The Cardinals’ World Series hopes are, like baseball, officially back in action.
With MLB and the MLB Players Association reaching a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, baseball’s transactional freeze is over. Now under the guidance of newly minted manager Oliver Marmol, here’s a refresher on what the club has done and where it stands with Spring Training on the horizon:
What deals have already gotten done?
The Cardinals took a little while to make a big move, but when they did, it was a splash. The club landed starter Steven Matz on Nov. 29, adding a sorely needed left-hander who has found his footing in recent years. He profiles as the No. 3 or 4 starter in a rotation that will also feature Adam Wainwright, Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Miles Mikolas and a laundry list of names trying to contend for a starting role.
What are the biggest remaining needs and who might the club target to fill these holes?
St. Louis could benefit from adding one more bat to its lineup -- specifically a left-handed bat with some power. With the introduction of the designated hitter in the new CBA, that opens up a bevy of opportunities. Former Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber might be a fascinating fit after his torrid 2021 season, as could Joc Pederson. Otherwise, upgrades here may have to be a little more modest.
Unlikely to pursue one of the remaining big-name shortstops, the Cards could benefit from adding another proven starter after the injury lessons they learned in 2021. Perhaps they find a match in Zack Greinke, 38, or former Pirates lefty Tyler Anderson.
Which Cardinals became free agents this offseason?
Along with McFarland, who already re-signed, righties Luis García and Carlos Martínez; lefties J.A. Happ, Jon Lester, Andrew Miller, Kwang Hyun Kim and Wade LeBlanc; and infielders Matt Carpenter and José Rondón became free agents. Both Martínez and Carpenter saw their options for 2022 declined by the club. Rondón, who is pre-arbitration eligible, was not tendered a contract. The rest of them entered the market due to expiring deals.
Which of these free agents have already signed elsewhere
Only García, who proved to be a pivotal free-agent signing in July, has signed elsewhere, inking a two-year deal with the Padres. Lester announced his retirement from baseball in January after a 16-year career, and Kim inked a four-year deal to return to Korea.
Might there be a reunion with any of their remaining free agents?
Really only Happ or possibly LeBlanc remain within the realm of possible reunions, and neither is a given. Declining production from Carpenter, Martínez and Miller likely means the continuation of their careers will come elsewhere.
Are there any players they are looking to trade?
Not openly, at least. There were some murmurs early this offseason about the possibility of the Cards dealing shortstop Paul DeJong and getting into the high-money shortstop market. But the front office has at every turn offered a vote of confidence in DeJong, and it appears that he will be given every chance to run with the starting shortstop role. If not, Edmundo Sosa proved to be a more-than-capable backup and spot starter last season as DeJong battled injuries.
What outstanding arbitration cases are on the docket?
Seven players are currently eligible for arbitration: center fielder Harrison Bader and right-handers Flaherty, Alex Reyes and Jordan Hicks are second-year eligible, while right-hander Dakota Hudson, outfielder Tyler O'Neill and closer Giovanny Gallegos are first-year eligible. Flaherty’s situation will be particularly interesting to watch. He won his arbitration case last offseason but is now coming off a pair of lengthy injuries that saw him make just 15 starts before being relegated to a bullpen role by season’s end.
How many open spots are there on the 40-man roster?
Four open spots remain on the 40-man roster. One could possibly be filled by Nolan Gorman, the club’s top positional prospect and No. 24 overall per MLB Pipeline. Otherwise, the Cards have a bit of roster flexibility to add pieces.