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Stacking the Deck for an Improved 2022?

Updated: Nov 23, 2021

Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson, AP Photos

I don't know about you, but Hot Stove season is one of my favorite times of the year. I think it has to do with all the uncertainty that unfolds in free agency and trading. After an offseason that saw the Cardinals acquire one of the biggest trade acquisitions in Nolan Arenado, the Cardinals are now looking at how they can improve this offseason. What could they be looking for? A few areas I think need improved would be pitching, both the rotation, and bullpen, explore the SS market, improve the bench, a 4 OF, and a lefty hitter.

The Cardinals have quite a bit of money that came off the books. Carlos Martinez & Matt Carpenter both had their options declined, Dexter Fowler's money is off the books after having paid his 2020 salary for the Angels, and Andrew Miller is a free agent. With all that money coming off, you would think Mike Girsch, John Mozeliak, & Bill DeWitt III have something up their sleeve.

Maybe, maybe not. The Cardinals typically don't dip their toes in the Free Agency Pool too much. I think that would rule out arguably the top free agent in shortstop Carlos Correa. Correa, has been heavily connected to the Detroit Tigers and is likely going to command north of $320M. If they wouldn't shell out that kind of money for Albert Pujols (more on him actually later on), they're not going to give it to Correa.

Rumors have it that the Cardinals won't be active in the shortstop market, however, the same was said for their involvement last year's offseason. Then out of nowhere, the Arenado to the Cardinals rumors started happening. I think that's how it could go for the shortstops. They're holding their cards tight. If they do improve at short, I think they need to look at two in particular: Corey Seager and Trevor Story. Seager would fill the left handed bat need, but there have been some people in the industry that have suggested moving Seager to 3B. Same was said for Correa, but he just won a Gold Glove. Seager I think commands a lot of money as well, so he may be out. Story, if they decide to pursue a shortstop, is my pick. The connection between him and former teammate Arenado is real. He would provide a big boost to an already solid offensive lineup. I don't think he would cost as much as what some people are thinking.

Photo Credit: AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

On the pitching side of things, one name that many of you in CN 24/7 have thrown out there, including at last year's trade deadline is Max Scherzer. At the deadline, the "hometown" guy said he prefered to be traded to the west coast, and was almost traded to the San Diego Padres, because they always trade for pitchers, but the Los Angeles Dodgers swooped in at the last second. Now a free agent, the Scherzer to St. Louis talks have reemerged. A recent report by Robert Murray of Fansided detailed that there is now mutual interest between Scherzer and the Cardinals. Whether he decides to come home or not remains to be seen, but I don't think he will.

There have been a few other names that have been connected to St. Louis. Steven Matz is a lefty that has struggled to stay healthy throughout his 7 year career with the Mets and Blue Jays and holds a career ERA of 4.24. He is expected to announce his decision this week, but I hope it's not with the Cardinals. The one starter I hope we are able to sign is Marcus Stroman. Stroman has been active on Twitter the last few weeks, liking and retweeting Cardinal related things, even tweeting himself that he sees, and appreciates the love he's been receiving.

Marcus Stroman, @STRO, Twitter

There are a few other starting pitchers that Cardinal fans have mentioned they want to see. A few of them signed yesterday, but one still remains: Kevin Gausman. Gausman I feel would be an under the radar type move. He was an All Star for the first time in 2021. He has started to figure things out after getting out of Baltimore. Gausman at one point this year was a leading candidate for the Cy Young, but ultimately finished 6th.

If they are unsuccessful in signing a free agent, could they look at their more traditional route of trading for a player? The Cardinals, historically speaking, like to acquire talent via trade. Just look at some of the names they have traded for:

Mark McGwire (1997, OAK)

Jim Edmonds (2000, ANA)

Scott Rolen (2002, PHI)

Mark Mulder (2005, OAK)

Matt Holliday (2009, OAK)

Jason Heyward (2014, ATL)

Paul Goldschmidt (2018, ARZ)

Nolan Arenado (2021, COL)

Those have been some staples to our lineup or rotation. This could be the more likely route, but who is out there? It was just reported today that the Orioles are listening to offers on John Means. Means is a LHP that was an All Star a couple years ago as a rookie, but has turned into the ace of the Orioles. He has 3 years of control left so the Orioles will likely have a high price tag on him. He's been a name I have been keeping an eye out for in rumors the past year or so. If you really want to make a big splash, call up the Cleveland Guardians and ask about Jose Ramirez and Shane Bieber. Ramirez, for a stretch, was a top 3 MVP vote getter every year. He has 2 years remaining before becoming a free agent and has primarly played 3B recently, but could he slide over to 2B and push Gold Glover Tommy Edman back to his natural SS position? Imagine trying to pitch to Arenado, O'Neill, Goldschmidt, & Ramirez. Then there is Bieber. Bieber won the Cy Young in 2020 in dominating fashion. He was only able to pitch in 16 games in 2021 due to injuries, but he is one of the top pitchers in the game. If the Cardinals were to acquire him, that would elevate their rotation to another level.

So who do I really see the Cardinals acquiring this winter? 3 guys I am really hoping to see don the Birds on the Bat: Marcus Stroman, Trevor Story & John Means. By signing Stroman and acquiring Means, that could make Miles Mikolas, Johan Oviedo, Dakota Hudson, and Jake Woodford, all expendable. Signing Story would likely mean Paul DeJong gets traded. Many people say Mo goes for the "low-hanging fruit", but I think we are in for a good offseason!

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