It’s not too early for the St Louis Cardinals to start looking at a few free-agent outfielders who will be available either at the trade deadline or during the upcoming offseason.
I know, I know. It’s early. In fact, you may say, it’s too early to start talking trade deadline and the offseason. After all, as I’m writing this, the Cardinals have only played 21 games. So let’s not push the panic button.
But from what we’ve seen from this team so far, it’s not too early to start looking at a few free-agent options that could be available at the trade deadline or in the offseason. The 2021 version of the St. Louis Cardinals have struggled to get starters past five innings, and consistently produce runs.
These two issues could work themselves out in the next few weeks. Kwang Hyun Kim is back, and the rotation has been going deeper into games in the last week. Additionally, no one expects Paul Goldschmidt to continue to SLG .354 or have an OPS of .640 very much longer.
However, it’s the outfield that concerns me the most at this early stage, and why I want to look at free-agent possibilities.
The St Louis Cardinals’ current outfield dilemma
First, let’s look at the current outfield situation, which to put it optimistically, is still evolving. Harrison Bader has yet to return from the IL, and Tyler O’Neill recently returned from the 10-day IL after hitting a slash line of just.143/.172/.286 during his first 8 games. Justin Williams has a .189/.295/.302 line thus far, and struck out three times in Friday’s game vs the Reds. Austin Dean in his last seven games has a slash line of .111/.308/.222 and struck out 4 times in his last nine at-bats.
Lane Thomas was brought up originally from the Alternate Site to replace O’Neill and was returned after he seemed lost trying to play center field. Thomas’ replacement is Scott Hurst who has never advanced past AA. Also, let’s not forget, the Cardinals are having to play their best second baseman in right field.
Nevertheless, the news from the outfield is not all negative. Dylan Carlson is second on the team at the time of writing in OPS (.966), OPS+ (159), and RBIs (12). Additionally, Carlson in his last seven games, has a slash line of .375/.464/583.
Now let’s look at three soon-to-be free agent outfielders.