The St. Louis Cardinals made a splash at the Winter Meetings, bringing in Willson Contreras. It’s time to keep the pedal down and make other improvements.
The St. Louis Cardinals needed a starting catcher. You knew it, I knew it, and they knew it. They made their priority clear at the start of the offseason. At the recently concluded Winter Meetings, the Cardinals jumped into the fire and came away with their new acquisition, former Chicago Cubs star Willson Contreras.
The free agent signing, the biggest in franchise history for a player who has yet to play for the team, solved their biggest offseason riddle. The legendary Yadier Molina is now retired and the team filled the opening with the best free agent available for the position. The team allocated much of their forecasted available payroll budget on Contreras, but kept their biggest trade chips. The question now becomes this: what’s the next move?
Are the Cardinals done? Well, they shouldn’t be. The landscape of the National League is dangerous territory. The Dodgers have had a rather quiet offseason thus far but are still a juggernaut. The Phillies and Padres have made big splashes and improvements to their teams, who both played in the NLCS last season. The Mets are spending and improving an already incredible roster. Simply put, the Cardinals haven’t gained ground on those teams. Even the Cubs and Giants have made steps toward being contenders for the upcoming season.
The Cardinals can take a deserved bow for signing Contreras, and if their goal is to win the division they can probably settle in for a long winter’s nap. But they are, in my estimation, the sixth-best team in the National League. With the currently pitiful state of the NL Central division, the Cardinals can rest easy knowing they are likely to be (at worst) the three seed in the playoffs.
Can they match up with the Dodgers? The Braves? Phillies? Padres? Mets? Right now, I don’t think so. The Cardinals need more upgrades. So, where to look?
Shortstop seems unlikely, as the team is hyping Tommy Edman as their shortstop. Looking at the price the top free agent shortstops are signing for, it’s hard to see the Cardinals plunging into that market. Especially after signing Contreras for a total of $87.5 million dollars over the next five guaranteed seasons.
It’s likely that any other significant moves come via trade. The Cardinals have trade assets both on the major league team and in the minor leagues. I think a top-tier starting pitcher is a glaring need, but short of making another foray into the free-agent waters for someone like Carlos Rodon, it’s not obvious who might be available. Still, if I had my pick for one more major move this offseason it would be this.
Another big bat makes a lot of sense also, but where? The outfield is far from settled, and even though the Cardinals have ample options for the outfield, adding a big outfield bat should be on the Redbird’s shopping list. Again, the best route here might be a trade.
Will the Cardinals add a pitcher and bat? Time will tell. If I had to guess what a realistic rest of the offseason looks like for the St. Louis Cardinals, I would say a mid-rotation starter and probably a 4th outfielder/DH option. Do these moves make them a true top team in the National League? Probably not. However, does an ace starting pitcher do that? Does an impact lefty bat? Sure.
The St. Louis Cardinals made a splash at the Winter Meetings and filled their biggest need. Where do they go next? Maybe the front office has a few more presents to gift wrap for Cardinals fans as we enter the Christmas season.