Hot Stove FAQ: How will Cards replace Yadi?

November 4th, 2022

This story was excerpted from John Denton's Cardinals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

As the World Series draws closer to a conclusion, it’s time to look ahead to the pertinent issues facing the Cardinals this offseason. Here is a handy FAQ to prepare you for MLB’s Hot Stove season:

Which players will be free agents?

José Quintana, who helped the Cardinals turn around their season following his Aug. 1 acquisition from the Pirates, is the Cardinals' most prominent free agent, and the club would love to have him back if the price is right. He allowed just one home run after coming over to the Cardinals. Corey Dickerson had a wildly erratic first season in St. Louis, but he ultimately proved to be a veteran the franchise could count on late in the year. The franchise needs a lefty option at DH, but the odds are low that Dickerson returns.

Which players have contract options?

The Cardinals had more than a few tense days when Nolan Arenado contemplated opting out of his contract. Could the Southern California native -- and offseason resident -- have been thinking about staying home full-time to play for the Dodgers or Angels? President John Mozeliak traveled to Southern California to talk over the future of the franchise with Arenado, and clubhouse cornerstones Paul Goldschmidt and Adam Wainwright lobbied the superstar to stay in St. Louis. Ultimately, Arenado informed the Cardinals of his plans to stay, meaning he could wear birds on a bat across his chest for five more seasons.

Who might be a non-tender candidate, and when does the club have to make that decision?

The talented but oft-injured Alex Reyes -- who missed all of 2022 with a frayed labrum -- is eligible for arbitration, but that’s not likely to happen, according to Mozeliak. The 2021 All-Star isn’t likely to pitch again until the middle of the 2023 season at the earliest, so the Cardinals likely won’t tender Reyes a contract before the Nov. 18 deadline.

Which players need to be added to the 40-man roster to avoid being exposed to the Dec. 7 Rule 5 Draft?

The Cardinals caught a break in 2022 when the Rule 5 Draft was canceled following the lockout, allowing them to hold on to some of their raw talent. This time around, players must be added to the 40-man roster by Nov. 15.

The Cardinals made a couple of moves this week to free up roster spots. The retirements of Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina became official, while St. Louis outrighted Kodi Whitley and Kramer Robertson to Triple-A Memphis. Drew VerHagen (hip surgery) should come off the 60-day injured list and go on the roster. Lefty Connor Thomas, a standout during the Arizona Fall League, likely pitched his way onto the 40-man roster, while slugging catcher Pedro Pages could find himself there as well. Moisés Gómez, who set a Cardinals Minor League record by smashing 39 home runs, could finally earn a roster spot. The intriguing Inohan Paniagua, who quickly rose from Palm Beach to Peoria, could receive roster protection as well.

Who are the players the Cardinals might target in free agency?

Mozeliak was adamant the club would add a catcher. Signing Willson Contreras would give them a bat, but it will likely take $16 million a year to do so. Signing Tucker Barnhart or trading for Oakland’s Sean Murphy are more likely options. The Cards aren’t likely to enter the Carlos Correa/Trea Turner/Xander Bogaerts/Dansby Swanson shortstop sweepstakes with Tommy Edman on the roster and prospect Masyn Winn on the way. Protection for Goldschmidt and Arenado -- something provided previously by Pujols -- is another priority. J.D. Martinez, Nelson Cruz, Jorge Soler or Andrew McCutchen might be options.

Which players might the Cardinals dangle in potential trades?

The Cardinals need the pop Tyler O’Neill can provide, but they were exhausted by his numerous injuries. Dakota Hudson could start, and Jordan Hicks could close for many MLB teams, and they might get those chances. All three are due arbitration raises.