Guaranteed contracts the Cardinals could trade
Outside of the Cardinals non-tender candidates, there are some guaranteed contracts on their books that they could look to trade if the opportunity presented itself this winter.
The one everyone would point to is Paul DeJong, and although the Cardinals would love to get rid of his $9 million contract for 2023, it seems unlikely that anyone would take on his contract without prospect compensation attached to him. John Mozeliak indicated the club plans on DeJong getting one last shot in Spring Training this year, but that could be posturing for a potential deal.
One scenario where this could happen is in a trade for a new catcher or other area of need on the team. The club could up the level of prospects they are offering to a team like Oakland or Toronto if they are willing to take on all of, or part of DeJong’s contract.
Another interesting option is left-hander Steven Matz, who makes $10.5 million this coming season and has 3 years, $35.5 million left on his contract. Matz did not have the debut season St. Louis was hoping from him, as he battled injuries and posted a 5.25 ERA in just 48 innings for the club. If you look at the game logs though, outside of two really bad starts, he was really good for St. Louis when healthy. Scratching those two starts from his slate, he posted a 3.22 ERA across 7 starts.
Matz is still an attractive option for both St. Louis and other clubs looking for a dependable, middle-of-the-rotation arm. It’s unlikely that the Cardinals deal Matz, but if they do look to add a front-line starter, they could part with him to make room.
Drew VerHagen likely carries no value on the market, and although Miles Mikolas could be a name to watch in a contract year, it seems more likely they’d hold onto him.
So how much will the Cardinals have to spend?
With all that being said, the Cardinals could have up to $60 million in payroll flexibility if they deal or non-tender any of the names mentioned earlier. Unless they go ultra-aggressive with their moves, this seems unlikely.
If I had to guess how much money the Cardinals would free up on top of their let’s say $20 million available to spend, I would put the number at an additional $17 million through the non-tenders and trades of Hudson, Reyes, Stratton, Cabrera, pre-arbitration players on the roster, and getting a team to eat about half of DeJong’s deal in the kind of trade mentioned earlier. If they do so, that will put the Cardinals at $37 million to spend this offseason, which could actually go a long way.
Say the Cardinals add a significant upgrade at catcher via trade (Sean Murphy, Alejandro Kirk, Danny Jansen), that would still leave them with about $35 million to spend toward any other needs they have. That payroll flexibility could be used to sign significant free agents or take on contracts through trades. The options are plentiful.
So before you go and call this offseason a wash, wait and see what the Cardinals choose to do with their fringe players making a pretty penny. It may be a pipe dream to believe the club would go above their projected $185 million budget, but the club is not against being creative with its resources within that constraint.