St. Louis was able to avoid arbitration by inking all four of their eligible players before Friday’s deadline.
The four players include outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Randal Grichuk and pitchers Michael Wacha and Tyler Lyons. Ozuna and Wacha are in their second years of eligibility, while Grichuk and Lyons are in their first.
The Cardinals agreed to pay Ozuna $9 million for the 2018 season - up from the $3.5 million he made from the Marlins in 2017. Ozuna was an All-Star in 2016 and ‘17, earning the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Awards for his most recent campaign - his finest season thus far.
In 159 games with Miami, Ozuna belted 37 home runs, slashing .312/.376/.548 with 124 runs batted in. Ozuna, entering his age 27 season, is expected to start in left field for the Cardinals, with Tommy Pham in center and Dexter Fowler in right.
Grichuk will make $2.6 million this season, a year removed from a very up-and-down 2017. With lack of performance (and later in the a season: a back injury) stinting him at High-A Palm Beach, Double-A Springfield, and Triple-A Memphis, Grichuk played in 122 games at the big-league level last summer.
With St. Louis, Grichuk had a .315 wOBA with 22 homers and a 30.1 strikeout percentage in 442 plate appearances. Given the current outfield alignment profiled above, the 26-year-old Grichuk’s role entering the year is likely serving as the Cardinals’ fourth outfielder.
Wacha made 30 starts for the Cardinals in 2017 and will make $5.3 million this year. Across 165 2⁄3 innings, Wacha maintained a 3.88 xFIP and an 8.58 K/9, posting a 3.2 WAR along the way.
The 26-year-old Wacha will enter the year with an important spot in the starting rotation - especially if the club opts to replace Lance Lynn internally, whether than via trade, free-agent signing, or Lynn himself. Carlos Martinez leads the pack, followed by Wacha, Adam Wainwright, and Luke Weaver. Miles Mikolas could be an option, as could the club’s other arbitration-eligible player..
Lyons quietly had an excellent year for the Cardinals, leading to his compensation of $1.2 million for the 2018 campaign. In 50 games out of the bullpen, the left-hander maintained a 2.83 ERA over 54 frames. Lyons posted a 68:20 strikeout-to-walk ratio, holding opposing batters to a collective .202 average.
Though he has starting experience in his past, it’s a pretty fair argument that Lyons best serves the club out of the bullpen. With Luke Gregerson likely to begin the year as the team’s closer, barring an unforeseen trade or signing, Lyons will serve in a set-up position.