Expect the St. Louis Cardinals to be active at trade deadline, with a potential emphasis on adding a designated hitter if it’s implemented.
The heavy lifting of the St. Louis Cardinals’ offseason is done, with Steven Matz signing a four-year, $44 million deal to shore up the rotation. There are still needs in the bullpen and on the bench, perhaps even another starting pitcher, but filling all those holes this offseason – whenever it resumes – could prove challenging.
So it should be expected that the Cardinals will be active in pursuing upgrades at the trade deadline, with Katie Woo of The Athletic echoing the same thoughts.
Now, it should be said that the Cardinals will add other players this offseason. They are likely to come in the form of a depth piece on offense and another reliever to replace Luis Garcia, who signed a two-year, $7.5 million deal with the San Diego Padres. It would leave the Cardinals with needs for 1) another starting pitcher; 2) a designated hitter if none of the internal options step up and 3) a reliever.
Each season, relievers are the priority of each contending team. You can never have enough arms in the bullpen, something the Cardinals learned the hard way last season. But the designated hitter spot, at least to me, feels like a sneaky large need. They want to give Juan Yepez and Nolan Gorman every opportunity to secure significant at-bats at the position, but if Paul DeJong once again falters at shortstop, one of them (most likely Gorman) could slide into a prominent role at shortstop.
Which would mean the options at DH are limited, and could force president of baseball operations John Mozeliak to make a push for a significant bat. This could all be a moot point if the universal DH is not implemented, but the expectation among everyone in baseball is that it will be part of baseball in 2022.
That said, any trade the Cardinals make, whether it’s for a DH or reliever or another starting pitcher, will not include any of their top prospects. Mozeliak has been insistent that he wants to have an eye on both the present and future and parting with Gorman, Jordan Walker or anyone along those lines is not under consideration.
So expect the Cardinals to add a cheaper bench bat (Colin Moran?) and a high-leverage reliever (Joe Kelly? Ryan Tepera?) now and save payroll flexibility for meaningful additions at the trade deadline. The front office will want to give Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright every opportunity to walk away from baseball with another World Series ring.