The Cardinals offense sucked in 2020. There were a lot of factors that played into that, including the long layoff from positive Covid tests but, to be honest they were not much better in 2019. Heading into the 2021 the rotation and bullpen is loaded with options that are above league average. The biggest need will be on the offensive side of the ball. The upcoming offseason doesn’ feature the Manny Machado, Bryce Harper or Mike Trout’s that the fanbase would crave over but there are some options that can bring some much needed production to the lineup.
This list is focusing on just the offensive free agents. Guys like Liam Hendricks, and Trevor Bauer (whom both should be on the Cardinals radar) will be completely excluded from this list
3. DJ LeMahieu, 32, INF
Who wouldn’t want a two-time batting champion with position versatility? No one is the answer. The reason LeMahieu isn’t number one on this list is that he has already verbally stated that he wants to resign with the Yankees.
LeMahieu has the ability to play every infield spot including SS if in a bind and he can do it at a high level. His batting statistics jump at you but quietly he has amassed a nice collection of gold gloves (3) in his career. After two terrific seasons in New York amassing a WRC+ of 135 and 177 respectively.
The experiment of Paul DeJong at shortstop has been unsuccessful. DeJong’s power has shown through his career hitting 35,19, and 30 homers over the last three seasons before 2020. Moving DeJong to the bench, would be the best option for the team. Resigning Kolten Wong, moving Tommy Edman to shortstop and having LeMahieu at third would be the best option for the team.
2. Nelson Cruz, 40, DH
The DH in the national league is here to stay. The Cardinals have a chance to add a monster bat and not hurt themselves on the defense. The ageless wonder Nelson Cruz is the answer to all the problems that you have in the ISO department. Since 2014 Nelson Cruz’s ISO has not gone below .250. In comparison the highest Cardinals outfielder ISO was Harrison Bader at just .217. St. Louis needs power and they need it badly. With a team slugging percentage of .373 they rank 27th in the entire league.
The protection of Nelson Cruz can open up a lot of possibilities in the Cardinals lineup. Their lone star Paul Goldschmidt has had literally no protection behind him, with the Cardinals cleanup hitters in the bottom five in every offensive category. Cruz is the perfect fit for the Cardinals because he brings one thing to the table and that is power. It is exactly what the Cardinals need; he can be gotten at an affordable price for a likely one-year deal.
1. Marcell Ozuna, 30, OF/DH
Marcell Ozuna’s first go round with the Cardinals wasn’t ideal. His two seasons with the redbirds Ozuna saw just a grand total of just .777. Ozuna played his Cardinals tenure with a serious shoulder injury that held back his offensive abilities.
Ozuna took a shot on himself signing a one-year deal with the Atlanta Braves. Through sixty games Ozuna not only put himself in the conversation for the MVP, but his protection for Freddie Freeman took his ability to the next level. Ozuna led the National League in homers, RBI, and total bases. A motivated Marcell Ozuna can be a game changer the Cardinals thought they had traded for.
A second go around in St. Louis doesn’t seem likely but on the list of things that Cardinals need he fits the bill. A contract of four years and $125 million would be the likely number that would bring him in, at just 30 years old he is still young enough that the Cardinals can have him for the prime years of his career. He can be the staple of the offense along with Paul Goldschmidt and the newly emerging Dylan Carlson. A core lineup featuring those three can immediately make them a contender.