The St. Louis Cardinals have not been particularly successful in diving into free-agent waters in recent years. Sure, they got insane production from a cheap deal with Albert Pujols in 2022 and Willson Contreras last offseason, but they've also made regrettable deals for various players as well.
While fans and media continue to clamor for the Cardinals to make bigger swings, they've tended to stay in the mid-tier markets, pursuing names like Dexter Fowler, Steven Matz, Mike Leake, Brett Cecil, Andrew Miller, and names like theirs, rather than taking bigger bites at the apple.
On one hand, their failed pursuits of guys like David Price or Jason Heyward worked out for the best. The same could be said for sitting out the Carlos Rodon or Javier Baez markets. But over the last five offseasons, there have been plenty of big names the Cardinals decided to pass on who could have made a massive impact for the club on the field. These six names stick out like a sore thumb.
After the 2021 season, the Cardinals were coming off an extremely disappointing season from shortstop Paul DeJong, and despite a crazy winning streak at the end of the year that vaulted them into the postseason, really needed a major upgrade to their team to make them legit contenders.
Corey Seager played in just 95 games in 2021, but was one of the best hitters in baseball when healthy, posting a .915 OPS and 142 OPS+ while playing good defense at shortstop. Seager would go on to sign a ten-year, $325 million contract that offseason with the Texas Rangers, but I cannot help but think he would have put the Cardinals into World Series contention.
From the Cardinals' perspective, they wanted to give DeJong another shot as the starting shortstop and had Tommy Edman as immediate support if he could not figure things out at the plate. They were also very excited about Masyn Winn and did not want to block him long-term.
While Edman and Winn are valuable players, Seager is a true MVP-caliber bat and would have won AL MVP this year if it was not for an insane Shohei Ohtani season. This would have given St. Louis a Goldschmidt-Seager-Arenado middle-of-the-order that would have been one of the best trios in all of baseball. Long-term, as bats like Jordan Walker, Nolan Gorman, Brendan Donovan, and Lars Nootbaar emerged, the lineup would truly compete with the Braves for the best in baseball.
Even with having so much money locked up in Seager, the Cardinals could have used their position player depth to go out and get starting pitching via trade. The thought of trading a Nolan Gorman or Masyn Winn right now seems crazy, but if they had Corey Seager, it would make a lot more sense for this club.