The Cardinals finally have Paul DeJong's attention this off-season
DeJong, who was an All-Star in 2019 and hit 30 HRs that year, has yet to have eclipse an .674 OPS since that season and slashed .157/.245/.286 with 6 HR in 2022. This earned the shortstop a demotion early in the season, and despite being called back up late in the summer, he was unable to prove that his struggles were over.
In a recent interview with Frank Cusumano, President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak was asked about DeJong's chances to be the Cardinals shortstop in 2023. Not only was Mozeliak committed to Tommy Edman for the upcoming season, but he shed some light on some of the internal issues that had been working through with DeJong the last few years.
"I would say, sitting here today, Tommy Edman is our starting shortstop...the good news for Pauly D is he's down in Jupiter. He's doing it voluntarily, working with our coaches. And I think it's the first time ever in his offseason that he realizes change is needed. I think he, over the last few seasons, has been a bit stubborn on approach and how things are going. I think he looked at this past year, he saw a glimpse of excitement for a couple weeks in August, and I think he realized that what we are trying to do with him will ultimately help him be the hitter he once was."- John Mozeliak
First, I highly recommend listening to this interview, as its one of the most candid Mozeliak has given in recent years, touching on a wide range of subjects. It is well worth your time.
Second, Mozeliak indicated that there has been real issues between the Cardinals coaching staff and DeJong in helping him return to his form he had back in 2019. The Cardinals have given DeJong clear things to work on and change with his approach, but apparently he was unwilling to go in those directions. Now that he is committing himself to this in the off-season, it is worth wondering if there'll be different results in 2023.
By no means would I be advocating for DeJong to return to being an everyday player, or that the Cardinals shouldn't look to move him if there is a good deal, but there may be some potential for DeJong to be a quality backup option for St. Louis in 2023, something they lack on the roster currently. Right now, Brendan Donovan is the only other player who can play shortstop on their roster, but he is currently penciled in to spend a lot of time a second base and other positions.
If DeJong can regain some of that form, he becomes a good option for the Cardinals off the bench. He is a great defender and can hit for power, and would not be relied upon to play very often.
Mozeliak has indicated that Spring Training will make or break DeJong's Cardinal career. If spring is more of the same from DeJong, we can expect to see him designated for an assignment or traded before Opening Day.