The St. Louis Cardinals will have a chance to find some cheap power this winter, something they need. Look no further than Mitch Moreland.
Though the St. Louis Cardinals are almost guaranteed to be among the many teams cutting salary this winter, the other side of that is that the market is flooded with talent.
Unfortunately for that talent on the market, their prices have fallen, whether they want to or not. For a team like the Cardinals who need offense badly, this presents an opportunity to buy power at cheaper prices than ever before.
Looking past the George Springers and Marcell Ozunas out there, one name fans should keep in mind is Mitch Moreland.
For the past few seasons, Moreland has been playing regularly with Texas and Boston, hovering around average offensively. He hasn’t been spectacular, but he has put together a very solid 11-year career to this point with one Gold Glove and one All-Star appearance to his name.
Heading into his age-35 season, he could be the perfect bargain for the 2021 Cardinals.
In 2020, Moreland started the year with the Red Sox before being traded to the Padres at the trade deadline. Red hot with the Sox, Moreland had a whopping 1.177 OPS in 22 games before going cold in 20 games with the Padres.
Even after his cold finish to the year, Moreland finished with a .551 slugging percentage on the year. This slugging percentage and subsequent .894 OPS is well above his career averages, but it is an improvement on the .835 OPS and .507 slugging percentage he had in 2019. While it is odd to see a player blooming so late in his career (he hasn’t had an OPS above .800 since 2015 prior to 2019), it does happen.
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Moreland finished 2020 with a 0.9 fWAR and a 135 wRC+. He would’ve led the Cards with his 10 homers he hit in just 42 games.
Moreland was likely getting at least a little lucky on the year, as his expected numbers are well below his actual, but there is reason to believe that Moreland’s price will be dirt cheap.
On Sunday, the Padres declined Moreland’s 2021 option of just $3M. For reference, the Cardinals got a .451 slugging percentage and a 121 wRC+ out of Brad Miller for just $2M in 2020. For near the same price, they could replace Miller with Moreland.
Now, Miller plays all over the infield and Moreland really only plays first base at this point. Paul Goldschmidt won’t get his playing time taken by Moreland, but if there is a DH in the NL next year, Moreland could fill that role beautifully.
I am not saying the Cardinals can’t or shouldn’t bring back Miller as well. Miller was supposed to be a lefty bat off the bench in 2020, but because of a lack of production from others, he was forced into an everyday role.
The regression monster and age-related decline is coming for Moreland, but for a price of less than $3M, Moreland could be an extremely cheap source of power for the Cardinals to lock up for at least 2021. Even in his average years, Moreland regularly slugs between .430 and .450. This year, the Cardinals only had three players slug above .400.
I am generally against the Cardinals bringing in any aging players for 2021 as this team is trending towards going young, but Moreland is too enticing to ignore at these prices.
Moreland isn’t an exciting name, but he does provide the slugging potential that this team drastically needs. The Padres have set his price low, and he could excel as a DH or bench bat for the Cardinals.