Trade rumors for Giancarlo Stanton came and away he went to New York.
The ink is long since dry on the deal that took Shohei Ohtani to Los Angeles.
These were the deals that were supposed to open up the floodgates for this Major League Baseball offseason.
Yet, here we sit in the middle of January still waiting for many of the top free agents this winter to find a home.
The St. Louis Cardinals have been heavily talked about in relation to several of those names still out there and they reportedly have the flexibility to spend the money to get the player or players they still want to add to the team.
So, why don’t we have another deal yet.
Rebuffed by Stanton, the Cardinals elected to instead trade for his former Marlins teammate, Marcell Ozuna, to bring more consistent punch to the middle of the lineup and the St. Louis outfield.
To help restock the bullpen, the Cardinals added former Padres and Astros closer Luke Gregerson.
The team reportedly still wants another impact bat to add to the middle of the lineup, either at first base or third base, and potentially a top closer.
With Wade Davis signing with the Rockies just before the new year, that takes out one of the clear top two closers available on the market. The last remaining is former Royals closer Greg Holland, who had the job last season that Davis just took in Colorado.
The question is, do the Cardinals want to pay a premium at that position. I’m doubtful that they do. Holland would be a much needed addition to the team and is coming off a great year, so I’m hoping that’s the direction the Cardinals ultimately decide to go.
However, as much as we hear that the Cardinals are willing to pay up this offseason, we have to remember that adding players that way for big money contracts is outside the norm for the team. Rarely do you see the Cardinals sign players that weren’t already a part of their team to big deals.
After committing five years and $82.5 million to Dexter Fowler last offseason, it would be somewhat uncharacteristic and a very nice surprise if the team were to go out and sign another premium player off the open market, let alone perhaps two.
As for the other of the team’s biggest needs the first option has seemed to be a trade for either Manny Machado or Josh Donaldson to come to St. Louis from either Baltimore or Toronto, respectively. However, both of those deals seem to be getting increasingly less likely as time passes.
After getting burned by the one-year rental of Jason Heyward, who left St. Louis for the rival Cubs after the 2015 season, a Machado deal doesn’t seem like a good option anyway. While he’s a great player and could potentially put the Cardinals in position to make a deep postseason push this year, the cost would be too great for just another one-year rental when Machado signs a monster free agent deal next winter.
Donaldson seems like the best option, but the Blue Jays reportedly are resistant to parting ways with the former American League MVP. The Blue Jays avoided arbitration with Donaldson by signing him to a one year, $23 million deal this week.
If neither of those trades becomes a reality, there are talks that the Cardinals are in on either Eric Hosmer to play first base or Mike Moustakas to play third. There are other quality options at those positions still on the market also. Matt Carpenter would of course play whichever position the Cardinals don’t make an addition to on the corner infield.
I personally would much prefer a Hosmer deal to Moustakas. However, so would pretty much everyone else. Hosmer has reportedly already had offers in the seven-eight year and $20-21 million per season range from San Diego and Kansas City.
I don’t know that he could expect much more than that, which suggests that he may be holding out for a similar offer from a team more likely to contend in the short-term instead of being part of a rebuilding project. If so, perhaps the Cardinals could benefit and get a key piece at less than the market value, like the Indians were able to do with Edwin Encarnacion last offseason.
However, if they don’t, I’m not entirely disheartened by the options the team already has in place. Gyorko has continued to exceed my initial expectations at third base. When the Cardinals acquired him from the Padres for Jon Jay a couple of years ago, I didn’t expect Gyorko to be better than a bottom of the lineup hitter with a .220-.230 batting average and maybe 20-25 home runs per season. However, he’s shown in St. Louis that his fielding prowess is better than expected and he upped his batting average from the .240s to .272 last season.
There is also consideration to be had for Jose Martinez, who impressed in stints at first base and in the outfield in 2017.
Martinez batted .309 with 14 home runs last season. That’s nothing to sneeze at. I’d be very interested to see what he could do with a full season starting at first base if given the opportunity. However, that would require the Cardinals to not sign any of the tempting options out there in free agency and would mean Carpenter would move to third and Gyorko to second, displacing Kolten Wong from the regular lineup.
Whatever the choice, as a fan I feel somewhat spoiled by the amount of solid options out there. They might not be on the level of a huge postseason splash like a trade to land Stanton would have been, but we’ve seen the Cardinals work magic without that kind of headline-grabbing move in the past. Maybe they’ll do it again.