The St. Louis Cardinals are reportedly trying to bring back free-agent second baseman Kolten Wong. But will he want to return?
It is little surprise that the Cardinals have interest in bringing back Wong. He is an elite defensive player at a position of need and comes with an ascending offensive game. The question, however, is whether he will want to return to St. Louis. The team declined his $12.5 million club option in late October, and it did not appear to sit well with him.
The move from the Cardinals’ perspective made sense, even if the move was not popular with fans and Wong. Most teams are reluctant to spend big money in free agency as they deal with the aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic. While Wong is a talented player, and in a normal market would garner a deal close to what his club option is worth, this is not a normal market. They took a risk letting go of Wong with the hope of bringing him back at a reduced salary – and he drew immediate interest on the market, decreasing his chances of returning.
The good news for the Cardinals, however, is that his market has shrunk. The Angels are likely no longer in play for his services after acquiring Jose Iglesias. The Toronto Blue Jays loom as a threat, though their top infield target appears to be star free-agent second baseman D.J. LeMahieu. There are other teams involved for Wong, of course, meaning the Cardinals will have to beat out several suitors to make the best offer.
Even then, the Cardinals may not be in position to make such an offer. Their top priorities in free agency appear to be Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, and both may command contracts worth at least $10 million annually. And with the Cardinals dealing with financial constraints, they may not have the money left over to entice Wong to return.
This will be a tricky offseason for the Cardinals to navigate. Wong is someone they want to bring back, but they may not have the money to make it a realistic possibility.