St. Louis Cardinals: What if the team doesn’t retain Kolten Wong?
Kolten Wong has been a beloved member of the St. Louis Cardinals for years. However, what will the team look like if they move on from him?
Kolten Wong has been through it all with the St. Louis Cardinals. From being picked off to end a game in the 2013 World Series to winning the Gold Glove in 2019, it’s been a rollercoaster.
2019 was Wong’s best and most well-rounded offensive season as he hit .285 with a 108 wRC+. Wong stole a career-high 24 bases and stayed near his career-best with a .138 ISO. It was not his best defensive season, but he was still at an elite level. Good enough to win the Gold Glove.
Back in 2016, Wong signed a five-year, $25.5M extension to buy out his arbitration years. In that deal, there was also a team option for 2021. Picking up that option is a no brainer for the Cards. Over the life of that contract, the Cardinals have gotten a discount on Wong’s production and Wong revealed this winter that he would love to retire in a St. Louis Cardinals uniform. That makes Wong a great candidate for an extension this season.
However, there is a world where the Cardinals do not choose to extend Wong. There is also a world where the Cardinals don’t choose to pick up his 2021 option for $12.5M. Why in the world would the team do that?
Move on from Wong
While 2019 was great for Wong, he did get outperform his expected numbers offensively. There is plenty to suggest that he will regress in 2020 and that may make him a trade candidate.
The Cardinals have a weird situation at third base right now. With Matt Carpenter under contract until 2022 and a full outfield, there isn’t a clear place for Tommy Edman to have regular playing time. Thankfully for Edman, he can play all over the infield.
Given that the Cardinals don’t have second base prospects pushing for big-league time at the upper levels of the minor leagues, Edman is a clear choice to replace Wong. Based off of Edman’s 2019 stats, Edman is a 5.0+ WAR player in the MLB.
That sounds a little too good to be true, as Edman’s .500 slugging percentage in 2019 was a good bit higher than his expected value. Even if Edman had hit his expected slug in 2019, he would’ve been a great player as his batting average was right where it should’ve been. Edman also ranks in the 97th percentile in sprint speed.
More from St Louis Cardinals News
- Cardinals: Former MLB GM calls Jordan Walker a superstar for 2023
- Cardinals: Cubs looking to make major moves this offseason
- St. Louis Cardinals: New CBA rule encourages Jordan Walker’s promotion
- Cardinals: These are the ways St. Louis can free up more payroll
- Cardinals: First offseason acquisition is minor but speaks volumes
If Edman can keep up his performance, even to his expected numbers, he will be much too good to play just four or five times a week.
At second base defensively, Edman had a +1 OAA and +6 DRS in just 200 innings there in 2019. Small sample, but based off his minor league defense, he’s an above-average second baseman.
In that instance, the Cardinals could trade Wong who would still be valuable for his elite defense and his team option, and get reinforcements elsewhere on the diamond. Edman could be the everyday second baseman at a fraction of Wong’s 2020 salary. All of this would not hurt the infield defense very much as well.
It isn’t the most likely path forward, but Carpenter will be playing regularly at third base and with regression coming, moving on from Wong may be a sneaky way to open up some salary while not losing too much defense up the middle.
The better Edman plays in 2020, the better chance there is that the Cardinals decide to let Wong walk. I love Kolten Wong as much as anyone else, but there’s an opportunity to cut costs and keep a good performer out there here if the team lets Wong walk or they trade him.