The Cardinals’ offseason has so far brought one financial move (declining Kolten Wong’s option) and a few procedural moves to the roster (reinstating injured list players and losing Max Schrock off waivers) but nothing earth-shattering. That’s to be expected in what will likely be a slow-moving market this offseason.
What isn’t slow is questions about the Cardinals, what their winter strategy is and what they might look like come spring 2021. So let’s get to a few of them now:
Adding to the outfield might be a bigger priority, but third base remains open for discussion, too. Versatility will play a big role in who we see in the infield on Opening Day. But if the season began today, Edmundo Sosa is considered MLB ready and had hoped to have much more playing time this year before contracting COVID-19. The Cardinals were impressed by his improvement in winter ball last year. Sosa could be a nice platoon complement to Carpenter at third base. He can also play second if Edman moves to third.
Rangel Ravelo is another right-handed hitter who has taken more reps at third base over the last few months. Elehuris Montero might get a shot this season, as well. Positional versatility has become a big focus of his development, but his bat is still going to carry him. If there’s an opening at third base, he could be seen as an option later in the season. Nolan Gorman, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Cardinals’ No. 2 prospect, is probably a year or two away from the Majors.
Were you surprised at the Cardinals’ decision to bring back the entire coaching staff, especially hitting coach Jeff Albert?
-- Troy C., Kansas City
I was surprised initially because there was discussion about bringing a new voice into the dugout for hitters, but it wasn’t clear whether it was going to be an additional coach or a replacement. But the Cardinals doubled down on their confidence in Albert, noting that they hired him to bring a new approach into the entire organization, not just the Major League team. That does take time.
But, ultimately, results guide this game. Albert will have next season to prove himself and unlock production from the Cardinals' lineup.
Does Lane Thomas deserve another shot in the outfield?
-- Sam R., Afton, Mo.
This is a question the Cardinals are grappling with this winter. They want and need to avoid another Randy Arozarena deal -- sending away a young hitter only to have him blossom somewhere else. Once again, Thomas could likely benefit from a bigger sample size. In 2019, just as the Cardinals were opening playing time for him down the stretch, a broken right wrist ended his season. In 2020, he tested positive for the coronavirus and struggled heavily when he returned. He slashed .111/.200/.250 in 40 plate appearances, and there were times he didn’t look all that comfortable at the plate.
President of baseball operations John Mozeliak said that COVID-19 might have affected Thomas more than it did other players. If that’s true, the Cardinals probably want to find out what he can do for them when he’s healthy before giving another team that opportunity. How that looks will depend on how the Cardinals’ roster looks next year. Right now, Thomas projects as a fourth outfielder, with production guiding his playing time.
Who would be your Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and MVP on the Cardinals in 2020?
-- Alex L., St. Louis
It is awards week, so this is a fun question to end with. There were not any Cardinals announced as finalists for the BBWAA Awards, although it was a little surprising that 2019 National League Manager of the Year Mike Shildt was not a finalist for the award this year.
Lefty Kwang Hyun Kim would be my Cardinals’ top rookie. Kim is 32 and a veteran pitcher from Korea, but he was an MLB rookie and had a strong debut season in the most unique circumstances. Through it all, he posted 1.62 ERA and a .197 opponent average over 39 innings. He struck out twice as many batters (24) as he walked (12) and only allowed three home runs.
My Cardinals Cy Young Award goes to Adam Wainwright. Across 65 2/3 innings, Wainwright posted a 3.15 ERA with a 1.051 WHIP. He struck out 54 batters and walked 15. And he continually came up big for the Cardinals when they needed him most. When their bullpen was exhausted, Wainwright delivered innings and had two complete games (one that was part of a seven-inning doubleheader).
Wainwright could take home the Cardinals MVP Award, too, for his role on the team and in the clubhouse. But for the sake of argument, let’s pick someone different. Paul Goldschmidt played in all 58 of the Cardinals' regular-season games this season and led the team in batting average (.304), on-base percentage (.417), slugging (.466), OPS (.883) and OPS+ (142). He’s a Gold Glove-caliber defender and the anchor of the lineup.
And no question about it: Shildt would win my Cardinals Manager of the Year Award.