St. Louis Cardinals and the Designated Hitter.
It is highly expected that MLB will institute the designated hitter into the National League for the 2022 season. Doing so will allow NL teams to pursue other players this off-season that they may not take a flier on otherwise.
Personally, I’ve always enjoyed the NL being the more strategic league where manager’s have to weigh the odds & optimize when they pinch hit for the pitcher. But over the years seeing so many pitchers get injured in the batter’s box or running the bases (along with the fact that rarely do any of us get excited to see a pitcher with a bat in his hands) I’ve changed my tune and more than ready to see the DH available in both leagues.
While some teams use this as a chance to sign or hang on to an aging veteran with an ability to hit to fill a spot, others utilize it as a way to rotate position players already in-house that can spare them with a day of rest from defensive duties.
What does this mean for a team like the St. Louis Cardinals?
The current Cardinals team isn’t exactly constructed with a true DH candidate. I could see them doing the latter of the mentioned above, and using it in a way that might allow Tommy Edman or Paul DeJong a day where they give Edmundo Sosa an occasional start.
It could also be used to carry both Lars Nootbaar who provided some depth last season and Juan Yepez who raked at the AAA level, with both players doing well during the Arizona Fall League as well, and have them split time at the position.
While I don’t believe Nolan Gorman will break camp with the club, there’s always a chance that he does and would be a man without a position. So having the DH in St. Louis could possibly fast-track Gorman’s path to the majors next year.
President of Baseball Operations, John Mozeliak always seems to be in the hunt for a lefty bench bat during the off-season, so maybe they look to bring in the likes of a Joc Pederson or a Travis Shaw on a light one-year contract.
It seems unlikely that the team would entertain players like Nick Castellanos or Kyle Schwarber who would probably thrive in that role with this St. Louis lineup but cost more than the team is willing to spend.
On the flip side, the Cardinals may not want to bring in an aging player like a Nelson Cruz, Andrew McCutchen or even Albert Pujols for that DH spot.
Although of the ones listed, I think the front office at least keeps tabs on Pujols and the potential of him having a farewell tour alongside former teammates Yadier Molina & Adam Wainwright. That’s the nostalgia speaking, and a bit of wishful thinking on my part.
Depending on the payday he’s seeking, the Cardinals could go after Chris Taylor who ended the team’s postseason with a walk-off HR off of Alex Reyes last season and who is a super utility player with a career slashline of .261/.337/.443.
Lastly (and this is my “not-so” hot take), there are still rumblings & rumors about Trevor Story and the team’s interest in bringing him into the fold. If the Cardinals could get Story on the cheap for one season or even a multi-year deal with opt outs/incentives, the team could potentially have him as the starting SS and slide DeJong into a DH, as I do think the front office views his lackluster offensive production last season as a fluke and due to injuries.
Albeit the team could always shop DeJong if they acquire Story or let Paul reestablish some value as a DH with his current salary not really hurting the team in the meantime.
Whether the St. Louis Cardinals’ approach will be to pursue a player (via free agency or trade this off-season) that could embrace a DH role, or whether they do indeed use it as a revolving door to rest players and go with in-house options, it should at the very least improve the offense in 2022.
How would you like to see the team fill the designated hitter spot? Let us know in the comments. As always, thanks for reading & Go Cards!