Cards offseason FAQ: Who's in, out next year

November 1st, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- Now that the World Series is over, the offseason has officially begun. After being swept by the Nationals in the National League Championship Series, the Cardinals have had more than a week to look ahead to the winter months.

The Cardinals want to build on 2019 -- the year they won the NL Central and found themselves in the postseason after three years of missing out. But to improve, the front office has some decisions to make about what next year will look like.

Here are some key offseason events and dates to remember:

Which players are free agents? Are any of them likely to receive qualifying offers?
Left fielder , right-handers and and catcher are free agents this year. The qualifying offer this year is $17.8 million, and while this is a big increase in what the Cards paid Ozuna in 2019 ($12.25 million), they’re likely to extend a qualifying offer to the soon-to-be 29-year-old. The deadline to do that is Monday.

If Wainwright decides to return, he and the Cardinals will work out a contract. Wacha and Wieters -- who signed a Minor League contract in 2019 that paid off for the Cards -- are unlikely to receive qualifying offers.

Which players have options, what’s the dollar figure and impact on payroll, and when does it need to be decided upon?
There aren’t any Cardinals who have options for 2020.

Who might be a non-tender candidate, and when does the club have to make that decision?
Right-handers and are the only Cardinals who have between three and six years of Major League service time, making them arbitration-eligible this year. Gant made $571,300 -- just above the league minimum -- in 2019. Because he struggled in the second half (6.65 ERA), he didn’t make the postseason roster. But his 2.22 ERA in the first half allowed the Cards to stay in the race, and that will likely be enough for the club to stick with Gant next spring.

Leone could be a non-tender candidate. The 28-year-old made $1.26 million in 2019 and only pitched in 40 Major League games with a 5.53 ERA. He flashed his value a few times in late August and into September, but that might not be enough for a raise in 2020.

The non-tender deadline is Dec. 2.

Who needs to be added to the 40-man roster this winter to avoid the Rule 5 Draft and do they have a crunch for roster spots?
Three of the Cardinals’ Top 30 prospects, as ranked by MLB Pipeline, will be Rule 5 eligible this year: third baseman Elehuris Montero (No. 4), pitcher Jake Woodford (No. 13) and infielder Max Schrock (No. 30). Montero missed the first half of 2019 with a hand injury, but he’s shown the qualities of an impact hitter that the Cards want in their future.

There are four players on the 60-day injured list -- , , and -- and St. Louis must make room for all except Cingrani, who is a free agent this year.

The Rule 5 Draft protection deadline is Nov. 20.

What kind of help do they need, and will they be active in free agency?
The Cardinals’ offense appeared in waves this season, and it disappeared in the NLCS against the Nationals. If the Cards don’t sign Ozuna to a long-term contract, they will have to find a cleanup hitter with his kind of production. They’ll hope most of the offensive fixes come internally, whether it’s key players like and having more consistent years, or top prospects competing for spots in the lineup. They’ll also try to fix the offense externally, whether that’s adding a bat by trade or free agency.

St. Louis could also still use a front-line starter to complement , , and Wainwright, if he returns. The Cardinals shopped for one at the Trade Deadline but came away with nothing. Their eyes are still open for one in the offseason.