Cardinals: Two recently DFA’d players St. Louis should consider

Sep 27, 2020; Buffalo, New York, USA; Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Renato Nunez (39) hits a single during the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Sahlen Field. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 27, 2020; Buffalo, New York, USA; Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Renato Nunez (39) hits a single during the fifth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Sahlen Field. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports /

Infielder Renato Nunez and outfielder Hunter Renfro have been designated for assignment and the St. Louis Cardinals should take a close look.

On November 20, the Baltimore Orioles designated infielder Renata Nunez for assignment, while the Tampa Bay Rays did the same with outfielder Hunter Renfroe. Nunez and Renfroe have three things in common:

(1)They are both young.

(2)They are now affordable.

(3)They both have an offensive skill the Cardinals need.

These three common traits should draw the Cardinals interest in adding at least one of them to their 2021 roster, especially since both players can hit for power.

We all know the Cardinals struggled to score runs in 2020. We also know these offensive struggles were reflected in the current outfield and now with Tommy Edman moving to second base, there could be an offensive hole at third base.

If you listen at all to president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, the Cardinals are unlikely to pursue top free agent or trade options due to the revenue situation. Instead, the Cardinals could look at players who have been DFA’d, and use this as a tool to try to improve it’s offensive output in 2021.

This is where Hunter Renfroe and Renata Nunez come in. Let’s take a look at both players.

Hunter Renfroe

I wrote a piece in 2019 about Hunter Renfroe being a possible trade deadline target for the Cardinals. To summarize, Renfroe can hit home runs, but also will strikeout and not draw many walks.

Last year’s production for the Rays was disappointing for the 28-year old Renfroe and his right-handed bat. Nevertheless, he was a consistent home run hitter with the Padres, hitting 26, 26, and 33 his last three years in their uniform. Additionally, he had an 108 OPS+ in his four years in San Diego.

Defense doesn’t seem to be a Cardinal concern this off season, especially if they can improve the offense (see: Kolten Wong). Hunter Renfroe certainly can’t be accused of being a defensive gem. However, his defense did improve significantly during his tenure with the Padres. In 2019, per Baseball Reference his Rtot/yr improved from -9 in 2018 to 13 in 2019. He similarly improved in Rdrs/yr gong from 4 in 2018 to 27 in 2019.

A team can control Renfroe through 2023 if he is claimed or acquired via trade, but it is possible he clears waivers and becomes a free agent. He would seem to fit right in with the Cardinals payroll strategy over the next year or two while at the same time giving the Cardinals a chance to improve their offense.

Renato Nunez

The DFAing of Renato Nunez by the Orioles is an interesting case. The 26-year old Nunez and his right-handed bat has been an everyday player for the Orioles the last two years, playing in 151 games in 2019 and 52 games in 2020.

Offensively, he hit 31 home runs and drove in 90 RBI in 2019. In 2020, he hit 12 HR and drove in 31 RBI in the COVID-shorten season. He maintained an OPS+ of 103 during his five years in Baltimore, while in 2020 showing his career best of 121.

Defensively, Nunez has spent his major-league career splitting time between first and third. His metrics aren’t impressive at either position, and that could be one of the reasons the Orioles are giving up on him. However, per Baseball Reference, third seems to be his strongest position, where he would at least seem average. His Rtot/yr and Rdrs/yr are 0 and -1 respectively.

Nunez is not arbitration eligible until 2022 and controllable through 2024. Therefore, this young Venezuelan would make an attractive off season third base candidate for the Cardinals.

To Wrap Up

The Cardinals internal options for improving their offense, either in the outfield, or just third base, are not that deep. The only sure way to improve is to go outside the organization via trade, free agency, or the waiver wire.

I’m sure Mozeliak and the Cardinals front office are keeping an eye on the market for players who have been designated for assignment. These players usually offer an inexpensive way to improve the roster and the Cardinals typically look for these deals.

The 40-man roster now sits at 39 and the team will continue to add players outside the organization with Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright remaining realistic possibilities to stay in St. Louis.

I don’t know if the Cardinals will attempt to bring in Hunter Renfroe or Renato Nunez. My preference over these two would be Nunez. He’s a bit younger, the Cardinals have longer control over him, and I believe third base is a bigger hole for the next couple years. Nonetheless, I believe either of these two could help the offense in 2021 and not break the bank.