John Mozeliak has multiple routes to free up payroll this offseason
According to recent payroll projections, the St. Louis Cardinals are projected to have about $165 million in committed salary via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. With a projected budget of $180-$185 million for Opening Day this year, that leaves St. Louis with about $15-$20 million to spend this offseason.
How does that make sense if others in the industry see a real shot for the Cardinals to make a splash this offseason? Katie Woo predicted the Cardinals would make a blockbuster signing, industry insiders are linking them to Willson Contreras, and MLB Network’s Greg Amsigner is all-in on Trea Turner to the Cardinals. How do they do this with so little budget? Well St. Louis has multiple ways they can, and likely will, free up payroll this offseason in order to make those impact moves.
Here are the ways they can, and then the ways they probably will, free up salary through non-tenders and trades this offseason.
Arbitration-eligible players who can be non-tendered or traded
If you follow our Cardinals’ offseason tracker, we are keeping you up to date on all Cardinals transactions, rumors, as well as projected arbitration salaries via MLBTradeRumors.com.
Right off the bat, three names stick out as likely candidates to be non-tendered or traded this offseason. Relievers Alex Reyes and Chris Stratton will likely be non-tendered in the coming days, as both right-handers likely will not factor into the club’s roster in 2023. Reyes, the Cardinals former top prospect, has dealt with a variety of injuries and cannot be relied upon at that salary. Stratton was a fine addition at the deadline, but his $3.5 million salary makes him an unattractive option on the roster.
Dakota Hudson could be a trade or non-tender candidate. After impressing early in his career and bouncing back from injuries in 2022, the 27-year old did not produce like the Cardinals had hoped for, posting a 4.45 ERA and 1.45 WHIP while being demoted to Triple-A Memphis and losing his spot in the rotation. The Cardinals already have five projected starters ahead of him, multiple cheap swing-man options, and may even add another starter. Hudson will likely be gone.
Those three moves alone free up $9.05 million in salary, raising the Cardinals available budget up to between $24.05-$29.05 million to spend. That alone already makes bigger moves a much more realistic option for the club.
There are other moves that could happen from this list as well. Genesis Cabrera ($1.2 million) is another non-tender or trade candidate. Tyler O’Neill ($5.1 million) has found his name in trade rumors after a disappointing 2022 season. Jordan Montgomery ($10.1 million) could be flipped with one year remaining on his contract to make room for an arm on a multi-year deal. These three moves combined with the likely ones could give the Cardinals up to $45 million in salary flexibility.
Let’s look at some guaranteed contracts that St. Louis could part with, and then come up with a likely number that they will free up in the coming weeks or months.