St. Louis Cardinals ranked as top destination for free-agent slugger

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John Mozeliak (L) and Bill DeWitt, Jr. managing partner and chairman of the St. Louis Cardinals talk in the dugout prior to a game against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium on September 29, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals beat the Cubs 4-0. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
John Mozeliak (L) and Bill DeWitt, Jr. managing partner and chairman of the St. Louis Cardinals talk in the dugout prior to a game against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium on September 29, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals beat the Cubs 4-0. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /
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The St. Louis Cardinals were ranked as a top destination for free-agent slugger Nelson Cruz, but here’s why it won’t happen.

On paper, I get it. The St. Louis Cardinals certainly could use another slugger in the lineup to pair with Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt and Tyler O’Neill. I just don’t think it’s going to happen.

There are others who disagree with me, however, with Bleacher Report recently listing the Cardinals as the No. 2 free-agent destination for Jorge Soler. Now, Bleacher Report lists them as the No. 3 free-agent destination for Nelson Cruz, with the Milwaukee Brewers and Toronto Blue Jays only ranked higher.

The Brewers make a ton of sense for Cruz and if he does not end up with the Dodgers or Padres, I could see him ending up in Milwaukee. But I have a very hard time seeing him signing in St. Louis because of 1) price and 2) the Cardinals plan to spend the majority of their money on pitching, both starters and relievers.

What could make Cruz appealing, or the exception, is that he will command a one-year deal in the $12-14 million range. He will not command the same long-term commitment that Soler and Kyle Schwarber will, meaning the Cardinals could stretch their payroll this year without having to worry about long-term financial ramifications.

But even that is unlikely. The Cardinals want to give Nolan Gorman, Lars Nootbaar and Juan Yepez meaningful at-bats at the major-league level and signing Cruz would make that infinitely more difficult. Besides, there are no signs that they want to stretch their payroll by another $20 million, and adding Cruz would certainly require that.

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Cruz very well may end up in the National League, perhaps even in the Central as a Cardinals division rival. But the chances of him signing in St. Louis are borderline zero.

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