Brendan Donovan and Tommy Edman
Tommy Edman's recent contract extension gives both him and the Cardinals assurance and certainty. Edman can now prepare for the season without the shadow of negotiations hanging over him. He knows his position, he knows his salary; now, he can focus on balling out.
Brendan Donovan has assumed a leadership role this offseason, per reports. The on-base machine and utility player has become a voice in the clubhouse that other players will listen to. Last year, Donovan made an adjustment in his plate approach that led him to swing at more first pitches, and that led to leaps in offensive performances for him.
However, neither Edman nor Donovan are on this list for their leadership, their offensive abilities, or their stability. Rather, these two are vital players for the 2024 team due to their positional flexibility. With Alec Burleson, Ivan Herrera, Dylan Carlson, and Matt Carpenter as the presumptive bench players for next year, that leaves the team without a true backup shortstop. The backup shortstop is instead hidden (overtly) in the starting lineup.
Should Masyn Winn struggle or get injured, Tommy Edman will shift to shortstop, and while it isn't preferred, Brendan Donovan could even play some innings at the premium defensive position. Donovan won the first National League Utility Gold Glove Award in 2022, evidence of his ability to handily play six positions on the field.
Without a true utility bench player, Brendan Donovan and Tommy Edman are key to the team's success next year. Their versatility is vital, and Edman's speed paired with Donovan's offensive capabilities make for a great pairing.