St. Louis Cardinals: The Paul DeJong dilemma

Paul DeJong #11 of the St. Louis Cardinals in action against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on May 1, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Paul DeJong #11 of the St. Louis Cardinals in action against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on May 1, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /
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Although he has a team-friendly contract, St Louis Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong is quite possibly playing his way out of the team’s future plans. Should the Cardinals explore upgrades at the shortstop position?

Flashback to 2019, and you’ll see a potential franchise cornerstone player named Paul DeJong making his first all-star appearance for the St. Louis Cardinals. The shortstop was on his way to a 30 home run season and was making an impression as one of the best emerging shortstops in the game. Two years later and he’s seemingly in jeopardy of losing his hold on the position.

Over the course of his career, DeJong can be described as inconsistent. The tools, especially power, are there. It has yet to be realized over the course of an entire season, with the exception of the before-mentioned 2019 season.

In 2021, DeJong has struggled to stay afloat offensively, and his batting average has hovered around the Mendoza line (.200) for the majority of the season. With an offense that has been underwhelming as a whole, it seems likely that changes could (at least should) be made in the upcoming offseason. Does that make DeJong expendable via trade?

It’s an interesting dilemma for the Cardinals. On one hand, DeJong has a team-friendly contract which makes it a good probability that he will provide the most “bang for your buck.” A roughly .200 hitter with 25-30 home run potential and a steady glove as shortstop has value.

On the other hand, the Cardinals are entering an important offseason. A lot of money is falling off the books and shortstop just so happens to be one of the deepest positions in the upcoming free agency class. Can I interest you in Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, or Marcus Semien? Maybe pair Nolan Arenado with former teammate Trevor Story? Should I even mention the name Javier Baez?

Needless to say, the options are there if the Cardinals want to make a change. That’s the dilemma. I think it is a fair argument that any of those names mentioned would be an upgrade over DeJong. But at what cost? The totality of Paul DeJong’s contract (not including option years) is $26 million, which runs through the 2023 season. A free agent run at Seager, Story, or any of the others could put the Cardinals at close to that $26 million per season.

With this front office, which seems the more likely direction? DeJong will probably be back at his familiar position with the Cardinals next season. But the team should take a hard look at the options and consider making a free agent push for one of the pending free agents. Typically the Cardinals avoid bidding wars and making free agent splashes, but with a lot of available payroll space coming open, it could be the time to make a move. A free-agent shortstop acquisition would also open the door for a DeJong trade, which could solve another need or address another area of the team.

Next. St. Louis Cardinals: 2 who have rewarded team’s faith, 1 who hasn’t. dark

Regardless of what happens the rest of the season for DeJong and the Cardinals, this season so far has indicated the need for changes. A lackluster final month of the season could be the nudge that the St. Louis Cardinals need to pivot in another direction at the shortstop position.

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