The St. Louis Cardinals have many options they can explore. Shortstop is likely a priority and Carlos Correa is the ideal fit.
When the St. Louis Cardinals were in the midst of an incredible winning streak that propelled them into a wild card spot, they did so with Edmundo Sosa getting the bulk of the playing time at the shortstop position. While Sosa played as good as could be expected, and likely better than many could have envisioned, it was proof that the Cardinals now had a shortstop problem.
Paul DeJong was signed to a long-term contract early in his career with the idea that he would be the answer at shortstop. For a short time, he was a great player. Solid defense and power made him someone the team could plan to build around. However, his last few seasons have been a struggle. His power, while still there, has dropped off slightly and his batting average has dipped dramatically. Hitting .200 has been a challenge for him over the past season, and offensively he was not the player he was even a few seasons ago. Still, he was worth 1.6 WAR, likely because of his defense. Yet, Sosa was trusted in the biggest moments.
Sosa, while probably earning a role on the team moving forward, might not be the long-term solution at shortstop. I think he could get exposed if he plays every day, and could excel in a utility role. So, if not Sosa, who?
It’s a possibility the Cardinals hand it back to DeJong and take a gamble that his offense picks up again. But have you seen this free agent class?
Trevor Story, Corey Seager, Javy Baez and Carlos Correa headline a strong shortstop class in this winter’s free agency. Now before you say it, yes, it’s unlikely the Cardinals sign one of these players. Their track record suggests they’ll avoid the bidding war that all of these players will likely be attached to. But why could this offseason be different?
A few reasons. After the abrupt and stunning firing of manager Mike Shildt, the front office has turned the spotlight on themselves. Nolan Arenado has another opt-out after the 2022 season so a strong commitment to putting a winning team around him would go a long way, and also it could be the last season of Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright. Molina has already said he plans to retire after the 2022 season. All of these are reasons to go big this offseason, and where else to begin other than shortstop.
Many will point to Story as the best fit. Sure, he played with Arenado in Colorado. He has big time power. Some might say Seager, as he is a lefty bat.
The Cardinals should sign Carlos Correa.
Correa has been with the Houston Astros. As someone who can hit leadoff or could also hit in the middle of the order, he would give new manager Oli Marmol flexibility. While I mentioned earlier that DeJong’s WAR was 1.6, Correa put up a robust 7.3 WAR season. That’s a difference of almost 6 wins, which would have been the difference in winning the division or settling for the second wild card. The Milwaukee Brewers won the division by 5 games, for what it’s worth.
Correa is only 27, so a long-term deal would still see him through some prime and productive seasons. It’ll cost the Cardinals. But with some big contracts off the payroll, such as Matt Carpenter and Carlos Martinez, the payroll flexibility should be there. If the team finds a trade partner for DeJong, that would open up a little more payroll space too.
For the elephant in the room, the Astros sign stealing and cheating scandal, that needs to be taken into consideration. George Springer, another former Astros star player, has since moved on to succeed with the Toronto Blue Jays. The stain of that Astros team is permanent and that asterisk next to it will remain. The collective players on that team will be remembered in infamy, but that doesn’t mean that the individual players can’t continue having great careers on their own.
What better way to help remove some of the tarnish from their reputation than to win a World Series with another team?
The Cardinals are a good team, but not a great team. They hovered around .500 for most of the season and it took an improbable winning streak to grab the second wild card spot. That said, the NL Central division is up for grabs. If the Cardinals had a Carlos Correa type player at shortstop over DeJong/Sosa, they might just win the division.
There are still other areas to address, especially the pitching. With the DH likely to come to the National League, another power bat would be a welcome addition. Still, shortstop is the No. 1 position the Cardinals can make a blockbuster addition and get a sure fire upgrade.
That is why the St. Louis Cardinals should sign Carlos Correa. He might just be the missing piece.