What selective spending may look like for Cardinals

November 11th, 2022

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St. Louis figures to have a few more bucks to spend this offseason to augment a roster already missing retirees and , but -- families trying to get by with rising prices everywhere can certainly relate to this -- the cost of doing business is climbing at an even more exorbitant rate these days.

My point: Even though the Cardinals’ payroll is expected to rise, per president of baseball operations John Mozeliak, they must be selective in how they spend this offseason in order to get the most bang for their buck and plug holes in a roster that fizzled in the playoffs.

A Cardinals franchise that ranked 15th in MLB in payroll in 2022 -- $164 million, per Spotrac.com -- plans to spend more in 2023 after more than 3.3 million fans jammed inside of Busch Stadium this season. St. Louis has nearly $103 million already committed for 2023, and 10 other players are expected to get raises via arbitration to take the payroll north of $150 million. Getting $16 million from the Rockies to offset ’s deal and $10 million in deferred money to could give the Cardinals more financial flexibility, depending on how much they are willing to spend.

Even with the expected increase, can the Cardinals possibly close the enormous gap or even keep pace with the Mets ($287M), Dodgers ($275M), Phillies ($256M) and Padres ($240M)? Throw in the Braves ($200M), Giants ($168M) and Cubs ($167M) and St. Louis ranked a distant eighth in the NL in payroll last season. Not surprisingly, five of the seven squads ahead of the Redbirds were among the most successful clubs in the regular season and went the furthest in the postseason.

The Cardinals could theoretically award , or massive free agent deals, but that wouldn’t be wise (or likely) considering their holes at catcher, two corner-outfield spots and in the bullpen. Here are some of the players the cost-conscious Cardinals should target this offseason as they attempt to get the most bang for their buck:

Signing is tempting, but trading for or might be better options.

Signing Contreras gives the Cardinals’ lineup another bat ( who posted a career-high 128 OPS+ in 2022) and it jabs the rival Cubs. But the 30-year-old Contreras will likely command as much as $20 million per season. Meanwhile, Murphy -- a 2021 Gold Glove Award winner -- is entering arbitration and has three years of control remaining. As for Jansen, he also comes with a relatively cheap price tag, even though he hit 15 home runs and had an .855 OPS last season. Toronto figures to deal Jansen or ’22 All-Star . The same goes for an Oakland franchise that has catcher -- the club’s former No. 1 prospect -- set to take over.

Bogaerts, Turner, and would be significant upgrades, but the bats of ,  or  better fit their needs.
The shortstop position is in good shape presently () and in the future ( with Edman being versatile). Bogaerts would likely come the cheapest, but the Cardinals must nab a trustworthy No. 5 hitter to protect Paul Goldschmidt and Arenado. It could be doubly beneficial if that’s a lefty such as Rizzo (.817 OPS in 2022), Bell (.877 OPS with the Nats last season) or Benintendi (.373 OBP and .772 OPS) considering the club’s struggles against hard-throwing righties.

While Rodón is appealing, the Cardinals need more pitchers with swing-and-miss stuff.

Rodón (12 strikeouts per nine innings last season) would give St. Louis a legit ace, but he has a good chance to be retained by his current team -- unless the Giants blow their budget on . The Cardinals were delighted about closer ’s career year, but overall they severely lack pitchers with swing-and-miss stuff. The Guardians and Mariners, young AL teams who both made the playoffs in 2022, have pitching excesses and are likely looking to deal.