We are officially into MLB transaction season, and this is an important one for the Cardinals. They admit they need a back-end reliever and a big bat in the middle of the lineup.
But who fits? And what other franchises might the Cards be competing with?
Let’s start with a closer. With Trevor Rosenthal presumably out for the year, the Cardinals are going to need an experienced ninth-inning pitcher. Those on the market include Wade Davis of the Cubs and Greg Holland of the Rockies, along with perhaps current Cardinal Juan Nicasio. Holland had a bounce-back season in Colorado after missing the 2016 season because of Tommy John surgery. Holland saved a National League high 41 games and had a reasonable…in Colorado…3.61 ERA last season. He melted down in August with a 13.50 ERA, but regained his form down the stretch. He opted out of the final year and $15 million of his contract, so the price is likely going to be in range of what Mark Melanson got from the Giants last year — $62 million over four years.
Davis and Holland shared a bullpen in Kansas City for three years, with Davis succeeding Holland after the Tommy John surgery. Davis became one of the best closers in baseball, and rejoined old manager Joe Maddon with the Cubs. Davis saved 32 games last year with a 2.30 ERA. Like the Rockies with Holland, Davis appears to be a Cubs’ top priority to keep. After losing Aroldis Chapman last year and their bullpen being a mess in this year’s post-season, they need an anchor. Since Davis hasn’t been hurt yet and won a World Series, we should expect that he’ll get more money than Holland.
Addison Reed has flown under the radar as one of the best setup men in the game, but has posted 125 career saves with the White Sox, Diamondbacks, Mets and Red Sox. He’s amassed a career 3.40 ERA and has seasons of 29, 32 and 40 saves under his belt. Because he’s only 29 and can handle any role, he should intrigue the Cardinals.
One other intriguing name is Bryan Shaw of Cleveland, who has been extremely durable in posting a 3.11 ERA in five seasons in Cleveland. He’d be a Mike Matheny favorite because he takes the ball a lot…leading the AL in appearances in three of the last four years, appearing in 80, 74, 75 and 79 games.
In addition to the Cardinals, Rockies and Cubs, the Rangers, Braves and Nationals could all be in the market for a closer. The Cardinals would do well to get Nicasio taken care of as a fallback option, and an eighth inning force if they can’t get an established closer.
As far as a hitter, this has a chance to be a good market. In addition to free agents J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Jay Bruce, trade targets are aplenty with Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Osuna in Miami, Toronto’s Josh Donaldson and perhaps Detroit’s Ian Kinsler.
San Francisco and Philadelphia have joined the Cardinals in pursuit of Stanton according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. The Royals would like to keep Hosmer and Moustakas, with Boston reportedly zeroing in on Hosmer and the Angels pursuing Moustakas. Martinez will get lots of play in free agency, and the Giants, Angels, Red Sox, Phils and Braves will all be in the mix.
The Cardinals would do well to try and accomplish their goals sooner rather than later, and that means staying out of the free agent market and trying to secure a bat or two in trades. They match up particularly well with the Blue Jays, who desperately need outfield offense, and the Marlins, who are trying to fill the void left by Jose Fernandez’s untimely death. The Cardinals have depth among their young outfielders and young pitchers, so they should be able to get their hitter or hitters that way.
The Redbirds should also search for, like the rest of MLB, a pitcher on a “prove it” deal that can do for them what Charlie Morton did for Houston this year. Some that fit the bill include Jhoulys Chacin, who was 13-10 for San Diego this year, Andrew Cashner of Texas, Tyler Chatwood of Colorado (a soon to be 28-year-old who should interest EVERYONE), Jeremy Hellickson and Chris Tillman of Baltimore, the Yankees’ Michael Pineda , Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez or former Mike Maddux pupil Scott Feldman in Cincinnati.
As baseball fans, we love transactions, and this should be the most active off-season the Cardinals have had in some time. Oscar Taveras was supposed to be a middle of the lineup star by now, and he’s gone. With Matt Holliday gone and players like Allen Craig and Stephen Piscotty not reaching that level, the Cardinals need to fill those holes. Now is the time to get a couple of hitters, a closer and a Lance Lynn replacement.
The season of change is here. It’s time for the Cardinals to seize the day.