ST. LOUIS, MO- As the front office of the St. Louis Cardinals comes to the end of its first full week of the offseason after falling to the San Diego Padres in the National League Wild Card playoff round, there has been plenty of focus on the status of the outfield heading into 2021.
Dylan Carlson did, indeed, ascend, ending the year as the team’s cleanup hitter after a detour back to Springfield. But in this COVID-interrupted season, Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader and Lane Thomas all failed to take an opportunity and run with it offensively. O’Neill tied Brad Miller for the team lead in home runs, but as Derrick Goold from stltoday.com pointed out, with the season on the line and the team down to a single at-bat, Austin Dean was summoned from the bench, and not O’Neill.
The Cardinals will likely lay low when it comes to adding significant payroll in this current financial climate, but they are positioned well to seek answers through trade. Here’s a look at outfield targets we think the team should investigate. For purposes of this exercise, a few caveats. Wainwright and Molina re-sign and Carlos Martinez is available. And of course, it takes more than one side to make a deal.
Miguel Andújar OR Clint Frazier/Yankees: Yes, fans may have nightmares of the prospect of another deal with the Yankees after seeing Luke Voit flourish in pinstripes. But Andújar, just two years after slugging 27 homers in his rookie year, has been displaced by Gio Urshella at third base and has learned the outfield to try and get back on the field. Frazier has been on the AAA-MLB merry-go-round for parts of four seasons but has already made an impact in the ALDS series against the Rays. Both are under contract through 2023. Andújar could also be a 3B solution should Kolten Wong not return and Tommy Edman slides over to second. The Yankees will want cost-controlled pitching, which the Cardinals have, and could be in the market for a starting catcher after growing tired of Gary Sanchez’s struggles behind the plate. Paging Andrew Knizner?
Scott Kingery/Philllies: Philadelphia missed the playoffs after spending a lot of money and will be rebooting under a new front office. Kingery signed a six year major league contract before he played an inning in the big leagues. His performance hasn’t lived up to the contract yet but his versatility–he’s played all over the diamond would fit the M.O. here. The Phillies could lose catcher JT Realmuto to free agency which again raises the prospect of dealing Knizner. The team has already lost first baseman Rhys Hoskins to elbow surgery that will sideline him for at least the start of 2021. Kingery’s deal has three years and $18 million guaranteed left on his deal, followed by two team options. Matt Carpenter has a year and $18.5 left on his contract, and he can play first. Is there a path to an agreement that is financially neutral for both parties?
Joey Gallo/Rangers: Of all those listed here, Gallo comes with the most historical pop in his bat, with 120 homers over six seasons, and 113 over the last four. The Rangers have found themselves consistently on the outside of contention, including in 2020 when eight teams from each league qualified. Gallo turns 27 in November and is under contract through 2022. MLB.com reported in September that he was open to a contract extension and that he loves “being a Texas Ranger,” after his name got out in trade deadline speculation during the season.
Jorge Soler/Royals: He’s entering his walk year in Kansas City. The right-fielder blossomed in 2019 with 47 home runs. While some may say Whit Merrifield would be a better fit and offers more versatility, Soler has more potential for pop. One would think that Mike Matheny and his coaching staff (John Mabry and Cal Eldred) have kept tabs of some personnel in the Cardinal organization since their departures here to encourage a reunion.