The MLB offseason has been eventful for the St. Louis Cardinals. Trading for slugger Paul Goldschmidt and signing bullpen presence Andrew Miller. While the market is still full of impactful players the Cardinals made It well known that they are looking to be players during the 2018 offseason. It got me thinking about the last time the Cardinals made a big move on the free agent market. Here are my top five free agent pickups since 2010.
5.Jhonny Peralta, 2013
The Cardinals inked a freshly suspended Peralta in the offseason of 2013 to a 4-year $52 million deal. Peralta was signed to fill a long-time gap in the Cardinals lineup at shortstop and for a small time he was very effective. His first season was successful in St. Louis posting a career best WAR of 5.9 during the 2014 season.
Peralta tailed off in the 2015 season with his WAR dropping to an abysmal 1.9. Whoever Peralta’s raw statistics were credible enough to earn himself an All-Star game bid. The decline continued in 2015 as injuries and poor play led to his eventual release in 2017. Peralta’s production over two seasons still puts him on this list.
4. Pat Neshek, 2013
Pat Neshek signed in the 2013 offseason along with Peralta. Neshek however was not nearly at the same cost. Neshek signed a 1-year minor league deal with incentives, he paid that off beyond the Cardinals highest beliefs. Looked at as a right-handed specialist Neshek developed into a lights out middle inning pitcher for the National League champs.
A career high in wins with 7 and a 1.87 earned-run average, a 2.37 fielding-independent ERA, and $13.7 million in surplus value. Neshek earned himself his first ever All-Star game appearance, Neshek was able to turn his 2013 success into a bigger contract with the Astros the next season. While it was only one year his success over that season at such a low cost was a huge asset.
3. Seunghwan Oh, 2015
The Korean Buddha was a quiet signing in the 2015 offseason. The former NPB closer signed a one-year deal with a team option for the 2017 season. Oh had a stellar 2016 season, eventually forcing himself into the closers role. His 1.92 ERA, 103 strikeouts and 19 saves were amassed over 76 games.
Oh filled a need for the Cardinals in 2016, the club of course picked up his option for the 2017 season. Unfortunately, Oh was not able to perform at the same level as the previous season forcing the Cardinals to let him walk after the season. His slider has regained its effectiveness in 2018 making him a valuable asset for the wildcard winning Colorado Rockies.
2. Carlos Beltran, 2011
Looking for a veteran beat before the 2012 season the Cardinals signed multi-time all-star Carlos Beltran to their World Series roster. At two-years, $26 million the Cardinals were looking to solidify their lineup after losing superstar Albert Pujols.
Beltran paid off the Cardinals investment, hitting 32 homers with a .842 OPS. Beltran earned himself another all-star appearance in his storied career. His 3.9 WAR was the highest he had over the last four seasons.
Beltran followed up 2012 with another solid season, but injuries down the stretch of 2013 hurt the final playoff run. Going into his age 37 season the Cardinals let Beltran walk, signing with the New York Yankees.
1. Lance Berkman, 2010
Primarily a first baseman his entire career. Most thought it was a bit of a stretch to sign the 35-year old Berkman. He had come off the worst season of his career while splitting time with the Yankees and Astros. Moving Berkman to the outfield the Cardinals got a rejuvenated player that was worth every bit of his 1-year, $8 million he signed for. He posted a 163 wRC+, his highest mark since 2001, and was among the team’s best hitters in the postseason, where he had one of the most important hits in Cardinals baseball history.
Berkman’s second season with the Cardinals was plagued by injury. But he had the biggest impact of any player signed over the last ten years.