St. Louis Cardinals: Should the Cards take a flyer on Hunter Pence?
By Joshua Magee
The St. Louis Cardinals lacked offense heavily last season and going into the offseason, it looks like that will be the case next season. How can they fix it?
According to many media outlets, the St. Louis Cardinals‘ goal for this offseason was to find a lefty starter for the rotation. They fulfilled that need by signing Kwang Hyun-Kim to a 2-year contract. So, what now?
The Cardinals need offense, and they need it badly. Last season, they finished in the bottom five in the NL in batting average, OPS, and runs. The need became more obvious when the Cardinals pitching only mustered ten runs in four games in an NLCS beatdown from the Washington Nationals.
To make things worse, they are already more than likely losing one of their best hitters in Marcell Ozuna to free agency. Ozuna was second on the team in OPS, homers, and RBIs. So, losing him will be a big dent in the already measly offensive production.
To replace Ozuna, it is looking like they are going to find his replacement within the organization. Ranging from under-used power bat Tyler O’Neill to even the top prospect in the Cardinals farm system, Dylan Carlson.
Though these aren’t terrible options, if the Cardinals truly want to contend in the 2020 season; they should look for players on the free-agent or trade market.
Former San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers outfielder Hunter Pence is coming off a very solid season under-the-radar; posting a .297/.358/.552 line with 18 home runs and 59 RBIs. He did have limited at-bats though; only posting 286 but was a huge positive for the Rangers when he was healthy.
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Pence even made his first All-Star Game since his huge 2014 season in 2019’s comeback season.
Sabermetrically speaking, Pence saw improvements in all of his peripherals via the bounce-back season, totaling his career highest average exit velocity since StatCast came around; as well as his best wRC+ and wOBA. His 2019 campaign was not a fluke by any means.
He even still has a lot of athleticism considering his age, averaging a better sprint speed than 85% of MLB position players last season. Which is impressive for a 36-year-old.
If the Cardinals do decide to sign Pence, he would likely go back to his old position, being right field. Doing this would move Dexter Fowler to left field or maybe take him out of the picture altogether, making him a fourth outfielder on the 2020 roster if they want to go the internal route as well.
Pence is considered to be a veteran at 36 years old and has over 12 years of service time in the Major Leagues. So, not only would he be a solid bat in a lineup that desperately needs one; he can be a great veteran presence for some of the younger hitters such as Harrison Bader and Tommy Edman.
In my opinion, Pence would be beneficial for the Cardinals in many ways, and I don’t expect him to be worth a king’s ransom like other free agent bats on the market considering his age and injury history. He could be in line for a short term deal with solid money, and if he produces as he did in 2019, it would be worth every penny. This is the perfect bargain bin signing.