MLB Offseason Preview: St. Louis Cardinals

MLB Offseason Preview: St. Louis Cardinals

by December 1, 2021 2 comments

The St. Louis Cardinals’ “Cinderella” run to the playoffs came to a screeching halt on one swing from Dodgers’ utility man Chris Taylor. However, there is plenty to be excited about regarding the future for St. Louis. Jack Flaherty should be healthy after a season where he pitched only 78.1 innings. The patience the front office and fans alike had with Tyler O’Neill paid off massively––145 wRC+, 6.3 rWAR.

That being said, it’s about 2022 and beyond for the Cardinals. Where do they go from after a 17-game winning streak slingshot them into a postseason berth?

Make sure to check out all of our other MLB Offseason Previews.

Offseason Strategy

The Cardinals are in an interesting position. The NL Central is full of rebuilding teams, and a Brewers team that trots out an elite pitching staff with no offense to make a legitimate postseason run. St. Louis has tread water, sporadically making splashes, and has made it to three straight postseasons. Based on the beginning of free agency, it looks like they can continue that method and continue to compete in the division.

Keys to the Offseason

Sign Another Starter

After years of declining, now 40-year-old Adam Wainwright posted the 11th-best ERA in MLB in the third-most innings. The Cardinals have the best defense in baseball, so they don’t need to acquire a high-volume strikeout pitcher to have a successful winter. They are a team that should be scouring the market for contact pitchers that can eat innings and limit hard contact. Steven Matz for four years and $44 million is a start, but the Cardinals need one more piece to finish the jigsaw puzzle of their rotation.

Add a Backup Catcher

Yes, Yadier Molina is a Hall of Famer. However, he hasn’t posted a wRC+ above 88 since 2018–, when he was 35. Behind him, Ali Sánchez and Andrew Knizner combined to post a 55 wRC+ in 2021. Overall, the catcher room had the 24th-ranked offensive output (75 wRC+), ahead of only the Mets, Orioles, Rangers, Marlins, Braves, and Guardians.

Offseason Targets

Marcus Stroman, 30, RHP

Stroman is coming off a solid season for the New York Mets, posting a 3.49 FIP and a 3.95 SIERA in 179 innings. This is after a 2020 season in which Stroman decided not to play. What makes the righty so enticing for a team like the Cardinals is his high ground ball rate and rising strikeout potential, with the addition of a split-change. For a team like St. Louis with an excellent defense, this is a no-brainer. For someone like Stroman (who loves to get big outs in big markets), this could be an opportunity to flourish deep into his 30s.

Jason Castro, 34, C

Castro is coming off a season as the backup to Martín Maldonado. In his 179 plate appearances, he slashed .235/.356/.443 with a wRC+ of 123 and an xwOBA of .375. On top of that, his 1.1 fWAR prorates to 4.1 over a 650 plate appearance sample size. He also has a great eye, as his 12.7 walk percentage since 2018 ranks 35th among 433 hitters with at least 500 plate appearances. While his framing is not what it once was (23 runs from extra strikes, 2015 to 2016), but it’s still hovering around league-average which is two RES since 2017. He’d be the perfect backup to Yadier Molina. The only kicker is they’d have to trade for him. Although, he’s 34 years old and making only $4.25 million in 2022.

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