St. Louis Cardinals: Missing on Josh Donaldson isn’t necessarily bad
Many St. Louis Cardinals fans were disgusted by the news that Josh Donaldson signed a one year deal with the Atlanta Braves, and became even more upset when Bob Nightengale reported the Cardinals made a competitive offer. But did the Cardinals really handle this the wrong way?
Personally, I tend to wait to make judgments on offseason moves individually until the entire offseason is done. Just as you wouldn’t want the St. Louis Cardinals front office to make rash and preemptive judgments, you shouldn’t jump to conclusions based on one miss, especially with the whole offseason ahead of you.
I feel like people are losing sight of this in the Josh Donaldson chaos, but there’s a good reason for it. With the way the front office has come up short of the elite free agents and fans’ expectations time and time again, it can be difficult to remain confident that this time will be different.
I have already discussed in a previous article why I didn’t trust Donaldson to return the large investment that he was sure to get, but this problem is made inconsequential in many respects when talking about a one year deal. However, for the St. Louis Cardinals, there were plenty of reasons to raise eyebrows at Donaldson’s high price.
With a majority of the stars that were available at the beginning of the offseason still in play, including the three fan favorite targets in Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Paul Goldschmidt, the St. Louis Cardinals didn’t need to offer over $23M to Donaldson. They have money to spend, but they aren’t the Red Sox, Yankees, or Dodgers.
The St. Louis Cardinals current payroll stands at $106.9M, and this excludes the estimated $20M that Michael Wacha and Marcell Ozuna will receive in arbitration. If we are using the $177M the Cardinals paid last season as a frame of reference and go up to say, $180M, that would put the team at around $53M in space.
Inserting a $25M Josh Donaldson essentially cuts that in half, and would make it difficult to stay competitive for the biggest names unless you get closer and closer to the $200M mark that few teams are able to approach. And that would be just one other player.
Bill DeWitt and St. Louis Cardinals are already seen as frugal by fans, so it’s hard to imagine them being willing to make a significant bump in the payroll despite what they say. Keeping all of that in mind, I am happy that the Cardinals reportedly remained competitive and reigned back when they did.
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Right now, there’s a major difference between the state of the Cardinals and that of the Braves. There’s an argument that the addition of Donaldson has vaulted the Braves to the upper echelons of the National League, and have put them in a position to make a solid playoff run. Would the St. Louis Cardinals have been able to say that with a $24M+ Josh Donaldson? Probably not.
Many fans are disgruntled because they see this failed signing as a sign that players are turning down playing for St. Louis once again, just as guys like Giancarlo Stanton did before. While I can see where these people are coming from, I also think that there is still plenty of time for things to shape up differently, and there is plenty going on that we don’t know about.
If the St. Louis Cardinals end up with one of more of the other names that fans are coveting, this Josh Donaldson miss will evaporate from the memories of angry fans. On top of that, there is no guarantee that Donaldson will look remotely close to what he did in his 60 PA’s as a Cleveland Indian.
Even if you honestly wanted Donaldson on the team and aren’t just disheartened at the lack of interest of another star player, this shouldn’t be enough to deter the whole offseason. The value still left on the market is more than enough to make it so the Cardinals did not need to try and overpay for a year of Josh Donaldson.