4 Cardinals who should be non-tendered and 2 who shouldn't be

The Cardinals can free up some salary flexibility through non-tenders this offseason, but they should be selective when doing so.
St. Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs
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The St. Louis Cardinals have a lot to do this offseason in order to rebuild this pitching staff. It sounds like they are set on bringing in three starting pitchers to add to their rotation as well as two "high-leverage" bullpen arms. Can they pull it off? Yes! It's totally feasible that they rebuild this pitching staff during the winter. It remains to be seen how well they do so.

One of the ways they can make that path easier is by non-tendering some of their arbitration candidates. There are a number of Cardinals on the 40-man roster who are set to get pay raises this offseason, and the Cardinals can get millions of dollars in salary relief by deciding to non-tender some of those players instead of retaining their rights.

The Cardinals already non-tendered Jacob Barnes before the end of the World Series, but there are still six other names who could be up for debate within the Cardinals front office. Two of them, for different reasons, I believe should be tendered in the coming days in order to retain future value, but there are four other names who the Cardinals need to just cut bait with this offseason, for one reason or another.

Here are four players the Cardinals should non-tender, and two they need to offer contracts to.

Tender a contract to Tyler O'Neill

Before you freak out, I think it's time for the Cardinals to trade Tyler O'Neill this offseason, but non-tendering him to me feels like a mistake.

According to MLB Trade Rumors' arbitration projections (which is where I'll be getting all of my projections from for this story), O'Neill is set to receive around $5.5 million in arbitration this offseason. It's not a crazy number by any means, but with O'Neill's inability to stay on the field and the decline in performance at the plate, it feels like the Cardinals would be better off saving the $5.5 million and rolling with their other outfield options.

Believe it or not, but that $5.5 million projection for O'Neill is actually about $1 million short of what his performance in 2023 was worth, according to the "dollars" stat by FanGraphs that converts WAR into a dollar scale to estimate how much a player is worth in free agency. Even though he appeared in just 72 games in 2023 and was not the same player, he was still worth $6.5 million, and I'd have to imagine O'Neill is at least a bit better in 2024. 2022 was another down season for O'Neill, and he was still worth $9.7 million.

When O'Neill is on the field, his defense and base-running alone make him a valuable player, even when his bat is slightly below league average. Bake in the fact that he has shown he can be an elite hitter when he's right, and you just cannot let a guy go like that for free. That's just asking for another Adolis Garcia type of situation.

I do understand that it's probably time to move on though, but why not use him as a part of the Cardinals solution for finding pitching help this offseason? I know it's hard to believe for some people that O'Neill has value, but he does. He could easily be part of a package that helps the Cardinals snag a Shane Bieber or Tyler Glasnow type, or even in a swap for a reliever to bolster their bullpen. The Cardinals are not going to find the same quality of starter or reliever on the free agent market for just $5.5 million, so might as well flip O'Neil for that value.

Honestly, I'm not even against them holding onto him for 2024 if the right deal is not there. $5.5 million should not be the difference between them getting an impact starter or coming up short. Make the most of the value O'Neill has left.