As RB noted last week, the tragic death of 22-year-old outfielder Oscar Taveras creates a question in right field for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals' Plan A in 2015 immediately following the end of the NLCS was to have Taveras, Randal Grichuk, and Stephen Piscotty compete for playing time there. Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports that, in the wake of Taveras's passing, the Cardinals have begun making inquiries about adding a right fielder:
While still sensitive to the freshness of the tragedy, Mozeliak has had to adjust his offseason checklist to account for Taveras' absence. Initially satisfied that the Cardinals could get sufficient right-field production from some playing combination of Taveras, Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty, Mozeliak arrived at the General Managers Meetings in Arizona on Sunday evening knowing that he now needs to look for outside help.
"I think it certainly leaves that position in question," Mozeliak said. "Clearly internally, we have Grichuk and potentially Piscotty to fill that spot. I would also say that it does now force us to explore other options, whether it's the free-agent market or the trade market. Really, this past week and [this] week will be groundwork to see if something like that is possible."
"I'm not saying it's a must, but I also think we need to be prudent and make sure that we understand what that landscape looks like," Mozeliak acknowledged. "When you look at sort of what Grichuk did and you look at Piscotty's inexperience at the big leagues, if our goal is to try and find ways to get an uptick in offense, we do have to explore it."
The breadth of that right-field search, Mozeliak said, will be wide. The Cardinals will look at short-term placeholders and long-term fits. While the club could consider finding a left-handed-hitting option to complement the right-handed-hitting Grichuk and Piscotty, that won't be a must.
That the Cardinals were comfortable entering 2015 with a three-player competition in right field consisting of Taveras, Grichuk, and Piscotty but are uncomfortable enough with a Grichuk-Piscotty timeshare is a testament to the players' respective talent levels. Taveras possessed a singular skill set that projected as a big-league regular if not an All-Star or MVP. Grichuk and Piscotty are solid ballplayers but nobody is throwing around the notion of cathedral ceilings for either of them. And so Mozeliak and his lieutenants have begun to feel out the free-agent and trade markets for outfielders.
The list of potential outfield targets grew by three on Monday before it decreased by one.
- Matt Kemp is entering his age-30 season with five years, $107 million left on his contract.
- In 2015, Carl Crawford will be 33 and will earn a guaranteed $62.25 million through the end of 2017.
- Andre Ethier will be 33 for 2015 and is owed $53.5 million through 2017 with a 2018 club option worth $17.5 million ($2.5 million buyout).
The Dodgers are taking a flexible approach, per Rosenthal. If a team is willing to eat salary, they'll accept less in prospects in a deal. However, if a team is less willing to take on the remaining money on a contract, the Dodgers will throw money in to sweeten the pot so long as they get better quality prospects in return.
On Monday afternoon news broke that Michael Cuddyer is no longer on the free-agent market. Just as everyone expected, Cuddyer rejected the Rockies' one-year, $15.3 million qualifying offer in order to sign a two-year, $20.1 million deal with the New York Mets. By signing Cuddyer, a qualifying-offer recipient, the Mets sacrifice the No. 15 overall pick in next June's Rule 4 amateur draft.
The right-field market is taking shape even as it shrinks. It will be interesting to see how aggressive Mozeliak and his minions are in targeting a right fielder as the Hot Stove heats up with this week's general manager meetings in Arizona and the MLB winter meetings less than a month away.