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Ozuna brings middle-order thump to '18 lineup

Cards continue searching for upgrades via trade, free agency
MLB.com @LangoschMLB

ST. LOUIS -- After finishing 2017 ranked seventh among all National League teams with 761 runs scored and eighth with a .760 OPS, the Cardinals led their winter work with the pursuit of offensive upgrades.

The organization was rebuffed in its effort to lure Giancarlo Stanton to St. Louis, but the Cardinals did quickly pivot to Stanton's former teammate. A mid-December trade for Marcell Ozuna -- one that cost the Cardinals three of their top 13 prospects -- should deepen a lineup that lacked impact production from the cleanup spot last season.

ST. LOUIS -- After finishing 2017 ranked seventh among all National League teams with 761 runs scored and eighth with a .760 OPS, the Cardinals led their winter work with the pursuit of offensive upgrades.

The organization was rebuffed in its effort to lure Giancarlo Stanton to St. Louis, but the Cardinals did quickly pivot to Stanton's former teammate. A mid-December trade for Marcell Ozuna -- one that cost the Cardinals three of their top 13 prospects -- should deepen a lineup that lacked impact production from the cleanup spot last season.

Video: Zinkie: Expect Ozuna to maintain solid production

With six weeks remaining before the start of Spring Training, here's a snapshot of the Cardinals' current offensive complexion:

LINEUP IF SEASON STARTED TODAY

Matt Carpenter, 1B
Dexter Fowler, RF
Tommy Pham, CF
Marcell Ozuna, LF
Paul DeJong, SS
Yadier Molina, C
Jedd Gyorko, 3B
Kolten Wong, 2B

STRENGTH

The strength is up top, where the Cardinals are likely to have two high-OBP hitters, followed by two of the National League's best all-around offensive performers from 2017. Consider that since '12, Carpenter and Fowler rank 11th and 14th, respectively, with OBPs of .378 and .371. And now that the Cardinals have added Ozuna, not only will Pham be better protected, but the club should have that middle-of-the-order impact bat that has been missing the last two seasons.

Video: Pham dynamic threat in Cardinals lineup in 2017

QUESTION MARK

There are lingering concerns about whether the Cardinals will generate enough power and production from the corner-infield spots. Both Gyorko and Carpenter endured a drop in slugging percentage last season, and the Cardinals ranked in the middle-third of all clubs as far as OPS at both positions. For a team that is seeking a more potent offense, standing pat at those two spots may limit how much better this offense can be.  

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE

Though the Cardinals did land the big bat they were seeking with the acquisition of Ozuna, fans shouldn't assume they're done. The club could use Carpenter's flexibility to add a first or third baseman between now and Opening Day, a move that would then shift Carpenter to whatever position is left open.

If the Cardinals decide to dip into the free-agent market, they could target either Eric Hosmer or Mike Moustakas. The club has also reportedly asked about the availability of Toronto's Josh Donaldson and Baltimore's Manny Machado, though those pursuits don't appear to have much momentum at this time. The Cardinals are particularly wary of giving up several prospects for a one-year stopgap.

Video: MLB Now: Girsch talks Cardinals' offseason strategy

If the club were to add another infielder, that would presumably cut into playing time for either Gyorko or Wong. It could also shuffle how manager Mike Matheny uses his hitters in the bottom half of the lineup.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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