St. Louis Cardinals Search For FA Left-Handed Bat
While the St. Louis Cardinals are in pursuit of a catcher this offseason, John Mozeliak has also expressed interest in looking to bring in a left-handed bat to the lineup.
Currently, the Cardinals have switch hitters Tommy Edman & Dylan Carlson in the starting lineup, as well as left handed hitters Brendan Donovan & Lars Nootbaar. They also have Nolan Gorman & Alec Burleson that hit from the left side.
I would think, that with having those options (all young with plenty of upside), that St. Louis would have all the left handed bats they need unless they look to move one or more of them in a trade to acquire a catcher. If that’s the case, I would expect Nootbaar, Burleson & Gorman as names coming up in a trade scenario.
There isn’t a plethora of impact left handed bats available in this year’s free agent market, but there are a few that the Cardinals could take a look at.
OF/1B Cody Bellinger:
Bellinger (27) was non-tendered by the Los Angeles Dodgers and despite his 2022 slashline of .210/.265/.389, and 150 strikeouts, he’s now one of the more sought after free agent bats available.
Teams are looking to catch lightning in a bottle when it comes to Bellinger, who has plenty of power (19 HR last season), elite-level defense, great base running ability and the versatility to play both first base & centerfield.
The 2019 NL MVP is rumored to be interested in a one-year deal to re-establish his value, but even signing that short of contract he won’t come cheap. The San Francisco Giants have been linked to have interest in Bellinger, even after bringing back Joc Pederson & the potential of signing Aaron Judge. I’m not sure the Cardinals want to get in a bidding war for his services, but he’s someone who (if right), would really fit in nicely both in the field and the lineup for St. Louis.
OF Brandon Nimmo
Nimmo will be entering his age 30 season, and although posting a slashline of .274/.367/.433 with 16 HR & 64 RBI in 2022, it was his first season since 2018 of playing more than 100 games.
He could slot in ahead of Nolan Arenado & Paul Goldschmidt in the Cardinals lineup, but with much the same profile as Tommy Edman or Brendan Donovan could provide (and at a much lesser cost than Nimmo).
Some have the former Met pegged at getting a 5 or 6 year offer in the neighborhood of $100M-$120M+ which I believe takes the Cardinals out of consideration given his injury history.
OF Michael Conforto
Like former teammate Nimmo, Conforto is also entering his age 30 season. And also like Nimmo, injuries are a concern. Conforto missed all of last season with a right shoulder injury after turning down a qualifying offer by the Mets at the end of the 2021 season.
In that season, he slashed .232/.344/.384 with 14 HR & 55 RBI. While those numbers don’t jump out at you, keep in mind that Conforto did slam 27, 28 & 33 HRs respectively from 2017-2019.
The former Met had surgery on the injured shoulder back in April, and as far as recovery goes was cleared to resume hitting a few months after and has begun a throwing program which should have him ready for Spring Training.
He’s said to be seeking a 2-year deal with an opt-out after the first season, but may settle for a one year contract, and is projected at around $14M/year. As the current Cardinals outfield stands, signing Conforto would likely slide Lars Nootbaar as the 4th outfielder to become the lefty bat off the bench.
OF Andrew Benintendi
Benintendi (28), slashed .304/.373/.399 with 5 HR & 51 RBI in 2022 between his time in Kansas City & New York. He earned his first All-Star nod last season before being dealt to the Yankees.
He’s versatile as an outfielder with the ability to play both center & the corners, and is very much a contact over power bat. While his numbers took a dip after last year’s trade, he still is an intriguing option who’s projected to receive a 4-year contract in the $56M range ($14M AAV).
Much like Nimmo & Conforto, if signed would be brought in to start which forces Nootbaar to the bench (if not traded).
1B/DH Josh Bell
Bell, 30, is coming off a season of mixed results in 2022. For the Nationals, the switch hitter slashed .301/.384/.493 with 14 HR & 57 RBI in 103 games, and then when traded to San Diego Padres (in the Juan Soto deal) managed only a .192/.316/.271 batting line with 3 HR & 14 RBI in 53 games.
Bell has played corner outfield in the past, but it’s a safe bet that he will be utilized only at 1B & DH going forward. Although the Cardinals have an MVP in Paul Goldschmidt manning first base, Bell would be a nice plug-in as the designated hitter and hits well from both sides of the plate vs lefties as well as righties.
MLB Trade Rumors protects Bell at receiving a 4-year $64M deal ($14M AAV), and while the Cardinals may prefer using the DH as a revolving door to get players like Nolan Gorman & Juan Yepez at-bats, it would be at least worth considering Bell if he stays on the board longer than expected.
INF Matt Carpenter
Could the St. Louis Cardinals bring back Matt Carpenter after letting him go at the end of 2021? I suppose anything is possible.
Carpenter (37), had quite the resurgence last season for the New York Yankees. In 47 games, he slashed .305/.412/.727 with 15 HR & 37 RBI. Arguably the hottest hitter in all of the baseball during that stretch, it seemed like every time I logged onto our Cardinals Nation 24/7 Facebook page that there was a post of another Matt Carpenter HR.
Some argued that Carp’s HR numbers were inflated by playing at Yankee Stadium, but according to Baseball Savant 13 of his 15 HRs would have also been HR at Busch Stadium. Take into consideration the elimination of the shift in MLB, and this could also benefit Carpenter.
Although the Yankees had Carpenter play bits of RF, I’m sure upon signing him the Cardinals would utilize him in a utility infield/occasional DH role. There was speculation that Carpenter had friction with Jeff Albert’s analytic approach and with Albert no longer being with the organization & Matt Holliday (who worked with Carpenter last offseason) now the bench coach, maybe a reunion to the Cardinals shouldn’t totally be ruled out.
I see this at best, a last minute type of signing much like St. Louis last season with Albert Pujols.
Other available left-handed bats that the Cardinals could look at would be C Omar Narvaez, INF/OF Adam Frazier, CF Kevin Kiermaier, OF David Peralta, OF Michael Brantley Jr., OF Joey Gallo, INF/OF Willi Castro, OF Odubel Herrera, and (while doubtful) a reunion with 33-year old OF Corey Dickerson.
There’s always the chance that the Cardinals could go the trade route in acquiring a left-handed bat, but I assume much of what’s been thrown out in the MLB rumor mill would see potential trade partners acquiring lefties from St. Louis, not the other way around.