St. Louis Cardinals: One player could fill two needs
By Matt Graves
Two of the only roles left the St. Louis Cardinals need to address as they move towards the 2019 season are a backup catcher and a left handed bat off the bench. Let’s take a look at one player who fits both of those roles.
The St. Louis Cardinals offseason has been going great thus far. Fans should really be proud of not only the team as a whole but John Mozeliak in specific for really making this team better. After the signing of Andrew Miller, the Cardinals really only have one more definite need along with a stated goal that they need to fill before going into the 2019 season.
Obviously there are more things the Cardinals could do to improve, such as upgrading the bullpen or potentially signing a certain free agent right fielder. Even if no more major moves are made, the team is looking very good and I don’t think anyone could argue it was not a successful offseason.
According to John Mozeliak, the only definite things left on his offseason shopping list are a backup catcher as well as a left handed bat. A backup catcher is the only absolutely necessary addition and the left handed bench bat was just an internal goal. As of right now the St. Louis Cardinals bench includes Jedd Gyorko, Jose Martinez, and Yairo Munoz as well as Tyler O’Neill, but no backup catcher with Francisco Pena being a free agent.
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The Cardinals are not going to play with a six man bench, and most likely not even a five man bench, as the last few seasons have shown the Cardinals prefer an 8th arm available in the bullpen. With Gyorko and Munoz being the same type of utility player, it would not be surprising to see the more expensive player, Gyorko, being traded regardless of how the team addresses the rest of the bench.
Conveniently, there is one player that could fill both the left handed bench bat and backup catcher role while being extremely cheap. Enter Stephen Vogt. Vogt gained starting experience as a member of the Oakland A’s at the beginning of his career and was named to the All-Star game in both 2015 and 2016. After splitting time at the catching position with the Brewers in 2017, Vogt was injured all of 2018 and is looking for another chance with a team as a 34-year-old.
Vogt bats left handed and is definitely a better batter than he is defender. For his career, Vogt has a .251 average with a .726 OPS which is about major league average. He will not blow anyone away with his offense but when compared to Francisco Pena’s career .203 and .510 OPS, that’s a pretty good upgrade.
Before you cite his career -7 DRS at catcher, recall that Pena is only slightly better at a -5 DRS and only started 30 games last year for the Cardinals due to Yadier Molina‘s injury. When Yadi is healthy, Vogt would only get about one start every week and a half.
Putting a defensive liability in the lineup to give a break to Yadi every 10 days is not going to kill the team. And say Yadi does get injured, I would be comfortable with Vogt starting for some time until Yadi is healthy again.
Looking at Vogt as a pinch hitter, he put up a very strong .821 OPS in that spot in 2017. For reference on the “left handed bench bat” role on the 2018 Cardinals, Matt Adams put up a .440 OPS pinch hitting. Yes, both were in a small sample size but pinch hitters by default only get small samples. Vogt would be cheap as well and the Cardinals could easily get him for 2 years and less than $8M.
All in all, Vogt is cheap, fills the roles the Cardinals need to fill, and would provide an upgrade at both the backup catcher position and the left handed bench bat position. From his days back in Oakland, he would also be a great, light-hearted presence in the clubhouse. Vogt is a perfect fit in my eyes.