With a lockout looming there are plenty of free agents available as we move to uncertain times. The St. Louis Cardinals rarely sign multi-year/double-digit contracts in the same off-season. It is not the sort of splash General Manager and President of Operations, John Mozeliak usually makes, but as Paper GM and unofficial President of Operations, I will splash the pot whenever the fock I vont. The options are endless. Well not really, because again, caution to the wind. The best fits are below:
Anthony Rizzo: Maybe it’s just me, but I forget Rizzo is only 32, and won’t be 33 for another 9 months. He is still young. He may not be in his prime, but he obviously has a lot to offer. He’s well decorated with All-Star games, Silver Sluggers, and 4 Gold Gloves. If his defensive arch-nemesis at first base wasn’t already a Cardinal, this would be my choice for favorite addition. He’s played plenty of games at Busch Stadium and hits well there. You could say he’s slowing down and maybe he is, but 2021 was a movement season and 2020 was a COVID season. Removing those he’s north of 90 + RBI 5 seasons running, and 100 + RBI 4 of 5. The Cardinals desperately need a left-handed bat. It is a good fit, but an expensive one.
J. A. Happ: Happ was beyond serviceable. He was extremely effective. The same could be said for Jon Lester. It is safe to say most St. Louis fans interpreted these moves as “look, we added someone” moves, but were in fact; minimal cost, low-risk, and certainly aided the record 17-game winning streak. Happ finished the 2021 season with an ERA at 4.00, and a WHIP at 1.27. I am not completely against him back if he’s willing to accept a role in the pen on a small salary. It is possible that was offered prior to his official exit and he declined. Let’s let the market settle some, and see where he is. There is strength in numbers. A rotation that figures to feature Flaherty, Mikolas, and Hudson could use a long-inning, veteran guy capable of logging innings and starting should… I won’t say it.
Kyle Schwarber: Another former Cub (gross) makes the list. This is my favorite part of the list btw. If we are actively working on upgrading the left-handed presence in the lineup, this is the straightest line you can draw. Permission to approach the bench: Spotrac estimates Schwarber’s annual value at, or around $13 million, which is an absolute steal. I am not comparing this to the Matt Carpenter contract, as the market was different then, but this is what the Cardinals were hoping would come from the Carp signing. Kyle’s last full season (2019) in the NL Central he drove in 92 runs and hit 38 bombs. This is heavy production. The Cardinals would feature the best lineup in baseball with a Kyle Schwarber signing.
Albert Pujols: Word on the street is people in St. Louis, MO like Albert Pujols. I have yet to confirm, but my gut tells me it’s true. This is a layup if the Birds want him. Al can probably be had near the minimum for 2022 and ride off into the sunset with Molina and Wainwright. We will all cheer for every DH or pinch-hit homer, and we all get more than we bargained for from a 41-year-old. I for one, can’t wait. Check this box.
Chris Taylor: You want a Tommy Edman with more pop, bigger traps; but unfortunately, not a switch hitter? This is your stop. Congratulations. Taylor can play every position except for pitcher and catcher, but he has no problem playing walk-off hero against the very team we are discussing? Taylor does not solve the left-handed issue, but he would be a great add.
Nelson Cruz: Nelson is worth a flyer (DH permitted) for sure. A big hitter who is an absolute liability on defense (see Game 6 David Freese), but no one cares about that in this beautiful new DH world. Would he play for scraps? The Minimum? That is very unlikely… Albert may, but only in St. Louis. There’s no reason for Nelson Cruz to do that. It is still a decent fit.
Mark Melancon: This may not be the sexiest option, but it may be the most necessary. While we cannot summarize Alex Reyes’ season on one pitch, or even a couple of rough months, the glaring need for a shutdown, late-inning guy was evident. Melancon led the Majors in saves while appearing in 64 games. Durability is clearly not an issue. This is a very Cardinals Way signing. He is clearly looking for more than $5 million since he declined that option from San Diego.