While the St. Louis Cardinals believe Paul DeJong will bounce back in 2022, there is no doubting that he will be on a short leash if he struggles.
If you talked to someone inside the St. Louis Cardinals organization before the lockout, they would tell you about their belief in Paul DeJong. President of baseball operations John Mozeliak said it. General manager Michael Girsch said it. Everyone was saying it.
But the truth is that DeJong is on a short leash in 2022 – and if he struggles early on, is likely going to get replaced by Edmundo Sosa.
The Cardinals believe that DeJong will be a lot better this season than he was in 2021. He has opened up about how thinking too analytically impacted him both in his head and at the plate last season, and has focused his offseason work on changing his mindset.
Betting on DeJong, 28, to bounce back is risky, especially in a season that is arguably the most important in recent Cardinals history. He’s coming off a season in which he hit .197/.284/.390 with 103 strikeouts in 356 at-bats. He was borderline unplayable, losing significant time to Sosa at shortstop. And in the previous three seasons, he’s averaged anywhere from .233 to .250, though he has averaged about 23 home runs in each of his four full seasons in the majors.
It’s what has kept him afloat and why the Cardinals believed in DeJong enough to sign him to a six-year, $26 million deal in 2018. That contract, which is extremely team friendly, is also playing into their decision to give him the shortstop job ahead of spring training.
That contract gives the Cardinals options across their roster. It allowed them to add Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. It also allowed them to extend Adam Wainwright and do other roster maneuvering. And if DeJong bounces back this season, they can have that flexibility until he becomes a free agent in 2025.
It would be a gamechanger for the Cardinals, both in the present and in the future. But if he struggles, make no mistake: the team will not hesitate to put in Sosa or bring in reinforcements, perhaps calling up Nolan Gorman to play second base while sliding Tommy Edman to shortstop.