HELP WANTED!! Applicants need to possess strong OBP skills (.335 minimum, .350+ preferred), especially against right-handed pitchers. Prior experience leading off is desired, but not crucial. Ability to play multiple positions will enhance the qualified candidates chances. Work schedule is variable, with expectations to swing between position play, DH and pinch hitter roles with frequency, depending on match ups. Playoff bonuses likely. Inquire within.
On the offensive side, the Cardinals don’t have a lot of needs. Realistically, they need to improve their OBP at lead-off and improve their OBP and slug against RHP. This is more typically described as "need to acquire LH bat", but that omits RH hitters who have reverse platoon splits.
On the flip side, they need to keep at-bats available to cycle young guys in (Gorman, Nootbar, Yepez), so they aren’t looking for an everyday line-up fixture. Expect this player to be in the 400 AB range.
So, who would fit as an acquisition target? I sifted through the available players on MLB rosters using the following criteria:
· Strong OBP against LH pitching. This is the primary need for the Cardinals. Someone who can get on base in front of the line-up core, at a clip better than Tommy Edman and his lead-off OBP of .308. I looked for .335 or better against RHP, specifically.
· Arb eligible or FA. I eliminated players not arb-eligible on the notion that their value (high OBP) and their low cost would make them prohibitively expensive to acquire, because they have too much surplus value for their controlling team. For example, Boston isn’t trading Verdugo or Devers.
· Positional versatility a plus. With the DH, it isn’t crucial that the high OBP guy be good defensively anywhere, but is useful if he can play somewhere in the field, so that the Cardinals can use the DH spot to get Arrenado and Goldschmidt off their feet occasionally and spot in Gorman and Yepez at DH, too.
· Experiences success while not being a 600-700 PA guy. I think the optimal player for the Cardinals is one who isn’t expecting to be an everyday player and can still demonstrate a level of performance without being in the line-up everyday. These players are usually a little older and have gotten past the "me first" stage and understand who they are and want to play on a winner.
Here is the list. Not a lot of guys, but some possibilities. Turns out, OBP is a somewhat rare skill these days, with a lot of it clustered in Houston, curiously. In most cases, these are guys on teams that are not going to compete in 2022, which is typically the market that is more workable when trying to acquire MLB level talent.
Corey Seager (ss)**
Mark Canha, (LF)
Starling Marte, (OF)
Corey Dickerson, (LF)
Kyle Schwarber, (LF,DH)
Ketel Marte, AZ (2b, SS, CF)**
Jesse Winker, CI (LF)
Kevin Reynolds, PIT (CF)
Brandon Nimmo, NYM (CF)
Luis Arraez, MIN (2b)
Jeimer Candelario, DET (3b)
Brett Phillips, TB (CF)
Austin Meadows, TB (RF)
Tony Kemp, Oak (OF)
You’ll note two players with an asterisk (**), Ketel Marte and Corey Seager. They are a little higher end than I think the Cardinals will be looking. Arizona is bad and who knows what they are trying to do. Seager, well, he’d look good in anyone’s lineup. He is a FA. Both are calls that should be made. But I’m really only dreaming on these guys, and wouldn’t expect this to be the end of the pool the Cardinals fish in.
The rest of these guys might find a fit. The free agents represent a lower acquisition cost in terms of talent, the controllable players represent a lower cost in payroll $$ for 2022, leaving Cardinal management with options.
For the free agents, it is hard to predict how the FA market will swing. It would be just like the Cardinals to have a list like this and wait to see if one guy on this list "falls" in their price range late in the cycle. Not a fan of that strategy, but it is what they do.
For the players under control, pretty much all the teams listed will want near MLB ready players with all 6 (or nearly all) controllable years in exchange for one of these guys. Think Gorman, Liberatore, Burleson, Herrera, Thompson, Oviedo, maybe Nootbar, too. Some might want an MLB player (with years of control) such as Edman or DeJong or perhaps even Sosa. High OBP will not come cheap, laws of supply and demand and all.
A closing thought. If the Cardinal’s can find a guy who has ~.350 OBP to hit lead-off, we are talking about 25-30 additional "men on base" hitting opportunities for Goldschmidt , et. al. through the course of the season. With that ~.850 OPS with men on base, you’d expect roughly 15-18 additional runs, or about 1.5 to 2 additional wins. There is a compounding effect that is difficult to quantify. BABIP and sequencing luck tends to improve a bit as OBP rises, but hard to put a number on. Would you trade one of the above prospects for 15-18 additional runs? Something to chew on……