External DH Options
Albert Pujols smashes a walk off home run in 2006 (James A. Finley/Associated Press)
Earlier today, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred took the stage at the owner's meeting where it was expected he would announce the delay of spring training. As of now, it's still on. Which gives fans a little bit of hope given that teams are expected to have their pitchers and catchers report to camp next week, some as early as Monday. One piece of news that Manfred provided was that both sides had agreed to a few things, namely the universal designated hitter. We saw the universal DH in 2020, with success for most NL teams. I think that helped both sides agree to this.
I feel there are two kinds of people in the world. Those that want the DH, and those that don't. I, for one, am all about it. I am tired of pitchers getting hurt swinging a bat, running the bases, or aggravating an injury during an at bat. What's worse is, for the most part, pitchers are an automatic out. Sure there are exceptions, but there are exceptions to most rules. Cardinals Nation 24/7 founder Chris Lollis explored the Cardinals internal options to fill the DH. I'm here to talk about the external options. Who could they sign? Who could they trade for?
Let's start with the obvious: Albert Pujols. Albert Pujols, as we know, hasn't been with the organization since after the 2011 World Series Championship team. Many grew sour with Pujols when he left, saying he was supposed to be a Cardinal for life. Sure that would have been nice and it would have been amazing to see him achieve some of his home run accolades while still wearing the Birds on the Bat, however, him leaving was probably the best things for the organization. He was only a shell of his former self in the 10 seasons spent with the Angels, averaging .256 with 22 home runs and 78 RBI. The last few years, he has seen a big decline, not hitting .250 since 2016. With that said, many fans are wanting him back. Some want him to be just a bench bat, some want him to be the DH. As a sentimental point of view, I think it would be awesome if he came back to play for us. Think about how loud Busch was when he visited in 2019. While not every at bat would be that loud, fans would certainly cheer him on and appreciate what he had done for us. Then there's the potential that him, Yadier Molina, & Adam Wainwright all retire together. I'm sure there will be mutual interest.
Going from the obvious, to a name many fans will hate to read here, may even find it boring: Kris Bryant. Now, before you you laugh, hear me out. Bryant is entering his age 30 season. He is a former Rookie of the Year and MVP. While he has had some injury issues, when healthy, he has been able to produce, hitting at All Star levels. While still in his prime, he is likely seeking a long term deal. He has primarily played 3B, however, he has recently seen more playing time in the OF. We obviously don't have a need at 3B, the OF, or even 1B, so I would slot him in at DH. Due to his flexibility though, it would be very easy to give Arenado and Goldschmidt days off if they need them. To be honest, he's my top target now.
From one former Cub to another, and no, I'm not a closet Cub fan. Kyle Schwarber can mash. Last year, he split time with the Nationals and Red Sox. While in DC, he went on a rampage that only Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa have done before. That's pretty good company! In a 17 game stretch, he hit 15 home runs. Since 2017, he has hit 25+ home runs each season (excluding 2020). That is exactly how I envision a DH, a big masher. If we can't get Bryant, I sure hope we can go after Schwarber.
Now to the guy that has been one of the best DHs in the game. There's a chance he may even wind up in the Hall of Fame. Nelson Cruz, The big downfall with Cruz is his age. He is entering his age 41 season. He has hit 30+ home runs each of the past 7 full seasons (I'm excluding 2020, the Covid season, even though he hit 16 home runs in 60 games, which equates to 43 home runs). Cruz was traded from the Twins to the Rays last season. Once in Tampa, he did start to decline, hitting .226, though the power was still evident. How would he fair in St. Louis? Would he want to try to make a redemption of sorts considering what happened in 2011?
Is there anyone we could trade for? An all star is available in Oakland. Matt Olson made his first All Star game in his 6 year career last season, a season in which was a career year. Many knew this breakout was coming for a few years and it finally arrived. Olson is 27 and in the prime of his career. The Athletics are looking to trade some of their stars and enter a rebuild. Any team that acquires Olson would have him through the 2023 season. It would cost a pretty penny to get him. You may have to part with one of Gorman, Walker, or Liberatore. However, I would think he could be had without trading one of those 3.
It's hard to tell how Mozeliak and company will handle the DH. They most certainly stay in house, but some of these names that are available sure are enticing. I know I would buy a jersey if any of these guys wound up in St. Louis, and I'm sure many of you would too! Thanks for reading and Go Cards!