should the St. Louis Cardinals offer a few minor league contracts with invites to spring training to a few of the names waiting on a home in 2018?
I believe the risk would outweigh the cost. In other words, Mozeliak should- at the very least- submit a few offers. The following are a few names to which I think the Cardinals should make a minor league offer.
First up, Bud Norris. Norris fell from grace fairly quickly after his former dominance (at least against the St. Louis Cardinals) as an unknown starter for the Houston Astros eons ago. Now, Norris is listed as a starter/reliever.
To me, the Cardinals would be wise to make him a minor league, 1-year deal. In that year, the Cardinals can try him as a stand-in closer in the minors to see if he could harness the ability to fill in if needed. At a minor league deal price, even failure in this experiment would be tolerable.
Another name worth tossing a minor league contract is Josh Collmenter. While he had a dismal 2017, he was a formidable starting pitcher during his Arizona days. Collmenter carried a 3.54 ERA across six years of service for the Diamondbacks.
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Like Norris before him, Collmenter would work well as a starter/reliever in Memphis to see if he could regain his stuff. A 1-year, minor league deal would not harm the club at all. If Collmenter could regain his 3.00-ish ERA material, he could fill in if needed as both a starter and/or a closer.
Neil Walker, a former top-5 finisher in the rookie of the year campaign and former silver slugger, would look nice in a Memphis Redbirds uniform while serving under a minor league contract. Walker has never really lit up the sky with his hitting, he has carried a 9-year slash of .272/.341/.437.
For comparison sake, Greg Garcia (who I like very much for his scrappiness) has carried a 4-year slash of .257/.372/.351. These two are almost a wash but adding Walker under a minor league deal as protection for the utility players would allow one of these two to blossom and push the other out of consideration.
Notice that I did not mention one outfielder; the St. Louis Cardinals should sign NO additional outfielders. Period. I also omitted the big name free agents like Jake Arrieta or Greg Holland. I did so because they deserve immediate MLB contracts and- in all probability- should be on the 2018 squad of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Who did I miss? Would you offer minor league deals to any free agents? Let me know on Twitter and thanks for reading!