Cardinals: Three non-tender candidates who make sense for St. Louis

The non-tender deadline on Dec. 2 could create a market surplus and allow teams such as the Cardinals to add players at a discounted rate.

The expectation is that the free-agent market will be at a standstill until the non-tender deadline on Dec. 2. The market is at a surplus and it will be even more saturated after the record number of non-tenders that agents and players have feared for months.

However, it offers an opportunity for teams to add talent at a discounted rate. And for a team such as the St. Louis Cardinals, who are dealing with financial uncertainty because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it presents the perfect time to fill some in desperate need of addressing.

Among the needs, of course, include catcher, second base and starting pitchers. Here is a list of potential non-tender candidates who could make sense for the Cardinals.

Orlando Arcia:

Okay, hear me out. The obvious need in the in the infield is second base with Kolten Wong no longer in town. But what makes this scenario work is that Paul DeJong and Tommy Edman can play all over the infield. If the Brewers did indeed non-tender Arcia and he ends up in St. Louis, Arcia could slide in at shortstop with DeJong shifting to third base and Edman (or any free agent brought in) sliding in at second base.

Arcia, 26, is a player I am very familiar with having covered the Brewers for two seasons at The Athletic. He is a strong defensive shortstop and could help ease the loss of Wong with middle infield defense. But his offensive game is ascending and there are scouts who believe his 2020 numbers — .260/.317/.416 slash line with five home runs and 20 RBI – only scratch the surface of his potential. If he can be had on a cheap one or two-year deal, the Cardinals should pounce.

Omar Narvaez:

When the Brewers acquired Narvaez last offseason, they believed that he could ease the loss of Yasmani Grandal, perhaps even offering an upgrade. It did not work out that way. He hit a weak .176/.294/.269 with two home runs and 10 RBI, losing at-bats toward the end of the season to Manny Pina and Jacob Nottingham.

Narvaez, owed $2.9 million, is a legitimate candidate to be non-tendered. The Cardinals, of course, are likely to bring back Yadier Molina, so this could all be for nothing. But if St. Louis becomes uncomfortable with the asking price for Molina, they could pivot to Narvaez on a low-risk, high-reward type deal. And if it works out, Narvaez could be catcher of the future since he is only 28 years old.

Jon Gray:

Gray is much like Narvaez in the fact that he is coming off a down year. His ERA soared to 6.69 and his strikeouts per nine plummeted to 5.1. There will be some teams, however, that believe they will be able to get the player who in 2019 finished with a 3.84 ERA and 150/56 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Gray, 29, would likely come cheap and nowhere near his current price tag of $5.9 million. For a Cardinals team in need of pitching depth if Adam Wainwright departs, he could be a cheap alternative that provides upside and allows them to allocate resources elsewhere.